Worship the Wild God

WHY did they worship a golden cow?

That was insane. I’m talking about the Hebrews who were led by Moses out of 400 years of slavery from Egypt.

I don’t understand it. Didn’t they just see the Red Sea divide right before their eyes? Didn’t they just see 10 plagues? How in the world would. they be so foolish as to bow to an idol?

But that’s human nature. We want to worship a God that we can control. We want a God who will do what we tell Him to do, when we want Him to do it, and how we want it to be done.

We can’t handle a wild God. But that’s who God is!

Today, we close our powerful series, Ascend, with Talk 4: The Mountain of God.

Have an amazing Feast!

THIS is the last talk of our amazing series, Ascend.

We “climbed” three mountains so far: Eden, Ararat, and Moriah.

And today, we explore Mt. Sinai.

Welcome to Talk 4:

The Mountain of God.

Do you know what’s astounding about Sinai? In the other mountains, God met one guy or a bunch of guys. But in Sinai, God met an entire nation. How wild is that?

Today, I want to preach to you, “God will meet you where you are.”

Let’s skip Moses’ childhood and go to that point in his life when he was already a shepherd in the wilderness.

One day, something extraordinary catches his eye:
He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.

Bible scholars say that the phrase “angel of the Lord” is shorthand for “Yahweh’s human form”. So, the bush was on fire because God was sitting on that tree. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3“This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.” (Exodus 3:1-3 NLT)

What’s the deal with the burning bush?

In Hebrew, it’s called the s’neh tree. And the s’neh tree is spelled with the exact same letters as “Sinai”. You can almost see the Exodus writer winking at you. Can you take a hint? The tree and the mountain are one. You’ll see how important this later. But there’s another hint that ancient readers would have picked up which we modern readers would never get.

The Amazing Purpose of Tests

S’neh and Sinai rhymes with the Hebrew word for “Test”. Again, another wink from the writer. His not-so-hidden message? “Through this Tree and Mountain, God will test you.”

“Test” in the Bible meant “God will reveal to you who you really are.”

Friend, are you going through a test right now? They come in two forms: Trials and Temptations. Both of them are X-Ray machines. They expose what you’re made of inside. Both of them will push you to three simple realizations:
(1) That you’re not God;

(2) that God is God; and

(3) you need Him.

I repeat my overall message: God will meet you where you are.

Here’s a problem. A lot of persons don’t know where they are.

A lot of persons don’t know how desperate they are for God’s Love. And that’s the reason there are tests. So you get bonked on the head and realize that.

The Two Trees

Remember how S’neh Tree and Sinai rhyme with the Hebrew word for “Test”? Here’s a big question for you. Is there another tree in the Bible (1) that was filled with God’s Presence, and (2) that was connected to a test?

Any guess? Going, going, going…

Here’s the answer (Drumroll please): The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the author of Exodus was pointing to the idea that the Burning Bush is the Tree of Life.

I hope you’re getting now a little idea of how brilliant these ancient writers were. They used design patterns all throughout the Bible. They buried thousands of hyperlinks in words, phrases, rhymes, names, places, events, sewing the entire Bible together.

Yes, the Tree of Life is on fire. God is sitting on it.

In Talk 1, we said Genesis never mentioned that Adam and Eve are eating from the Tree of Life. Why? Most likely, it was terrifying. God is scary. So, they go instead to eat from the other tree— the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad—because it is “attractive” to the eye.

Isn’t this our own story too?

God is scary, sin is seductive.

Pride is seductive. Lust is seductive. Greed is seductive. Cheating, selfishness, and arrogance is seductive. But…

Why Is God So Scary?

Let me tell you a familiar story. One day, a Farmer called a meeting with the Chicken and the Pig on his farm. He said, “On my way here, I found a poor little boy
who was very hungry. Can you guys help me feed him?”

The Chicken said, “I know! Let’s make him a ham and egg sandwich!”

The Pig froze in terror.

The Chicken elbowed the Pig and said, “I’ll give the egg.

What will you give?”

Many think that following God means giving. Giving an hour or two every Sunday, or giving 10% of their income to God, or giving a service. May I correct your understanding? Following God is not about giving– it’s about dying.

No chickens allowed in God’s Kingdom.

Here’s the truth: You cannot meet God and remain the same.

Because God is fire.

God is not a nice décor that you can hang on the wall.

God is not an amulet or good luck charm.

God is not about giving you goosebumps when you pray.

God will turn your life upside down. Everything will change. Your values.

Your goals. Your priorities.

God will overhaul you.

You will die.

The Burning Bush/Tree of Life will give you a software upgrade where the old version of you must end and the new version of you must begin.

We Always Go Back to The Garden

But Moses is not like Adam.

Adam doesn’t go to the Tree of Life, but Moses goes to the Burning Bush. Instead of stepping away, Moses steps forward.

So, God tells him, “Take off your sandals, for this is holy ground!”

Moses is back in the Garden of Eden. He takes off his sandals as a symbol of the nakedness of Adam and Eve before the Fall. And instead of being burned by the Tree of Life/Burning Bush, Moses is transformed by it.

I want to tell you a simple story.

Last night, I was able to connect with my colleagues (in the medical profession). I got an invite from a society of doctors to their Christmas party and they asked me to deliver an inspirational message and facilitate sharing.

These doctors are real front liners, some of them got sick of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID) and I was changed when I heard their stories.

One doctor—who’s like the mother of all the doctors, she was the one who trained them– got sick of COVID.

And she said, “I’m still grateful I’m alive. In the middle of my crisis, in the middle of my sickness, I thought of Jesus. Jesus suffered more than I did. So, I’ll be okay. He rose back to life– so, I will rise from this illness.”

