Seeking Mount Horeb
- 2003 12 Nov
One of the most beloved sites in the river city of Savannah, Georgia is known locally as "The Twin Steeples." The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist-with ornate twin steeples rising high above the French Gothic cathedral-is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Georgia. The exterior and interior-laden with Italian marble, Austrian stained glass, and magnificent Persian rugs-are splendid and breathtaking. But this is not why it's special to me. It is dear to me because my beloved grandmother has her membership there.
I'll always remember the first time I set foot within its hallowed halls. As soon as I stepped past the nave and through one of the three or four double doors leading into the sanctuary, I gasped. My head fell backward; my eyes took in the wonder of artwork...the rise of the dome, the massive altar, and marble statues depicting the life of Christ. There was a silence in the place, a reverence. At one point I may have stopped breathing. God, I said to my mother later, was in this place.
I had a similar moment years later while walking the streets of Jerusalem. I stopped. Pointed a finger to my lips and said to those around me, "Shhh... Listen... You can hear His heart beat."
To be in the presence of God is an awesome thing. We ache for it...yet reach for it so rarely. Things happen when we are there. God moves on His holy mountain...
Mt. Horeb & Moses
Mt. Horeb is a mountain range, with the most prominent mountain being Mount Sinai. It is first introduced in Exodus 3:1ff:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appears to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground."
The Scriptures go on to tell of God's call to Moses to return to his home in Egypt and to demand the release of the enslaved Hebrews, God's children. Moses did as commanded and fifty days after their departure from Egypt, he led the freed slaves back to where God had first shown Himself to him. In this very spot, the Hebrews would live for the next year. Moses' relationship with God would become even more intimate here; he would receive the Ten Commandments...he would have the very hand of God placed over him as he stood in the cleft of the rock, and he would see the Lord's glory pass by him when it was removed. (Exodus 33)
Mt. Horeb and Elijah
Many years later and in the land God had promised Moses, lived a prophet named Elijah. It had been a "tough day at work" for him. He'd sent the evil King Ahab a proposition to meet him and Ahab had come, responding:
"Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"
"I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifteen prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at [Queen] Jezebel's table." (1 Kings 18: 17, 18)
Ahab did as the prophet suggested and when all had assembled, Elijah challenged them to follow God's ways rather than Baal's. When they did not, he declared himself to be the only prophet of the Lord left. Then the "show down" began. Two bulls were brought in and cut into parts, then laid on wood. The prophets of Baal were encouraged to call down their god...to request of him that he bring down fire to burn up and accept the sacrifice of one of the bulls. Though the people begged and even slashed themselves with swords and spears to the point of blood flowing, no fire came.
Then Elijah called on the name of God.
"O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." (1 Kings 18: 36, 37)
With that said, the fire of God fell from the sky, burning everything up with its heat. The people fell and worshipped God, the prophets of Baal were slaughtered. Elijah was victorious in his faith...until Queen Jezebel heard what had happened. She declared Elijah to be a dead man. And what did Elijah do? He ran for the hills...literally!
He traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. (19: 8)
Elijah, weary and frightened, found himself safe within the clefts of the mountain of God. There, God whispered to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" When Elijah answered him, God gave him specific instructions; just as specific as He'd once given Moses.
When we come to the mountain of God, God is very direct with His purposes.
I have often wondered if the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent in the wilderness was His personal journey toward Horeb. Before beginning His ministry, perhaps He wanted to be on the mountain of His Father...to return to the place where the Law had been given and where the great prophet had been whispered to. After all, He would fulfill the Law and the Prophets and when He was transfigured, it was Moses and Elijah who came to Him.
I have no way of knowing. But I do know that today pilgrims journey to Horeb and to the Monastery of Saint Catherine, which sits at the base of Sinai. Among the most popular adventures is to time climbing the mountain so as to see the morning's sunrise. Perhaps in the silences, as dark gives way to light, those who wait hear the whisper of God.
Most of us, however, will see Horeb, or climb Sinai and churches such as The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and streets of Jerusalem are also not the only places where His heartbeat can be heard. We can find our places of respite; places where God can whisper to our hearts or give us instruction. Jesus said,
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
I have a special place that I go to each day to pray. It's only a small loveseat tucked in the corner of the master bedroom of my home, but when I sit upon it and pray, I go to the mountain of God. I believe that God does not descend to us, but rather that we ascend to Him. When I have done so, He whispers...He guides...and I listen.
1. Where is your Mt. Horeb?
2. Have you ever heard God whisper to your heart? Talk (or journal) about it.
3. Have you ever felt His glory? Talk (or journal) about it.
4. Can you think of a time when God gave you direct instructions?
5. Have you ever felt, like Elijah, frightened and worn out from doing the Lord's work?
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and the recently released and highly anticipated Shadows of Light. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com