It always amazes me how God uses His Word to speak to us. By reading about the events of the past and how God worked through His people to bring about great miracles it can encourage and teach us something in the present day. The happenings recorded in God’s Word may all be historical in nature but God’s Word is always present tense in the sense that it is alive today. It is powerful today. And it is sufficient today, right now.
As I read Exodus Chapter 19 recently I was given a fresh picture of our Holy God and how awesome was the work that Jesus did on the cross through his death and resurrection.
8 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. 19 When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them.” 23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 Then the Lord said to him, “Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, or He will break forth upon them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
If you aren’t familiar with this passage of scripture then a little explanation is in order. God is setting the stage for the giving of the ten commandments. He’s preparing Moses, Aaron, the priests of Israel and all the people for the giving of His law. The people have left Egypt and are on the way to the promised land and God is in the middle of establishing a special covenant relationship with them.
The first thing I noticed when I read this passage is that mighty Mount Sinai physically can’t handle God’s presence. It rumbles and quakes violently and smoke pours out of it “like a furnace”. In other verses it says that thunder and lightning accompanied the smoke and the shaking and in verse 19 when Moses spoke God answered Him with thunder. How cool is that?
How awesome is our God that even the mountains quake and tremble in His presence? His power can’t be contained by even the largest things on this earth and yet he chooses to love and to cherish the weakest things (us) as His very own.
The second thing I notice is His holiness. God repeatedly tells Moses not to let the people gaze upon or come near the mountain lest they die. The priests even have to go through a special consecration even to be able to serve in their normal capacity because God is so near. God’s holiness and the people’s sinfulness are so incompatible that they can’t even approach God without fear of death.
Now contrast that picture with the state of the redeemed today. We are just as sinful as the people in Exodus chapter 19. Sin is sin and one sin or one thousand sins is more than enough to separate us from a Holy God and condemn us to death. Yet Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came and lived a perfect life and died in our place satisfying our sin debt forever and making us clean before God. We no longer have to fear for our lives in God’s presence because of the blood of Jesus Christ that washes away our sins.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)
Unlike the Israelites in Exodus we need not fear coming before our God any longer. God has not changed. The mountains in our day still can’t handle his presence and nothing on heaven and earth can stand against Him. His Holiness is still just as awesome today as it was on that day so many years ago. So what changed? Our status. Praise God that we are raised to son and daughterhood by our belief and profession of faith in Jesus and that we may come boldly before God at any time.