“Prepare two stone tablets like the first ones, and make a sacred chest out of acacia wood to keep them in. Return to me on the mountain, and I will write on the tablets the same words that were on the ones you smashed.” Deuteronomy 10:1-2
Moses had spent 40 days removed from the normal rhythms of life in the presence of God receiving a blueprint for the future, an agreement for living, a look at how things could be, all written in stone by the finger of God.
Then God gives Moses those tablets, bearing the words of the 10 Commandments, even though he knew it was going wildly skewiff on the ground. No doubt God was peeved too but it was Moses, tired and hungry after a 40 day fast and difficult climb, who took the ‘future’ and smashed it in the midst of his community’s messy ‘present’.
Things don’t always work out the way we expect. Our most holy moments can end up trampled on by golden calves. Outraged, brutalised, despairing, we smash the future in our all or nothing reaction just as Moses smashed the tablets God had given him.
So there is Moses lying in the dust again for another 40 days, convinced God is going to join in the smashing but instead he speaks, giving Moses and us three simple steps to recovery and renewal:
- Make the tablets again – God hasn’t given up on the future and knows we have learned enough to rebuild some of the God-given things of the past to take into the next step.
- Build a safe place – Wisely, God makes it clear he doesn’t want the future smashed the next time things go haywire. To reinforce his point, he gets Moses busy building with his own hands a safe place – the Ark.
- Return to me on the mountain – while Moses was more hands-on in this reprise of the future, he couldn’t do it outside of Godly relationship. Regaining a future lost is not self-help, it’s divine partnership.
Once the new tablets with the yet-to-be implemented agreement are in a safe place the journey into the future can begin again. Of course, new challenges arise quickly – Moses’ brother Aaron dies – don’t think regaining vision, direction, hope and purpose is a once-off event.
The difference this time is: ‘And the tablets are still there in the Ark.’ – Deut 10:5. Years have passed but Moses has learned that regardless of how tough times get, it is still better to carry God’s plan (word, command, principle, impression, touch) for the future in a safe place, than to smash it in despair.
But if you do… ‘return to me on the mountain’.