Exodus 19:16-25 (ESV)
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them.
Moses has been here before. Mount Sinai is the same as Mount Horeb – where a burning bush told Moses to liberate his people. Now the whole mountain is filled with smoke and thunder and lightning. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. What does that mean? What’s so different about the smoke and why is that worth mentioning?
A kiln (or “furnace” in some translations) burns hotter than an open fire. The smoke is fast rising and not chased by flames. It doesn’t look like a forest fire.
But a forest fire is what you’d expect here, especially since it seems to have been started by lightning. No other kind of fire makes sense anyway. Thus, this hotter, stronger fire has an intimidating, unnatural feel. Just as the burning bush was striking in that the bush wasn’t consumed, this fire looks impossible.
The whole scene just tingles with supernatural power.
We memorize all the verses about God’s power and we understand it, but we don’t pray like we expect Him to use it. We know that God can do anything, but we shrink from bold prayer.
Consider revisiting an old prayer request that was never granted – one that you wanted with all you heart, but God seemed to say, “no.”
Now if God really did give you a clear “no,” that one’s complete. But if He simply left it “on the table,” dig a little deeper and get more desperate. You may get a clear “no” – or maybe something else.
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