Sunday, July 8, 2012
Exodus 20:18-21 Trembling at the Presence
"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.'
Moses said to the people,
'Do not be afraid.
God has come to test you,
so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.'
The people remained at a distance,
while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was."
Exodus 20:18-21 (NIV)
Even though the people had not seen God, they still trembled with fear at the thought of being in His presence. They realized their own sinfulness in the presence of His holiness, and feared that they would be struck dead if they actually saw God or He spoke to them. They begged Moses to be their go-between, and indicated that they would be willing to listen to what God had to say.
Moses assured them that they did not need to be in such abject fear. God had come to test them, and to ensure that they would be able to realize more about who He was. This experience would help to keep them from sinning, for who would want to offend such a God?
Despite Moses' words, the people remained at a distance. Moses approached the thick darkness which concealed the presence of God. If the people had trembled with fear at what was going on in nature as it reacted to His presence upon the mountaintop, imagine what they would have done if they had seen God face to face. As we saw in Exodus 19:12,20-22, God had forbidden the Israelites from going up the mountain. God did, however, want them to hear His voice so that they would believe that He had truly spoken to Moses.