What is our aversion to being told what to do?
Rebellion, starts from a very early age. We don’t have to be taught to ask the question,
“But why?”. A parent’s usual response is usually something along the lines of, “Because I said so”. But parents can say an awful lot of things that not only don’t make sense at times, and they are human and can make mistakes. So our aversion isn’t usually with the instruction, but with the authority that gives it.If the authority is distant and removed from us relationally, we can’t accept it. We don’t engage with what we don’t relate to, and that turns out for our detriment in most cases where the context requires us to listen, to trust, to obey.
The Law of God is something hotly contested in secular and Christian circles alike, and there is much we could say about it, and the Sermon on the Mount provides an excellent summary…But what of the Lawgiver? Our biggest problem and barrier to belief for many, or point of confusion for believers even, is why should I even obey God or fear Him?
“No one ever learned they were a sinner by being told. They have to be shown.” – John Newton
We will never come to grips with Who God truly is and what He requires of us unless we see His holiness and how He has delivered us.
A History and Order of Grace v 1-8
We find the Israelites at MtSinai. A very significant place in Israel’s history.
Here is where Moses met God in a burning bush, where God made His covenant with His people and gives The Law. This is where Elijah will hear the still, small voice…
Before outlining His law, God gives Moses a reminder about where they have been and what He has done for them so far, and this order is vitally important.
He did not come to them with the law while they were in slavery in Egypt and say, “If you obey, I will save you.” No, instead He saves, them and then says, “Because I’ve saved you, now obey me”.
He didn’t wait until they had proven themselves by starting to obey, and then delivered them, He lead them out because He had heard their cry and He is faithful to His promises.
They were delivered from the bondage of slavery, delivered through the Red Sea, delivered from Pharaoh’s army, and God did all of this ‘to bring them to Himself’.
He has a special plan for these people, and there was no way He was going to leave them in bondage. He intervened, and carried out the salvation of His chosen people.
He reminds them of His acts of salvation ( v.4)
He then gives them a calling of accountability and responsibility. (v.5)
He then promises them the blessings that will come their way if they follow His instruction. (v.6).
Nothing should change this outline. Grace is followed by obedience, which is followed by blessing. None of them can be switched around, otherwise God is not faithful, or we would be relying on our own strength and power, or we would only be doing right things to get good things instead of only to get God.
The story of the Exodus is familiar to us, because it the Gospel story.
God’s grace in salvation, our response in faith to that grace, and the blessing of a life lived surrendered to Christ and living holy and sanctified.
We were in bondage, with no hope of deliverance, God saved us by the blood of the Lamb, and now we follow Him, as His people.
The more you meditate on what He’s done in delivering you out of slavery, the more you will want to be like Him, the more you will want to be holy.
Leviticus 11:45 says it plainly, “I brought you up out of Egypt, therefore, be you holy for I am holy.”
The Unapproachable and Approaching God v. 9-20 / 20:18-21
The people affirm that they will do what God says ( v8), and then we are given one of the most spectacular events in all of Scripture.
We get a look at the glory, majesty, power and holiness of God, and it is awesome, terrifying and loud.
There was preparation needed by the people of Israel. They needed to consecrate themselves, they needed to wash their garments, they needed to stay with the limits God had set, and they were not to touch the mountain, otherwise the punishment was death.They were even told to refrain from sex, and keep themselves clean for the appearance of God in all His glory and power before them.
Why all these consecrating signs?
God was showing Himself to be the One True God. He was not like all the other false gods. He doesn’t require revelry, sexual perversion, or for men to do anything to get His attention, like so many other false gods seemed to require ( ie, false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18).
He doesn’t require men to climb a mountain to get closer to Him, He is not confined to a place. He comes down to men, and He comes in great power.
Here is a God Who is unapproachable, yet approaching, Who comes down, but has limits in place for His people in order to come into His presence.
There was trembling from the people as the trumpet called them near to the mountain to meet God. There was smoke, and the whole mountain trembled, and when Moses speaks to God, God speaks back in thunder, lightening, and thick darkness descends…
Have you met this God? He has come to prove/test you…(20:20)…Do you know Him? Do you want to know Him? Or He is getting a little too personal for your taste?
“There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He found us?” – CS Lewis
“ An ‘impersonal God’ – well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads – better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap – best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, King, husband – that is quite another matter.” – CS Lewis
This God is an awesome, fearsome God. He is not to be taken lightly. He is not to be ignored, belitted, mocked. He is not a warm and fuzzy, He is not a tame lion…
This all seems intense, and well it should.
If this sight of Who God is doesn’t wake you up to the reality of His presence, you not only have never truly seen Him, you don’t see your need of Him.
Why would you not trust and all-powerful, wise and holy God like this? He alone has the power to save you and make you holy…
The Greater Moses v. 21-25
Any doubts you have about the existence or distance of God are dismissed when He reveals Himself so clearly…but how do we interact with Him properly?
There are limitations on us, set by God, that we cannot enter His presence. If we were to enter into His presence as we are, His holiness would consume us.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to strive for the holiness that we must have if we are to see The Lord.
Jesus said the pure in heart would see God.
But we are unholy, and impure in our hearts. We need someone to go for us, the people of Israel knew this ( 20:19) and God knows this. He knew it with the Israelites, that why he tells Moses to go down. (19:21-25).
He sends Moses as His messenger, His mediator, to warn the people, to save them from perishing from a lack of attention to God’s holiness.
We can’t handle God in all His glory, power and holiness. We need a mediator, and we’d better ask for one. For the right One.
We need a better, and greater Moses. We have such a one.
Jesus was sent down to a mountain as well. He trembled in awe and fear of God’s holiness and consuming wrath, but He didn’t stand off, He didn’t fail or offend God, He bore the full holiness of God so the veil, the partition between us and God could be torn down.
The complete justice, terribleness of God came down on Jesus, and He was shaken for us. Because He was shaken, we can be unshaken. Because He went into that darkness, we can have light.Because He bore the ‘untouchable-ness’ of God on our behalf, we can now not only draw near, but enter the mountain…enter the full presence of God.
We have come to MtZion, through MtCalvary.
The God of our mount dwells in unapproachable light ( 1 Timothy 6:16), but we trust in that Light, without which, we cannot be saved.
The God Who speaks in thunder and lightening also speaks in a still, small whisper( 1 Kings 19) on the same mountain…This is God of holy assurance to those who seek Him.
Have you seen God?
Does seeing a picture of His holiness and glory drive you to Him, through Jesus, or are even now hardening your heart to a God Who has revealed Himself to you?
One thing is for sure, just as the Israelites discovered, when we forget the glory, holiness, and power of God, we revert back to hungering after the things of Egypt…
We can’t just see God with fear alone. Fear as a motivation to worship and obey leaves us exhausted and fear-based religion is short-lived, again the Israelites are proof of this. ( Exodus 32).
Fear-based obedience has trouble with repentance, because if you repent out of fear alone, you will soon become bitter, not better.
It causes issues with our suffering in this life also, because if we think we fear God in order to get His favour, we will assume He is punishing us when things go bad…
What is the answer?
Mercy must be in view if we are to put our fear and response in the right perspective. Where it is not debilitating, where we are not apathetic, but engage in active reverence as a result of a vision of Who God is and what He has done.
See God. See His glory, holiness, justice. If MtSinai is too much to bear, think of what was borne for you on MtCalvary, and then go to MtZion, rejoicing.