Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 ESV
The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!
The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he! Psalm 99:1-5 ESV
When there is a big fire, perhaps a forest fire or a burning building, the first thing anyone can think to do is to get away. People run away from a fire because they know that if they don’t, they will get burned up and die. If there are many people in a burning building, they might even trample each other in their panic as they try to get away quickly.
This is the way God’s people Israel felt when they heard God talking to them from his holy mountain. They heard his awesome voice with thunder and the trumpet, and saw lightening and smoke, and they were scared. They could see the power and holiness of God, and they knew that if they got too close, they would die. They were afraid of God, and didn’t ever want to get that close again. They would rather have Moses tell them what God wanted to say than hear from God himself.
It’s right for us to fear God, because he is holy and we are not. We are sinful. We have broken his holy laws, and we deserve punishment. On our own we can never safely come close to God, but God wants to be close to us. He spoke to his people Israel through Moses, but he came to us himself in Jesus. It’s only through Jesus that we can be close to God. Jesus became a human being who shared our weakness and died on the cross to pay for our sins. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of God. We can come to him, worship him, and tell him our needs. We know that he always hears us through Jesus.
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to us and bringing us back to God. Amen.