God of the Mountains
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 06, Nov 2018
Scripture Reading: Deuternomy 33:1-5
‘Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. He said, “The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning for them. Indeed He loves the people. All your holy ones are in your hand, and they followed in your steps; everyone receives of your words. Moses charged us with a law, a possession for the assembly of Jacob. And He was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered, the tribes of Israel together.”
This passage of scriptures describes a revelatory appearance of YHWH to Israel. It is Theophany; manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses. In its most restrictive sense, it is a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament period often, but not always, in human form. This awesome encounter between the divine and humans more often than not was terrifying. YHWH’s presence was continued in the form of the special cloud; i.e. Shekinah cloud of glory. YHWH came and stayed with His people from Mt. Sinai until they crossed the Jordan. Even then, His special presence was with the Ark, above the wings of the cherubim.
Deu 33 is also very similar to Genesis 49. It reflects the ancient Jewish Tradition of a Patriarchal blessing on the children; that is, similar to Jacob to his sons in Genesis 49. It says in verse 1 ‘Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. Here Moses is a surrogate father to the tribes of Israel and pronounces the family blessing and warning on each one. Moses is a representation of God; thus you could say this is also God’s address to His children.
It is obvious from this verse that YHWH is seen as associated with mountains. He is the God of the Mountains. Only three mountains are mentioned here in this portion of Scriptures. Many of us are familiar with the names of the Mountains in the bible.
Mount Moriah – the sight of the Temple
Mount Sinai – also known as Mount Horeb
(Mount Sinai, Mount Seir and Mount Paran are three mountains here that I will be touching on)
Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim – where we heard the blessings and the curses
Mount Carmel – where Elijah confronted the false prophet
Mount Zion – another name is Jerusalem
Mount Nebo – where it is believed that Moses died there
This is even acknowledged by the enemies of Israel. In I Kings 20:23, 28 the enemies says of Israel, ‘And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.’
Mountains are mentioned frequently in the Bible because they dotted the landscape where the stories in the Bible take place. As a result, mountains and hills are mentioned more than 500 times in Scripture. Mountains have a logical religious symbolism (which we are going to touch on today) for Jewish and Christian Cultures since they are ‘closer to God’ who dwells in the heavens (as in the sky). As a result, God often reveals himself on a mountaintop in the Scriptures. Jesus often went up to the Mount to pray. He gave His Sermon on the Mount. He was transfigured in a Mountain and crucified in a mountain. So we can say safely that God is a God of the Mountain and these mountains carry a consistent spiritual representation. I cannot touch on every mountain because it will be a very long sermon. I will only cover 4 mountains; 3 are found in this portion of scripture and the fourth is considered one of the most important mountains in the bible. Kindly take note that if you go to Israel today, all the mountains are still in existence though some of the names are changed.
Deu 33:2 says, “The Lord came from Sinai.” Here the bible did not say ‘He came to Sinai’ but rather ‘He came from Sinai’. So Sinai is commonly called the Mount of God. The book of Enoch, a book before the flood mentioned about Mount Sinai. It appears already in the first chapter of the book of Enoch which says about God, ‘who will go forth from his habitation, the Holy and Mighty One, the God of the world: who will hereafter tread upon Mount Sinai.’ During Moses’ time this is the place of the giving of the Law. It is called Sinai only here in Deuteronomy. It is usually called Horeb. It seems that Horeb refers to a range of mountains and Sinai is referred to as one of its peak. God is seen here as giving us the word. It is said that Mount Sinai is the place where YHWH gave His ‘Ten Words’. It is also said that written on the one tablet of stone are the Ten Commandments and repeated again on the other tablet the Ten Commandments. According to Jewish religious tradition, the sages say ‘ten on one tablet and ten on the other’. It is likely that they are duplicated on both tablets. Also note that the Ten Commandments appeared twice in the Hebrew Bible; in the Book of Exodus and the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses went up Mount Sinai twice to receive the Ten Commandments. They are repeated for emphasis. It emphasizes the legal practice of the law and the importance of the Word to His people. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. God is associated with giving us the Word of God. As I live longer and longer in my relationship with God, I realized how important the Word of God is to me. God is the Word. John chapter 1 is so clear; the Word was God. God has left behind a very important gift to all of us: the bible. If we know the Word we will know God. God is the giver of the Word.
Mount Sinai along with Mount Zion is considered the most significant mountains in the Bible because it is also a symbol of God’s covenant with Israel including us. Sinai is not only the giving of the Ten Commandments but also the establishment of a Covenant Relationship. Included in the covenant are the promises of God. Sis Helen Tan brought her mum to Israel for a tour and one of the tourist attraction places in Israel is Mount Sinai. Helen was asked to climb up Mount Sinai to experience probably a Moses’ like ascent. The tour group was to do it early in the morning during the dawn of the first light. But she was unwilling because the Mount is too high. She hates climbing and would rather sleep. Personally I think Helen should have gone up the Mount Sinai because it is the Mount of God; however tiring it may be. The root word for Horeb is related to the same three Hebrew consonants that mean ‘waste’, ‘desolation’ or ‘ruin’. Sinai is also commonly known as the Wilderness of Sin. All of our lives are likewise in like manner; waste, desolation, ruin and in a wilderness of Sin but YHWH came and established a covenant with us with promises. If we are obedience to the Word of God, we shall see the promises and gifts of God coming to pass in our lives. Maybe there is someone today, like me 40 years ago. Your life is a waste, desolation, a ruin and you are in a wilderness of Sin. YHWH is here today and he wants to enter into a legal covenant with you. He will be giving you His words that are found in the bible and if you learned to live your lifestyle according to the Word of God, YHWH put forth His gifts and promises for you. Your life doesn’t have to be a waste anymore. YHWH can stop the ruin in your life and take away the sins in your life and restore you back as a Child of God. You will be called His people or His holy ones. Who are His people? They followed in His steps and they receive His word.
Deu 33:2 says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir.”
The name Seir has several different referents in the Old Testament. It can refer to the land of Edom, a mountain in Edom or a people. The three references mentioned are correct. Genesis 35:8-9 says, ‘And Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom. And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir.’ So we can conclude that it is the name of a Mountainous region occupied by the Edomites. It was allotted to the descendants of Esau. We can conclude that the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. ’ Edomites are Israel are brothers or they are family. So firstly we have to take note that in order for us to receive the promises of God, we have to pass through the Edomites. Mount Seir is on the route from Sinai to Canaan. A study of the wilderness journeying of the children of Israel will show that in order to pass into the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land; the destination of the Jews as well as the Christians) it was necessary to pass through Edom; hence it is recorded in Numbers 20:14, 17, 18 that ‘Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom. Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us…. Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy land,… and Edom said unto him; thou shall not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword.’
So secondly in order to receive the promises of God, we must recognize that our enemies are our brethren. Please take note that Esau is the brother of Israel. Psalms 41:9 says, ‘Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.’ Jesus himself says, ‘the one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.’ In other words the people of Seir are the people that we used to work together, eat together, fellowship together but they were the confirmed enemies of the Jews. I need to wake up and understand the route from Sinai to Canaan is through Mount Seir. If I recognized this truth, I won’t be asking God a lot of WHYs which I have many times, saying I just don’t understand. Because the unkindest cut of all that I receive was the treachery of one who had been an intimate friend. Of all the sorrows of life, this one is certainly one of the bitterest; to be betrayed by one who has close associations with you. It is the sorrow of Jesus experienced in the betrayal of Judas, and a not uncommon experience in the life of one who follows Christ. Pastor Carlyn was describing how Mike was in tears when he was playing the drum in his first service after the resignation of Nehemiah. The tears was of course the presence of new ones, signifying that God did not fail but also the tears of hurt by the betrayal of one who continuously harm him. I am still learning, to turn away from the one who stab me on the back but look instead to Jesus for mercy. If others are deserting you, learn to count on the Lord who stands by faithfully. Do you know what I learned most in my experience concerning my enemies? I saw God warning me, preparing steps to protect me, protect my children and provides for them, discomfiting the plans of the enemy, bringing new people who truly believes in me and finally restoring me. Do you know what strange request you must make to God when you in this situation. Learn from David. He says concerning his enemies; in Psalms 41:10 ‘raise me up, that I may repay them’. It may seem unworthy of a child of God to mention that but we must remember them like David. We are God’s anointed and it is our duty as a leader to deal with sedition and betrayal. While you may think that you have chosen to tolerate villainy and treachery against yourself, but as a child of God you are obliged to suppress any attempts to destroy the works of God.
Thirdly Edom, in opposing God’s purposes made himself the enemy of God. The Bible continuously described how Edom opposes both God and His people; how Edom opposes God’s plans and attempts to hinder His work, and states that Edom hates and reject God himself. God’s anger against Edom is not merely that they inconvenienced Israel but that they denied Israel the rights of family. The motive for Edom’s opposition was resentment and jealousy because of Esau. In Jealousy, Edom now sought revenge by denying the fulfillment of those promises specifically the promise of land given by God to Abraham. In short Edom was attempting to hinder God’s work and purposes by opposing Israel’s pilgrimage to the promised land of Canaan.
