You may remember lines on the theme ‘behind the ranges’ that I quoted last week from a poem by Rudyard Kipling, in the context of seeking for the hidden treasure of God, and how the Holy Spirit who is poured on us is with us to help us – because we can discover the treasure of God only at a mind-level unless the Holy Spirit is there to really open up something of God to us. I want to continue with that theme and will probably do so for the next few weeks.
We looked ‘behind the ranges’ last week at Moses and the burning bush. We are still at the life of Moses and one of the times that he went up the mountain of Sinai – one of the very obvious ranges. Moses was up that mountain on several occasions, and there he met with God. He had found God in the burning bush, he’d found Him in Egypt, in the miracles, plagues and deliverance, but increasingly if you follow the life of Moses you find a concentration on God, and rather than a diminution of his hunger for God, it grows and grows until ultimately he pleads with God to show him His glory. We know that God does that and hides him in the cleft of the rock.
But first God calls him again to come up mount Sinai. In the New Testament we read that Moses had exceedingly feared and quaked as he climbed the mountain of Sinai (Hebrews 12:21). Sometimes it must have been just like climbing a burning volcano. On this later occasion the people have sinned, Moses has pleaded very successfully for them, and God calls him to come again into the mountain, where He will again give him the law to be written on tablets of stone. He says: ‘No one else may come with you. In fact no one is to appear anywhere on the mountain,’ but Moses has to go up. And so we read in Exodus chapter 34:
Then the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him;
What a lovely verse – we could just concentrate on that for a long time!
and he called out His own name, Yahweh. The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out:
Yahweh! The Lord! God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion and sin. These words must have been music to the ears of Moses. He had asked that his own name would be blotted out rather than that the people would be blotted out for their sin in worshipping the golden calf. And now he is hearing God. He is on that mountain that’s been on fire on occasion with the coming of God. The first words that God speaks to him are perhaps unexpected. But, you see, the Holy Spirit is showing Moses more and more of the hidden treasure, the hidden deeps of the nature of God. And God speaks to him immediately: a God of compassion and mercy … slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
There are running throughout the Bible – and indeed we will find if we seek for God there is running throughout His revelation to us – these two strands: the holiness of God that is completely other, and the unfailing love and compassion. The two are married. The love is so precious because He is so holy, and the holiness would be unbearable except for the love and compassion that brings forgiveness for iniquity. How we need that God! And to us also that revelation will increase if we seek for more of Him and are not content until both these strands are deeply embedded in our spirits.
Sinai happened fifty days after Passover, and the day of Pentecost is on the anniversary of the coming of God on Sinai. And we see in the coming of the Holy Spirit, poured out from on high, that fire is the immediate sign: the tongue of fire upon every head and a tongue of fire given to Peter very obviously as he rises and he preaches. The message to his hearers is not a soft one. It is an accusation of their guilt: he calls them the murderers of the Son of God; but it is also a message of forgiveness. It is so like the revelation that came on Sinai: the holiness, the fire, the all-consuming power, but the compassion and the forgiveness.
We see that strand tremendously revealed in the life of Peter. And it’s a hallmark of Pentecost. It opened the door to salvation, forgiveness and a knowledge of the God of all grace and all compassion. In Peter, who so courageously and wonderfully opened the kingdom of God with his sermon, there flows a tremendous vein of gentleness and compassion, something that I don’t think we would have associated with Peter before Pentecost. Something has happened in him. The Holy Spirit is revealing and imprinting in his spirit something of the very nature of God. And Peter is one who, especially in the beginning of the book of Acts, is very deeply used in healing. It he who with John is there to see the healing of the man at the gate of the temple. ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.’ In Peter’s epistles we find this strain of the gentleness and the compassion. He tells them to love each other deeply. It’s he who speaks of the preciousness of Christ: the chief cornerstone, rejected, but to us who know him He is precious. And we echo that: He is precious.
Come and find more of that preciousness. We can skim over these truths. We find something of them initially at our salvation, but there are hidden deeps, hidden treasures. I know that some of you are not finding life easy just now. I know that some are in need of physical healing, some in need of healing in your mind, in your spirit. The God of all compassion is with us; He’s here in this moment. Why not open your heart, open your mind, open your spirit? Say: ‘Lord, give me some of that hidden treasure. Maybe that’s why You’ve let me come this way of trial and difficulty, that I might be forced to seek in the deep mine for the deep treasure and find the nature of God revealed through Jesus Christ by the power of the outpoured Spirit.’
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