The Valley at the base of Mount Sinai
Not far from this spot was the traditional location of the “golden calf”. What struck me about this area was the expansive valley in the distance that would easily hold the estimated 1.5 to 2 million Israelites. I could “feel” the massive crowd of dirty, hungry and tired people camped out in this valley. It was a bit surreal. I was dirty, hungry and tired and I road in an air conditioned van and stopped for two meals on the way.
I was still reeling from the visual realities of what the travel must have been like. The road to freedom was difficult.
Every now and then I come in contact with the idea that once a person accepts Christ, their life is going to be smooth sailing. Get the basics down and God has to protect you from the “big one”. For a while I thought (sub conscientiously) I had some kind of divine protection on my life that would insure no real tragedy could touch me. That was not true. Testing sure, but not real harm. Character building, OK but not the loss of a child. I am pretty sure the Israelites were under a similar illusion. They were now free of Pharaoh and slavery but not yet out of Egypt. I am pretty sure at first, seeing the great miracles God performed gave them great confidence that the party was about to begin. A short walk and everything would be great! A few months in the wilderness of sin was more than enough to convince them that the party had not started. Mount Sinai is still in Egypt ! They were still captives to a slavery mentality. They had brought the gods of Egypt ( and 400 years of indoctrination ) along for the ride in the wilderness. How true that is of many Christ followers today. Many of us accept Christ and add him like an attachment to our lives not realizing that what he requires from us is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This is total surrender. Abandoning our past ( Egypt and all other worldliness ) and trusting Him completely for our salvation and to be the master architect of our lives. This departure from sin called sanctification or path to holiness is not something we do for ourselves, the Holy Spirit does it in us but we have to submit to it. We often go into this reality kicking and screaming.. We and the Israelites have this in common.
The Israelites as slaves for 400 years had not known anything but the wealth and fertility of the Nile delta. Slavery yes, but never a missed meal. This is a very common anesthetic still in use today. How many people turn away from God’s promised paradise for the equivalent of a meal, comfort or a moment of pleasure. How many of us choose to live life in the shallow waters of partial commitment instead of diving into the the depths of God?
Moses knew God. He had experienced him as a loving, Holy, patient, wonderful saviour who had it in his heart to rescue him and the Israelites. This is evident in the documented conversations Moses had with God, many of which happened in the very place I was standing. At one point I took off my shoes and let my feet feel the dirt, remembering… “you are standing on holy ground”.
The Israelites had found themselves in a strange place and we, as followers of Christ are no less strangers in a foreign land.
The accommodations at Saint Catherine’s were simple and basic. I was glad for that. Lots of stone.. plastic chairs but very comfortable. There was a small courtyard where we could sit together and discuss the trip. Many hours of discussion followed.
I am quite sure our accommodations were significantly better than that of our Israelite brothers and sisters.
Tomorrow we would climb Mount Sinai. 6 miles of trails to get 4,000 feet up in the air.