The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish” (Exodus 19:20,21).
We call it rubbernecking. It irritates us to be in a backup caused, not by an accident, but by people slowing up to look at a wreck on the other side of the medium. Yet, when we get there, we find ourselves staring at the same sight.
It’s as if a voice inside of us is begging, “Lemme see!” We can’t seem to help ourselves.
It was the same for the mass of people immigrating from Egypt to the Land of Canaan. But no car wreck could match what they encountered. God, himself, was going to descend from heaven to present himself on a mountain they were passing by. They knew this because he called out for Moses to come up to him.
Talk about an attraction! Here was a chance to actually take a look at the Lord of glory—the creator and ruler of the universe. What would he look like? They wanted to see.
But they dared not. The penalty for even catching a glimpse of him was death.
We are not accustomed to considering the Lord our God in that light. He is this abstract person we read about in the Bible. Some view him as a grandfather smiling at the humans who gather around him.
Moses knew better. So did the Israelites when they heard the command: “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.”
The warning was clear: “Do not come near to God!”
That sounds strange to New Testament ears. Are we not invited to come near to him with the words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”? (Matthew 11:28)
Is this the same God who met Israel in the wilderness? Has he changed since then?
He is, and he has not.
From eternity to eternity, he remains the same. His fierce anger still burns against sin and death still awaits the sinner. We dare never become complacent about this.
From eternity to eternity, he remains the same. His free and faithful love still offers forgiveness and life. It should never stop amazing us.
He may be the Savior God, but he remains the holy God.
The only reason we can approach him without perishing is that the blood of his Son has covered our sin. Jesus was not allowed to draw near to his Father on Golgotha when he won for us a free pass into his presence. He took our place on the death list.
So, the Holy One of Israel invites us to draw near in love, faith, and worship.
The best spot in all of earth and heaven is found nearer to God.
We pray with the words of the old hymn:
Nearer my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee.