Over the years, I have had the incredible privilege of taking hundreds of people on what you might call “mountain top experiences”. These are events such as retreats, mission trips, and youth camps, where people get away for a few days to draw closer to God and listen to him. A event like a youth camp can be an incredible experience. People get away from their normal life and go to a place like a campground to spend a few days with God. I have literally seen the glory of God come on a group of people at these events in ways that I cannot explain. I’ve watched as people began to get their focus off themselves and on Jesus, and have seen some of the most hardened people repent and give their lives to Jesus. Gradually as the week goes by, God will speak to and get hold of the lives of the attenders and their lives will be changed. Most of the time, when this happens, everyone is on some level deeply moved by the presence of God.
This chapter tells of a time that was like camp or a retreat for the Hebrew people. They had come to the mountain of God, and God was speaking to them in a special way. The glory of God came on this group i a way that was visible as the people approached the mountain. In fact, God’s glory was so strong, the people could not go to the mountain because it would kill them. They had to keep view God’s glory from a distance. But that was enough. The Hebrews repented, and set themselves apart to worship and honor God. This chapter is called “The Eagle Wing Speech” because it is in this chapter that Moses explains God’s ultimate plan for the Exodus, to deliver them from slavery and to rise them up on wings like eagles so that they would become a people for his glory and purpose.
Mountain top events can be an incredible experience. But the camp or other events like it can be sad if the decisions made do not stand in the life of the believer. So often, a person will go to an event like this, and be challenged. God will speak, and the glory of God will be real. The person may even make very real commitments to God and surrender life in the spiritual moment, or be deeply moved emotionally. God will work in very real ways and reveal Himself. But the person gets home from the event, and quickly he or she is confronted with the issues from their old way of life.
The Hebrew people were in the midst of one unbelievable experience. Sadly, their response in many ways was similar. As we will find out later, it wouldn’t take long for them to forget the glory of God and the awesome things He had done. And it wouldn’t be long before they would begin to sink back into their old ways again.
These types of experiences are a good thing. I do recommend that followers of Jesus should occasionally attend events designed to give them concentrated times of prayer, worship, reading of Scripture, and listening to the word of God. But, in the end, these events will only have lasting value if a person truly commits himself or herself to a deeper walk with God. The true evidence of God’s work at camp will be what the person’s life is like six months after mountain top is over. Sadly, my experience has been that often, the person who seems to have the deepest experience will be the first one to cave in to the pressure. And those who quietly listen to God will make commitments that last a lifetime.
One last note about chapter 19. Take a minute to go back and read Exodus 3:12. This is the encounter at the burning bush. Notice what God promised. Chapter 19 is the fulfillment of that promise. God was totally faithful and in total control! The beauty of this chapter is that even if we do fail, even if we are unfaithful, and even if we do renig on commitments we have made, God is faithful! He will keep his promises, and he will deliver us from our failures. Praise be to God!