Lastly God will destroy our enemies. Ezekiel 34:2 says, ‘Son of Man, set your face against Mount Seir: prophesy against it.’ Recently as I have my devotion, I always felt that God repeatedly told me that He will curse my enemies and will destroy my enemies. I also notice that included in the promises of God for Christians is the promise of the destruction of our enemies. I can only safely say that I have enemies and God will destroy these enemies. Going back to our scripture text, the phrase ‘dawn on them in Mount Seir’, it means that God will come upon Mount Seir against our enemies and we will see the awesome display of God’s glory and power and we will give praise and acknowledged God’s love for us after what He had done to our enemies. Judges 5:4-5 says, ‘When you, LORD, went out from Seir, when you march from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. The mountains quakes at the presence of the Lord.’ It is a prophetic meaning that Edom, the enemies of God will be destroyed and that God will move to Israel to comfort and bless them after He has finished destroying the enemies of Israel. Actually this has reference to the end time events; the battle of Armageddon that God will commence his visitation of Israel by dawning in (marching upon) Edom. In the near future, in the End Times, at Armageddon, God will commence his visitation of Israel by dawning in Edom where He will commence His judgment on those that oppose Him and His Messiah. At the battle of Armageddon, we know that the children will be at the Rock of Petra, the stronghold of Edom and God will shook the place with an earthquake and he will come with ten thousands of his saints from heaven. You asked Pastor, are you trying to be dramatic? Read Deu 33:2-4 again. It says, ‘He said, “The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning for them. Indeed He loves the people.” Why is God doing all this? Because He loves us. He will destroy our enemies because He loves us.
Deu 33:2 says, “The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran.’
Mount Paran is the mountain range close to the plains of Moab on the west side of Arabah, down the west side of the Gulf of Aqaba. Paran is commonly called the wilderness of Paran. It is different from Mount Sinai which is known as the wilderness of sin; while Paran is the wilderness of life. Number 10:12 says, ‘And the children of Israel set forward according to their journeys… and the cloud abode in the wilderness of Paran.’ This represents the travel of the children of Israel going into the Promised Land. Like the children of Israel our travel of life going into our Promised Land can be a wilderness of life. It can also be a wandering life. Mount Paran represents the wilderness of life. Yet God is saying that He has been with them throughout our wandering life and He is still with us. I can only say that YHWH has been with me throughout these 40 years of wilderness of life. Paran is also the first place where the children of Israel stopped after leaving Sinai. It implies that we too will experience the wilderness of life immediately even though we may have a covenant relationship with God. But the bible also says that God’s light shone from Mount Paran. Light implied revelation. It means that God’s revelation took place throughout our wilderness of life. He was always available to reveal, to sustain and to deliver us. He will send manna from heaven, provide quails, call water of out the rock, turn bitter water to become sweet, send a cloud to provide shade, and a fire to provide heat. Take an inventory of your life. You cannot deny that God’s light was there all the while in the wilderness of our life. Number 10:12 tells us that the cloud abode in the wilderness of Paran. We know that the cloud represents the Shekinah glory of God. We cannot forget that the two top songs for our church when we were left on our own on 2012, was ‘How Great Is Our God’ and “Our God is greater.’ We felt God the closet, experience His delivering power and witness His mercy and grace. In our wilderness of life God is great and our God is greater than any enemies.
Zion means sunny, height and one of the eminences on which Jerusalem was built. When David took it from the Jebusites, he built on it a citadel and a palace and it became the city of David. In later books of the Old Testament, this name was sometimes used to denote Jerusalem in general and sometimes God’s chosen people. In the New Testament it is used to denote the Church of God or the Heavenly City. Zion is described in the Psalms as ‘the city of our God’. Sinai is the Mount of God where Zion is the City of our God. It is a place that belongs to Him. Situated on a high mountain, it is called ‘the joy of all the earth’ and ‘the perfection of beauty’. This is found in Psalms 48; 50:2. It is the city that God will ‘establish forever’ and from which the kings of other nations will flee in panic. Because of these descriptions, it is rational to assume that Zion is the location of Christ’s rule on earth during the millennial kingdom. That is why Iran stated so clearly that they have no problem with Judaism but they cannot accept Zion. Repeatedly when the nation of Israel is favored or promised future glory, Zion is mentioned. Zion is the place from which ‘the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. Zion can be thought of as the spiritual and future eternal Jerusalem. Isaiah 28:16 says, ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’
Mount Zion represents our final destination in life. One of the things that I like about SDC is that it records a disciple’s journey with God while on earth. But we have a destination. Our home is the heavenly city, the city of God. We will be established forever. We are favored or promised with future glory. It is the place where God will command the blessing and life forevermore.
Zion is considered the most important mountain in the Bible. Zion is contrasted with Babylon, the place of exile where their captors taunted them, saying ‘sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ Just as Zion is both a real and spiritual place, Babylon is the opposite: a real place that has a symbolic spiritual counterpart as the persecutor of God’s people and a city of evil. Mount Zion the physical place is on a hill just outside of Jerusalem wall. It has been associated with the Temple Mount. The entire land of Israel has also been referred to as Mount Zion