The Mountain and the Cross

In Deuteronomy 5 there is a wonderful illustration of the difference between living life at the foot of the mountain, where the law was given to Moses, and living the life of the cross of Jesus.

God has Moses call all of the people together at the foot of Mt. Horeb and He speaks to the assembled people out of the fire and smoke on the mountain, then afterwards they say to Moses,

24’…Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives.

25’Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die.

26’For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?

27’Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ Deut. 5:24-27 NASB

Now there is a subtle shift here and we would do well to notice it, the Lord called the people together for the express purpose of hearing His voice. Then the people turned around thanked Moses for the privilege and the lesson that God could speak to men and they could still live in spite of the danger, but then they suggested to Moses that since they did not want to die that Moses ought to be the one who took the risk and listened to the Lord. So then the Lord tells Moses;

28″The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.

29’Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

30’Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.”

31’But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’ Deut. 5:28-31 NASB

God wanted the people to obey the law because obedience to the Law was the beginning of the Old Testament relationship with God under the Mosaic covenant, so what they said was counted as good, but there is something more here. When the people stayed in their tents while Moses went to meet with the Lord, Moses got the relationship with God, and the people got the Law.

This story has another telling factor when the people said “why should we die?” and this is the point of divergence which divides the straight and narrow way from the wide path to destruction. If a person is not willing to give up this world, if that person is not willing to die for God, he gets the Law, and he sets up camp at the foot of the mountain.

Relationship with God is a transforming thing, it will transform the life you once knew right out of you, thus you will die to the world and be renewed in God. There is no substitute for this. You cannot cling to the life of this world and be found in the life of God. So those who are not willing to die, the ones who are clinging to this world, get the Law. We see this all around us, we see people who are reading the words of God’s grace and all they get out of it is law. There is no loving teaching of Jesus’ or Paul’s which they have not made into a series of rules.

You see, they are an example of

“Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:2 NASB

for Jesus is right in front of them, in Scripture, walking on the water, feeding the five thousand, and rising from the tomb, He is ready and waiting for them to seek Him and know Him, and all they want to do is to go back to their tents and have Moses come tell them what is required of them. They say they want to fulfill the “requirements”, but they are not willing to die. They are still camped at the foot of Mt. Horeb bogged down in the minutae of that which is required. For them the cross is a gateway to make more laws. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were there too, at the foot of Mt. Horeb, and even in the presence of Jesus, most of them were determined to stay there.

But for some, the few, the ones on the straight and narrow path, the cross is not only the cross of Christ it also represents their own cross, and the entrance to grace and life in His Spirit. So long as a person will not come to grips with something more than the mere “essentials” of the Christian life (the Sacraments or the Ordinances) he will live a life controlled by this world and it’s woes. He will stumble over every temptation and trial that comes his way for there is no remedy for the troubles of this life in the Law. There is only one way out of this trap and that is through dying to self and living in the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Grace. Each of us must seek God in Spirit and Truth to know Him.

Moses was willing to do or to suffer anything God had for him, the same is true of all the Prophets, they each had a relationship with God because they were willing to seek Him no matter what the cost and it cost many of them their lives. And of course Jesus is the perfect example, His whole life was dedicated to the Father. And it could also be said that His whole life was leading up to the cross, for our sakes.

There is no salvation for you in the waters of baptism without the Spirit of Christ. There is no benefit for you to do good deeds or to have clean thoughts if God is not present in your life. To get that Presence you must leave your tent as Moses did nearly everyday and brave the fire, and smoke and sit in the Lord’s presence. God didn’t kill Moses and He won’t kill you. He will however begin to establish the relationship He always wanted to have with you, step by step, and day by day, and you will die to the old and come to life in the new. And each new day you will learn a new lesson, you will learn afresh how much He loves you.

You will also learn that there is so much more to life in Christ than the “requirements”.

So, by means of the cross, we can go through the fire and smoke and climb the mountain, and there with Moses, the Prophets, King David, and the Apostles we can sit in the Presence of God.

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2 Comments on “The Mountain and the Cross”


  1. Very well put. There are so many who come to the foot of the cross, but that is just the first step. It is only by putting yourself with Christ on the cross that you have life and victory over the flesh. Sadly, sometimes it seems like the enemy has many troops stationed at the foot of the cross to deceive the masses. You can find those all over. The ones who go to church every Sunday but never quite live the crucified life during the rest of the week.

  2. Nathan Says:

    Hi Marianne,
    Thank you for the kind comment. Yes, I must agree with you there are so many people, and forces working against what the Lord wants for us, the enemy thinks that if he can make the things of this world seem all important to us then we will choose to be distracted. Fortunately there are other factors at work beyond his sphere of influence. God has a definite plan, and I believe that anyone who genuinely turns to Him will not remain distracted by the world for very long. He is working, and we will be surprised and blessed by the things we will see that He is doing.
    Blessings to you.


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