That’s a doctor who in the middle of her sickness said her ailment connected her to the suffering of Christ. Wow, what a spiritual maturity. And the sickness transformed her to live life more, to value life more.

There’s another doctor – a specialist and yet her husband got sick. They used to be in control, they knew what to do, they could command people.

But during that time, she said, “I learned in the process to let go of my control and let God be in control.”

And God saw them through.

Those people who got sick recovered. There were still some damages– but God is still good, they agreed.

If you’re going through sickness, connect to God’s suffering. If you’re going through doubts, connect to God’s faith, hope, and love that are given to you. It is always our choice: Are we going be scared of God?

Or are we going to be stepping into God? Stay away, or step into Him?

The Good News today is: Remember
wherever you are, whatever you’re going through, whatever you’ve done, whatever will be, God will meet you wherever you are.

Sinai Becomes The Burning Bush
Have you ever pressed the fast-forward button of a video player?

If your answer is yes, then you’ll be okay with what I will do right now.

Moses goes down

Mt. Sinai, travels to Egypt, and asks Pharaoh to set his people free. After experiencing ten plagues, Pharaoh lets them go, and Moses leads them through the Red Sea.

But that’s not where the story ends.

Moses leads Israel back to where he met God.

He brings them to the foot of Mt. Sinai.

But instead of a bush being on fire, the entire mountain is on fire. Exodus says, “All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire… The Lord came down on the top of Mount Sinai…(Exodus 19:18, 20 NLT)

Indeed, S’neh and Sinai are one.

But check out their response: “they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.” (Exodus 20:18 NLT, emphasis mine)

‘Who, Me? No, no, no, no, no….’
When Moses asks them to climb up the mountain, they say, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” (Exodus 20:19 NLT, emphasis mine)

They say, “Who, me? No, no, no, no, no, no…. Sorry Moses, we don’t want to meet God firsthand. He’s too scary. Please do it for us.”

Friend, may I ask you? How many times have you also said to God, “Who, me? No, no, no, no, no, no….”

That’s why the Church is weak. Because we’ve delegated to priests and nuns and religious professionals the task of communicating to God for us.

We Like Taming God to God We Can Control

Repeat: S’neh and Sinai rhyme with “test”.

This was the big test of Sinai: Will you climb the mountain of the Lord?

Israel didn’t. Just like Adam and Eve, they didn’t eat the fruit of the Tree of Life.

And just like Adam and Eve, they went to the other Tree, choosing the attractive and easy path. Because in Exodus 32, they became crazy– they built for themselves a golden calf and worshipped it.

Why in the world did they make a cow?
Answer: God was so scary; they created a version of God that they could control. In this insane story, the writer of
Exodus was describing perfectly, 3,000 years ago, our problem today.

We like taming God. We like putting Him in the box of our selfish expectations. We want Him to be predictable. “God, answer our prayer now. If not, magtatampo ako. (I’ll resent You.)”

The moment you control Him is the moment He stops being God.

God Goes Down The Mountain

What I’m about to tell you will blow your mind.
After Israel falls into idolatry, Moses goes up the mountain to ask God’s forgiveness. What happens next in the story is unbelievable:

God goes down the mountain.

How do we know?

Israel had a Tent which was their “Traveling Tabernacle”. Exodus said that while Moses was in the Tent, the (Exodus 33:9 NLT)

Fact: The Tent was at the bottom of Sinai. So, the fire in Sinai went down the mountain.

‘Can You Run That Down to Me Again?’
Let me recap this story for you, blow-by-blow.

First, God says, “Come up the mountain.”

And man says, “Who, me? No, no, no, no…..”

What does God do? He doesn’t shrug His shoulders and say, “You don’t want to come up? Hmph. Bye-bye-you…” and turns His back at us.

God goes down the mountain!

God meets us where we are.

God Is Not Only Our Finish Line

Let me close our series by telling you a personal story.

When I was young and gorgeous, I joined a 400-meter race. (Now, I’m old and my wife is gorgeous.)

I joined because I really thought I was a fast runner. As a kid, running was my only weapon against school bullies. So, I thought I still had it. I forgot that
was 15 years ago.

So, without any training or practice, I signed up for the race.

When I heard the blast of the starting gun, I leapt out like a firecracker. I ran full speed like I was The Flash. And I led the entire pack! I made them eat my dust. I was ecstatic. Actually, I began to pity the seven runners behind me. Why were they so slow?

But somewhere along the way, all of a sudden, my legs became jelly beneath me. And I crash-landed like Seri on Captain Ri (Hi, Kdrama fans!).

While I was lying on the ground flat as a pancake, a dear friend—who saw the entire thing as if it happened in slow motion—ran to my rescue. He picked me up from the ground. That’s when I discovered both of my knees were bleeding, and I could hardly walk, much less run. So, my friend put my arm on his shoulder, and together, we hobbled our way to the finish line. While we were inching our way down the track, amid the cheering crowd, he whispered to me, “Bo, parang hindi dapat track and field yung event mo. Dapat swimming. Your diving form was perfect.”

Why did I tell you the story?

Because for many, God is the Finish Line. The goal. The standard. The summit. The perfection. The mountaintop.

But if God is just the Finish Line, we’re doomed. Let’s throw in the towel and call it quits. Because we can’t make it.

But I’ve good news for you.

God is both Finish Line and Friend.

God is also the Friend who runs to you when you fall, who picks you from the ground, who puts His arm around you, and carries you all the way to the Finish Line.

God is not just the Finish Line that waits for us at the mountaintop. God is also a Friend who runs to us when we fall.

Jesus Is God Coming Down The Mountain

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is God coming down the mountain.

Jesus is God meeting you where you are.

In your fears. In our sins.

In your tears.

In your wounds.


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