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Day 29: Installation Service—The Way Through the Wilderness

Resurrection Sunday: A 31-day Lenten Devotional Series by Rev. Dave Brown


In the passage before us, we observe that the LORD himself gave the message. (“The Eagles’ Wings Speech” Ex. 19:4-8). He also charged Moses and validated his leadership by coming to [him] Moses) “in a thick cloud that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” (Ex 19:9)

Next comes the charge to the congregation of Israel.  Moses would participate in this in three distinct ways. First of all, he would obtain words from God and communicate what he received.  Scholars tell us that the congregation of Israel camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai for 11 months. There they received messages from God through Moses that eventually became 58 chapters of the Holy Bible (Exodus 20-40, all of Leviticus and the first half of Numbers). The people must get ready to receive the Word of God.

The second part of the charge pertained to their consecration. Moses was to consecrate the people to God. The LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. (Ex. 19:10-11a) While we cannot say with certainty how Moses carried out this consecration, it is must have included some sacrifice, similar to the Passover sacrifice of the lamb.  The people were called to respond by washing their garments and by  abstaining from sexual relations for a brief time that they might focus entirely on the Word of God.

Finally, Moses was charged to bring a word of caution to the congregation. “Set limits for the people all around.” He must tell them: “Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.”

Why was this caution necessary?  The most basic answer is that God is holy and we are not. Philip Ryken introduces his sermon on this passage by reminding his readers of the transcendence and immanence of God. He says the pendulum swings in church history between emphasis on one or the other, although both are equally important and must be held together.  He surmises that we live in an age of immanence that sees God more as a personal friend than a supreme deity.

He illustrates the necessity of coming back into a balanced understanding by quoting Annie Dillard. She writes in Teaching a Stone to Talk about how dangerous it is to come into the presence of the living God. “It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. (Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, pp. 40-41, quoted in Ryken:501-502)    

 Reflections: The last time I was on a pastoral installation commission I gave the message from Isaiah 6. The vision Isaiah received in that context was of such a magnitude that Isaiah fell face down and cried out, “Woe is me for I am lost.  For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.” How have you prepared for a meeting with the One who is almighty, sovereign, glorious, high and lifted up, transcendent and holy, holy, holy?   

  • 31 March 2024
  • Author: Guest Blogger
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