The Good Lost Generation of Exodus - Part 3
The lost generation of Israel didn’t get much right on their failed journey toward the Promised Land. But like most people, they weren’t totally bad either. In fact, there were some things that God praised them for. One example of this comes at the foot of Mount Sinai.
The Israelites had escaped from Egypt by the mighty power of God. They first witnessed the plagues and then watched as the Egyptian army was crushed and drowned in the Red Sea. Shortly after that, they observed how God could provide a massive nation food and water in the middle of a desolate land. Certainly, the people had some understanding that God was mighty, but they hadn’t really met Him yet. That would take place at Mount Sinai where “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain” (Ex. 19:17).
The mountain quaked violently. Flames engulfed the mountain peak. Smoke billowed upwards. Then a trumpet blasted, only it wasn’t a quick short blast. It kept going and kept getting louder and louder. Then it thundered, as God spoke to Moses, calling him to the top of that mountain (Ex. 19:18-19). The people waited as Moses ascended. Some time later, he returned and warned them not to come too close or else many of them would perish (Ex. 19:21-25). I can’t imagine that many Israelites were tempted to get any closer to the mountain to begin with.
Then God spoke.
The entire nation heard Him. They heard Him give the ten commandments, warning them that they should not serve any other gods or dare to blaspheme His name. He declared Himself to be a jealous God who would punish anyone who hated Him. They heard that too. All of this was in the context of thunder, lightning flashes, smoke and the sound of a trumpet. The nation of Israel had had enough. They begged Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die” (Ex. 20:18-20).
This response pleased God. Moses later recounted God’s response. “I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Deut. 5:28-29)
They had done something right. They had feared God. Such fear is not to be despised. It leads to good things. Remember, the people were at Mount Sinai to meet God. If you don’t fear God, you haven’t really met Him yet.
God wanted their fear to remain and for it to motivate them to keep all of His commandments at all times. That’s what fear of God does. It makes us care about what He has said. It makes us submissive to His commands. It makes us careful to do what is right, even if what is commanded is unpleasant or feels unnatural. And a fearful obedience is enduring. The people were not meant to obey only while the mountain shook and thunder rumbled. They were supposed to obey “always”.
At some point, the ground stopped shaking and the scene became more calm. Eventually, the people packed their stuff and marched into the distance. Somewhere in that process, their fear faded. Their obedience wavered. And finally, the same people whom God had praised for their fear were cursed instead, never to enter into the Promised Land (Heb. 3:10-11).
Let us succeed where they failed. Let us fear God in such a way that He is pleased with us, but make certain that fear remains. Don’t let it fade. And let it have its natural consequence – careful, total, constant obedience to God.