We often see the fires of sin burning in our world, and like all fires, we want to hurry to put them out, but through his Word, our Father tells us, “there is something more important you must do first.” When Moses was on the mountain with God, there was an extreme spiritual emergency going on in the foothills. Astonishingly, God seemed to ignore it. God spoke with Moses and delivered His Word. He did not rush; instead, he conveyed in careful detail to Moses what to do about the all-important Sabbath:
“Keep my Sabbaths” (Exodus 31:13), “keep the Sabbath” (31:14), “the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest” (31:15), “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death (31:15), “keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath” (31:16).
That holy Word—Sabbath—was used six times in three verses. The Sabbath is the weekly time where the Israelites stopped working so that they could devote all their attention to worshipping God. It is very clear God wants His people to worship Him. Now, what was happening as God was telling Moses about this? The Israelites were creating a Golden Calf to worship!
If God cared so much about His people worshipping Him on the Sabbath, why did He not say, “Moses! Run down the mountain and stop them!”? Why did He spend so much painstaking time speaking with Moses about the Sabbath?
On the mountain of the Lord, God established for Moses spiritual priority. He showed Moses—and us—the importance of hearing from God. The Word of God was the important thing, not the idolatry. God knew that if He sent Moses away without first giving him His Word, Moses would fail. Moses could not stop the idolatry in the foothills without first gazing upon the glorious presence of God on the mountaintop. Shiny cows look pretty nice when they are not compared to Glory.
We often live the Christian life in the opposite way. We think that we must fight for God now and pray later. Moses prayed now and fought later. Martin Luther purportedly said to a friend that he was so busy on the day in which they were speaking that if he did not pray for three hours, he would never get everything done that day.
Here is the hard truth—when we neglect our spiritual disciplines (reading the Word and prayer) we are subconsciously saying that God is not capable of the work and that we are. If we were Moses on the mountain, we would stick our finger up at God and say, “Hold that thought, God, I have to take care of some business.”
Here is the beautiful truth—when you are overworked and tired, God extends to you His Sabbath rest. He says, “come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” He tells you that you need not accomplish His will on His behalf without Him. He says, “sit with me and listen to my Word and let it accomplish the work. My Word will not return void.”