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Threads of Scripture - Mt Sinai

This is the fifth part of a multi-part series looking at creation and re-creation through the lens of mountains in the Bible.

Since we began this reflection series, we have seen the connection between (re-)creation and mountains. Eden was the first mountain of God. At the pinnacle of that mountain was the garden of Eden, into which God placed Adam and Eve and out of which God banished them for their sin. Then, God promised to un-create his creation on account of the violence and oppression that covered the face of the earth. So, the flood represented an unwinding of creation to the point of the waters covering the face of the earth again. But out of that came a new creation and a new mountain of God, the mountains of Ararat. These were the highest mountains, and so they were the fitting place for Noah’s ark to rest so that the new Adam could commune with God.

But this new creation was not paradise. Man’s heart was still evil, and the new Adam still sinned. This new humanity was fruitful and multiplied, but it did not fill the earth (Genesis 10). Instead, the new creation consolidated into cities and strove to meet with God on its own terms. Thus, the Tower of Babel was attempted (Genesis 11). This tower could be seen as the anti-mountain of God, and it resulted in the scattering of humanity and the confusion of language. But all was not lost; from this scattering, God calls Abraham.

While there is a mountain that figures into the life of Abraham, i.e. Mount Moriah, the connections to creation and re-creation are less firm. Instead, I want to jump forward to Mt. Sinai and the exodus. As we trace this thread of Scripture, this is the next clear place we see the connection between a mountain and creation.

And importantly, there is a connection between the de-creation in the flood and the plagues and crossing of the Red Sea in the exodus. Both represent an unwinding of creation out of which a new creation is formed. In the first place, Egypt represents the corrupt world. It is the seat of power at this time, and Pharaoh’s violent oppression against the Hebrews parallels the description of the pre-flood land as filled with violence. If nothing else, it is representative of the worst of humanity just before God comes to judge it through de-creation.

And then God does judge Egypt through the plagues. Though the description is not as closely tied to the unwinding of the original creation as found in the flood, all aspects of creation are touched in the plagues. By the end of these plagues, the land has become formless and void through hail and locusts (Exod 9:13-10:20), and even light has been darkened (Exod 10:21-29).

But then, judgment on the wicked comes through water, just like in the flood, though not on a global scale this time. As the parted waters of the Red Sea crash back to their appointed place, Pharaoh and his army succumb to the same judgment that God leveled against the wicked in Genesis 6-9. Thus, it is not a coincidence that Moses describes the destruction of the Egyptian army with a term that links it back to the flood and to the original creation. When Moses says, “The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone” (Exod 15:5), the word “floods” is the same word as “the great deep” in Gen 7:11 (“In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.”), and “the deep” in Gen 1:2 (“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”).

And out of this de-creation, Israel emerges and encounters God at Mt. Sinai. Or, more specifically, Moses as representative of Israel, ascends Mt. Sinai to meet with God. Thus, Moses stands as representative of a new creation, in a way, in Exodus 19-20, and receives the law from God, which is God’s revelation of how his people will live in this new creation.

But there is still a problem; the people of God have still not arrived in paradise. Though Moses meets with God, he must do so at a distance, and when God fills the tabernacle in Exodus 40, even Moses isn’t able to enter God’s presence. Things are not as they should be. But a solution is coming, and next week we will turn to the intermediate solution, the sacrificial system via the tabernacle, which points to the ultimate solution, Jesus Christ.

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