When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’
Exodus 20:18-19 NIV*
In Exodus 19, God had declared Mount Sinai off-limits to the people. Only Moses and Aaron were permitted to meet with God on the mountain to receive the ten commandments. God said, “Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up the mountain.” (Exodus 19:13b)
Maybe the trumpet the people heard here was the all-clear, and they could safely approach the mountain and their God. Maybe not.
Thunder, lightning, black smoke covering the mountain… no wonder they were terrified. And they hadn’t heard much about God’s mercy or grace. But didn’t anyone feel a longing, a drawing toward this holy God who created and rescued them? A moth-to-flame compulsion?
It’s sad that they stayed at a distance and begged Moses to stand between them and God. How would things have turned out if they’d said like Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15) If they’d come, shaking with holy fear, unable to look away from the glory of God?
Yet we do the same thing. We ask our church leaders to teach us, instead of getting to know God ourselves. We ask a praying friend for a word from God rather than listening for Him in our own spirits. What are we afraid He’ll do to us… or ask of us?
Or we ignore His majesty and buddy up to Him, enjoying His presence without letting it change us.
Father, teach us a proper respect for Your power and glory. Thank You that through Jesus we can come boldly and confidently before Your throne. Help us come ourselves instead of looking for intermediaries. And give us a holy awe of You. Let us never forget that although You’ve called us Your children, You are neither tame nor safe. We praise You that You are good.