Scripture Text: Exodus 24.
I’m going to be reading a good many verses or alluding to a lot of them. I don’t expect you to turn to them all. You can just listen, but here’s one text I do want you to see. I will read a couple of other verses first, and then we’ll go to Exodus 24.
For this sermon tonight, I was really wrestling with what exactly to preach. When I do my devotions each morning, I write down notes and those basically become the seed thoughts. That’s my dad’s word for it — for sermons in the future. And so, I have a collection., I have a little database. That’s how geeky I am. I have a database of seed thoughts. There are about 500 of them. I go through them, and I add to them constantly. And sooner or later, they become a full-blown sermon. This one has been there sitting for a while, and I really believe that the Lord led me to it tonight. I don’t know why, but I guess we’ll see tonight.
And so, it’s Exodus 24. I’m going to read in chapter 19 first, just a couple of quick things. In Exodus 19:16 it says,
“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.”
It’s talking about the 10 Commandments — when God gave them there on the mountain. And Exodus 19:19 says,
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord.”
And then we come into Exodus 24:1:
“And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 2 And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.” Skip down to verse number 9: “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:” Verse 15: “And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel [like a storm cloud]. 18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.”
And the title to this message is not in Exodus, but it’s in one of the minor prophets in Nahum 1:3.
“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked: The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of his feet.”
The message tonight is “His Way is in the Whirlwind.”
The Character of God
When we read the Old Testament, it is very unlike the New Testament letters of Paul, let’s say. And in the Old Testament, what we get is we get the character of God. We learn what God is like. The Old Testament tells us what the character of God is like, and here we learned that where God lives — His abode, His house — is in the clouds.
Biblically speaking, God does not live in the circus. If He did, what would that tell us about His character? God does not live in the theme park, and if He did, what would that tell us about his character? You understand what I’m saying? God also doesn’t show up and meet with us or meet with people in the Bible in a beautiful sunset. He meets with them in the whirlwind, in the middle of a thick cloud.
In the Bible, clouds are not like this cute little thing like in the poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” That’s not it. On Mount Sinai when God gives the 10 Commandments to Moses, smoke is coming up from the mountain, a big storm cloud has descended on the mountain, lightning and thunder, and a big booming voice. And all the children of Israel are freaked out of their minds. And then God says, “Hey Moses come on up here. We’re going to meet together.”
That doesn’t just happen to Moses. When God shows up and has a powerful encounter with someone, their life changes forever, but it’s not because of a beautiful sunset or because they went to the circus. It’s because they met Him in the whirlwind, and His way is in the whirlwind. That’s what I want to speak about tonight. It might just be for one or two of you. It might just be for me. If you aren’t facing this thing right now and God has not told you, “Hey, I want you to come up into the cloud with me,” It will happen later. The cloud experience takes you spiritually to the next level. You see? So, that’s what we’re talking about here.
In Psalm 18:11, it says,
“He made darkness his secret place; His pavilion round about him Were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. 12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, Hail stones and coals of fire.”
It doesn’t sound like the cute little father figure of God strumming a harp on the clouds. That’s not what’s going on. He invites people in Scripture to join Him in the cloud. He overshadows them. And we’re going to see that that invitation is not just for Moses in the Old Testament or Peter, James, and John in the New Testament. He stretches out his hand of invitation to us today, and He says, “Come and meet with Me.” Where? In the storm cloud, in the whirlwind.
There is a pattern threaded through all of the Bible that we see here, and I want to trace that for you. Again, you’re not going to be flipping through the Bible. You can just listen to some of these Scriptures, and we’ll make the appropriate application.
We’re going to see that His way is in the whirlwind and why that matters to us. It matters dramatically. And I hope that you will just hang with me through this whole thing, and we’ll jump right in.
Father, thank you for everyone that You’ve assembled here. You let them get off work tonight. You let them be here — people who are watching online that maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. You’ve assembled us here tonight, and we want to hear from Your Word. We want You to speak to us powerfully and help us to understand. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Inconvenience and Interruption
So here it is. Moses is at the edge of Mount Sinai, and they are about to go into the Promised Land. That was the original idea — that they go straight from Egypt into the Promised Land. That didn’t work out too well. They ended up wandering around the desert for 40 years. But that’s the idea. Moses has it in his mind that we’re going from Egypt, we’ve passed through the Red Sea, and now we’re going to the Canaanland like the Lord promised. And this whole encounter with God is kind of inconvenient to him. God says, “All right, I want everyone just to stop where they’re at here. I want the leader to come up here and meet with Me. And Moses does so for 40 days and 40 nights. He does. And when he gets into the cloud, he doesn’t hear anything at all for six days! And then on the seventh day after a long prolonged period of silence, God starts speaking to him. It wasn’t convenient for Moses.
He was alone. By himself. And he was fasting. If you’ve ever fasted for more than several days, you understand what that’s like. You feel weak. You feel like you’re not in control. You feel like your head is spinning. You have a caffeine headache if you’re addicted to coffee.
And this whole situation is very intimidating. When you’re in a cloud — if you’ve ever flown on an airplane and you went through a cloud and couldn’t see anything out the window — it’s a little scary. It’s a little scary for the pilots who are totally dependent on their instruments. They have zero visibility. And here is Moses in this cloud. Zero visibility.
It’s not very glamorous. When you think of all of God’s beautiful creations, you don’t think of being in the middle of a cloud as one of them. But that’s where God chooses to meet with us and change our lives forever.
For Moses, the cloud experience with God sets the tone for the rest of his whole ministry. It was anything but an interruption to his journey. It was the crucial preparation time for the journey. And a lot of times when God slows us down in life — maybe like the apostle Paul: He, slaps him off his horse, and he goes blind. That’s very inconvenient. I think Paul was like, “Hey look, I’m on my way to go torture Christians. Isn’t this what you want?” And then God kind of changed his mind there.
A lot of times when this happens — when God throws us off the horse, when He wrestles with us during the night like Jacob and we leave with a limp — it changes our whole direction of life. We have to embrace the cloud experience. It’s good for us if we actually want to grow spiritually.
So why does God meet us in the cloud? Why couldn’t He just meet us on the top of a mountain or in a forest somewhere? What’s the deal with the cloud?
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Hopewell Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church in Napa, California pastored by Mike Ray. It is Bible-based with a warm, friendly atmosphere. Hopewell is dedicated to bringing the water of life to the Napa Valley and beyond.