Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, March 07, 2014

28 Stories - Study 26: 40 Years in the Desert

Fundamental: The Millennium and the End of Sin

Bible Story   

As Moses made his way back up the mountain, he rehearsed what he would say to God, “The people make me so angry! I didn’t mean to break the stone tablets you gave me. I am so sorry. Please forgive me!”
When he finally arrived at the place where they had met last time, he waited, hoping he was still acceptable to God.
Finally, a quiet voice came from all around Moses, “Welcome back.” It really sounded like the rock, the air, the sky and the ground were each responsible for the voice. It came from everywhere. It seemed as if even his own body was generating the sound. “You broke my law, Moses.”
“Yes, Lord. I am so-”
“I’ve heard it already,” God interrupted. “You’ve been apologising over and over the entire time you’ve been climbing the mountain!”
“You were listening?”
A deep rumble caused a few pebbles to vibrate off of a ledge above Moses. “Yes,” God was laughing. “Yes, of course I was listening! It is impossible for me not to hear the cries of my people—whether they come from the heart or the tongue. I hear everything! I am the Creator, after all.”
There was a long pause before Moses spoke. “They just make me so angry! Why did they make that calf? They knew I would come back from visiting you! Why would they worship a golden image from Egypt? What did Egypt ever do for them? Don’t they remember being slaves?”
“You have many questions, my child,” God said. “Know this, you are not alone in your anger. Their actions anger me, often. Even I, at times, need reminding of my own grace!”
Moses knew exactly what God was talking about, “Well, you did threaten to destroy every last one of them! I had to say something! I couldn’t believe that you would rescue us all from slavery and then, in a moment of explosive anger, obliterate us!”
“So you said,” God responded. “And I listened.”
“Were you really going to destroy them?”
“What do you think?”
“You promised to take us to a beautiful land,” Moses was thinking out loud, “and if you destroyed us, you would have broken your promise—or at least been unable to fulfill it.”
“It would seem you have answered your own question,” God replied, “and quieted your own doubting heart. Now, You need to chisel a couple of new tablets out of the rock wall next to you.”
“But,” Moses said, “Last time you-”
“Yes, but you broke those tablets,” God reminded. “We often value that which we create with our own hands and by the sweat of our own brow. So, this time, you will make them!”
Moses nodded his head in agreement. He turned to the wall and began working. As he chiseled away, he continued talking to God. “How can they be so forgetful?”
“Hmmm?”
“How can the Israelites forget so easily?” Moses clarified. “You parted the waters of the Red Sea as Egypt’s armies were baring down on us. We ran headlong into that impossible corridor of wet-walled dry-grounded sea-that-was-no-more and out the other side!” A chip of stone flew over Moses’ head as he took his anger out on the cliff side. “How can they forget and go back to the useless God’s of their captors?”
“The Egyptian gods were all they knew,” God said. “Well, all they had been told of, anyway. I was with them through every brick, every whip and every generation.”
“What about the Manna? They even complained about food falling from the sky—in the desert, free food! Delicious food.”
Moses gently took one stone slab and set it on a large rock. “That’s one done,” he said and returned to the wall to claim another tablet from its stony flesh.
“Meat! They wanted meat.” Moses laughed. “That was hilarious. They asked for meat and when you gave it to them—or failed to stop giving it to them, to be more precise—They didn’t know what to do. They were knee high in quail until even the thought of meat made them sick!”
“You have a good memory,” God said.
“Lot’s of good memories,” Moses answered. “Great memories, because you were there with me. When they feel unsure or alone, why can’t the people look back and remember all you have done?” Moses worked in silence for a while and then turned, another tablet in his hands.
As he placed it on the rock next to the first one, God spoke, “The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.”
Moses threw himself to the ground and worshiped. At hearing God declare his name and purpose, worship was the only response imaginable. As he worshiped, Moses prayed, “Oh Lord, if I have found favor with you, please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.”
 God replied, “Listen, I am making a covenant with you. I will perform miracles never performed anywhere on earth. And all the people around you will see the power of the Lord—the awesome power I will display. But listen carefully to everything I command you today. Then I will go ahead of you and drive out every person who fails to believe in Me—the one true God.”
Then God wrote the terms of the covenant between Him and his people—the Ten Commandments—on the stone tablets Moses had prepared.

My Reflection

Why do you think it was so easy for the Israelites to forget the miracles that God had done for them?

How do you think Moses felt when he got so angry he broke the first tablets? Do you think that situation helped him understand God better? How?

If you were Moses on that mountaintop, and you could tell God anything or ask Him any question, what would you have said?

My Story

When we get to Heaven, God is going to let us explore the record books. We will be able to ask any question, explore any topic or person’s life we wish. Can you think of any time in your life that you would like to understand better? Is there a time when you wondered what God was doing?

God has done things that we do not understand and failed to do things we are sure he should have done. During the millennium (1,000 years in Heaven) we are going to be able to explore God’s actions and intentions. What situation from before you were born (as far back as you want to go) would you like to understand better and know how God was involved?

Moses discovered that, although he had experienced God’s tremendous anger, God was merciful and just. Do you think we will discover the same thing during our 1,000-year research project? Why do you think God gives us 1,000 years for this task?

My Assurance

The spiritual world, unseen to us right now, will go through extreme changes after Jesus’ second coming. What do these verses tell you about the changes that will take place during the millennium?

Revelation 20:1-3 ~ Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished.

Malachi 4:1 ~ The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.

My Commitment

Just as God has given us a part to play in sharing the Gospel with the world, we will also have responsibilities after His return. What do these verses tell you about our involvement during the 1000 years in heaven? How do they challenge you today?

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ~ Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life.

Ezekiel 28:18-19 ~ You defiled your sanctuaries with your many sins and your dishonest trade. So I brought fire out from within you, and it consumed you. I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All who knew you are appalled at your fate. You have come to a terrible end, and you will exist no more.

My Outlook

During the thousand years while God’s people are in Heaven, this world will be a desolate heap of rubble. Then it will be made new. What do these verses tell you about the way the earth will look and feel during and after the millennium?

Jeremiah 4:23-26 ~ I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless. I looked at the heavens, and there was no light. I looked at the mountains and hills, and they trembled and shook. I looked, and all the people were gone. All the birds of the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness. The towns lay in ruins, crushed by the Lord’s fierce anger.

Revelation 21:1-5 ~ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

My Response

The following statement is the 27th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The Millennium and the End of Sin

The millennium is the thousand-year reign of Christ with His saints in heaven between the first and second resurrections. During this time the wicked dead will be judged; the earth will be utterly desolate, without living human inhabitants, but occupied by Satan and his angels. At its close Christ with His saints and the Holy City will descend from heaven to earth. The unrighteous dead will then be resurrected, and with Satan and his angels will surround the city; but fire from God will consume them and cleanse the earth. The universe will thus be freed of sin and sinners forever.

Bible Story

The story of Moses spending 40 days with God and receiving the second set of stone tablets is found in Exodus 34. The rest of the stories referred to are from various places in Exodus.

Further Reading

Revelation 20.