Opening Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you for the presence of your Spirit that you have poured out in your church. We ask that your refining work would continue in us and through us. Empower your word now through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Last week as we began Lent, we considered the first instance of the theme of forty in Scripture in the Flood. This week we consider the next instance in Moses’ sojourn on Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights. He actually does this twice with the incident of the gold calf at the center.
Forty Days and Forty Nights: On Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24, 34, Dt. 9)
The sight of the glory of Yahweh is described as a “consuming fire” in Ex. 24:17. There Moses spends forty days and nights receiving instructions for constructing the tabernacle and the law (Ex. 25-31). One of the only other places God is described as a “consuming fire” is Dt. 4:24, and there it comes on the heels of reminding Israel that they have been brought out Egypt, the “iron furnace” (Dt. 4:20). Literally, Israel went “out of the furnace and into the fire.” In Dt. 9, Yahweh explains that the “consuming fire” that Moses encountered on the top of the mountain is going to go before Israel into Canaan to destroy the great and mighty nations living there (9:3). But the presence of God is not safe for the unfaithful. If Israel is not faithful to drive out the nations in Canaan, instead of destroying the nations, God’s anger will burn against Israel and destroy them (4:26, 9:8, 14, 19, 20, 25). As Moses recounts the bumpy history of Israel in the wilderness, Yahweh determines to destroy Israel at least three times (v. 7-9, 17-19, 23-25, cf. 10:10). And Moses responds to each of these threats by fasting forty days and forty nights interceding on behalf of Israel. Moses goes up into the “consuming fire” for the salvation of Israel.
Conclusions and Applications
Israel eventually goes into the land, and while Yahweh does consume the nations before them, many years later when they have turned their backs on him, they are consumed by him in the fires of exile, the furnace of affliction (Is. 48:10, Ez. 22:15-22).
Lent is an annual reminder that our God is a consuming fire, and we are called to serve him with reverence and fear (Heb. 12:29). But this is a call to conquest by intercession. We have seen that Israel took the land of Canaan because Moses prayed and fasted for them. We too are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, but the stakes are higher. The entire world is now the land of promise, and the consuming fire goes before us. Therefore, we not only fast and pray for ourselves and our families but for the nations in the land.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you that you have called us to be priests to the nations. Grant us hearts and minds that are given to interceding for your people and for those who are far off whom you will call. Amen.