Have you ever noticed people’s response in the Bible when God shows up (or when an angel shows up on God’s behalf). They tend to suddenly find standing difficult to do. Israel as a nation has that response after God gives them the 10 Commandments. I don’t know if you noticed it before after Exodus 20, but Israel experiences God’s presence and then goes to Moses and says: “Um, we didn’t like that very much. Can that never happen again please. From now on you talk to God for us and tell us what he says and we’ll listen to you.” I find this pretty hard to comprehend, seeing as one of the things we focus on in our evangelical circles is experiencing the presence of God. To have that experience and then intentionally shy away from it certainly seems strange.
But if the reaction of most people in the Bible is any indication, finding yourself in God’s presence isn’t always a joyous thing. The scriptures speak of God’s love, compassion and grace, but they also speak of his overwhelming holiness, the “fire” associated with his glory and the fearsome nature of his being. We are under a different covenant than the Israelites, and God’s anger at our sin has been covered by the blood of Jesus, but there is something for us to learn from this scene in Deuteronomy 5. While we have access to the throne room of God, and Paul encourages us to boldly approach God’s throne through the body of Jesus, we really must be certain that we are doing so with the proper respect, attitude and awe. Hebrews 10 warns about living in intentional sin after we have come to understand God’s grace through Jesus, sees it as “trampling the Son of God underfoot.” He then goes on to say: “31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). We really must not lose that perspective.
Israel’s request in this passage for an intermediary offers us another perspective to consider. Although Paul encourages us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, we are reminded (in Hebrews 8, 9 & 1 Timothy 2) that there is indeed still a mediator standing between us and God’s, that of course being Jesus Christ. We must never forget that it is only through the new way opened up through the body of Jesus that we approach God’s presence. It is always through Christ, always through the brokenness of his body and the cleansing of his blood that we can stand before God.
So let not be like the Israelites, who shrank away from God’s presence and determined to only experience God from arms-length. But let us also not forget the weight of the privilege we have in Jesus.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 8-10