Before Moses left the Tent of Meeting to meet up with YHVH for the second time, he was instructed by Him to cut two stone tablets (like the ones he had broken), and carry them up the mountain the next morning. But while the first tablets originated from YHVH and were hewn at the top of the mountain, these new ones were going to originate from the bottom of the mount and be brought up to YHVH, where He would inscribe on them once again the ten words (Exodus 34:1, 2, 28). As we will see, Moses is about to have a completely different experience from his former forty day stay on the mount. YHVH had already agreed to reveal to him His glory - “kavod”, His goodness - “tuv”, and His favor - “chen”, all of which constituted, as it were, the backside of His glory (see Ex. 33:18ff).
Just before we accompany YHVH’s faithful servant on his ascent up the mountain, let us take note of some of the differences between the previous scene and this one. YHVH sealed the first covenant with the blood of bulls. Immediately after that Moses, Aaron and the elders all went up the mountain, where they ate and drank and saw Elohim (see Exodus 24:8-11). Following the golden calf episode and the breaking of YHVH’s stone tablets, the mountain became off limits, this time to everyone except Moses (34:3). It seems that the first episode had a potential of launching an intimate relationship between Israel and their Redeemer, but instead ended with a colossal failure which speaks volumes of their condition and ability to observe the covenant. Moses, having interceded on behalf of the people, is now called back up to witness the “favor” and the “goodness” of YHVH and much more.
Moses’ earlier plea is about to be answered. The Almighty promised him that He would call out His name and make His glory known to him (33:19-23), and now the time has come. Thus, when Moses arrived at the mountain top, the cloud came down and surrounded him while YHVH passed by in front of him calling out His name: "YHVH, YHVH Elohim, merciful - “rachum”, and gracious/favor - “chanun”, longsuffering - “erech apayim”, and abounding in goodness/grace - “chesed”, and truth - “emet”… (Before we go on let us recall another text: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory -“kavod”, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of “chesed” – goodness/grace and “emet” - truth” John 1:14.) …keeping “chesed” – goodness/grace for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7). Moses was so overwhelmed with what he had just seen and heard that all he could do was to make haste and bow his head toward the earth and worship (v.8). Through this encounter Moses was assured of his Master’s faithfulness and favor, and so proceeded to ask on behalf of the people: “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord (Adonai), let my Lord (Adonai), I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance" (Exodus 34:9).
What we are witnessing here is the kind of worship and intercession that Elohim desires - worship or adoration in “spirit and truth”, as a result of knowing Him and seeing Him as He is. This is the worship that He will respond to and expects from His people (refer back to last sentence in part IV). In other words, worshiping Him for who He is, not for what He does for us, nor causes to happen. Moses saw His intrinsic and quintessential glory and “met up” with YHVH’s very character and nature. Again, unlike the previous meetings with Elohim, Moses’ skin was set aglow by this encounter. After he returned to camp he had to cover his face, removing the cover each time he entered the tent to meet up with Elohim (ref. 34:29-34).
Immediately following this incredible declaration and manifestation of His name and disposition YHVH, hearing Moses’ plea for His people, declared that He would make a covenant with him and with them. But hang on, what is going on here? Is YHVH referring to the same covenant that Israel has just messed up, or is He? "Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of YHVH. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you” (Exodus 34:10). While it seems that He is referring to conquering the land and destroying its inhabitants, and indeed shortly Israel was going to have some awesome experiences while taking their inheritance, yet for a covenant to be legally in effect it had to be sealed with blood. When we examine closely the full content of the said “covenant” and YHVH’s real intent, we find that it has more to do with forgiveness of sin, iniquity and transgression, including marvels and awesome wonders. What covenant was sealed by blood and was accompanied by wonders (of healing the sick, blind and deaf and raising the dead)? It appears that the signs and marvels promised here point to Yeshua and the “miracles, wonders, and signs which Elohim did through Him” (Acts 2:22), and his followers. However, the capstone of Yeshua’s life was the shedding of His blood that sealed this second covenant of Sinai and atoned for the sins of the people so that they could become the royal priesthood and holy nation that YHVH declared them to be.
In the meantime, in order for Israel’s Elohim to dwell in their midst, the Israelites would need the instructions that were given to Moses at his first forty day stay on the mount (instructions which He repeated during the second ascent). Thus, if the “current” covenant that YHVH has just announced to Moses is indeed linked to the new covenant as declared by Jeremiah (31:31), then the Ten Commandments and the Torah remain valid. Yeshua declared: "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled… "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me” (Matthew 5:18; John 5:46).
Moses’ climactic epiphany of Elohim on the mountain has made it possible to now leave that location, and carry out the instructions to erect a portable “holy place” instead, signifying that the Almighty’s presence is not limited or bound to exclusively one spot. And so He came to dwell in this portable sanctuary, and later in a stationary one. His desire all along was to abide in a people – individuals who together form a holy abode for His presence. But this would have to wait until the second “covenant of Sinai” could come to its completeness (more on this in Hebrews chapters 8-10). Until then YHVH is committed to carry and move His people Israel along, under the shadow of His wings to their prophetic destiny ‘beyond the mountain’.