If there’s a way God is most thought of these days, I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not holy. First off you can’t turn the TV on without hearing his name misused. Nor can you walk down the hallway at school or buy Christmas tree ornaments for that matter. (Yes, I saw “OMG” on a Christmas Tree ornament last year. After gasping in sheer revulsion, I ran for my life in fear of the store going up in flames.)
Devotional Scripture: Exodus 19:9-25
Key Verse: “You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments.” Nehemiah 9:13
Then there’s the flippant way we talk about God. (As though he owes us something.) The lax way we approach God. (As though it ain’t no thing.) And the general way we feel about God and His word. (Most days we could take it or leave it.)
But God, He is holy. Set apart. There is none like him; perfect in goodness; flawless in righteousness. A consuming fire, He is to be worshiped with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28-29). Dwelling in unapproachable light, God is so holy it is unsafe to just barge into his presence. The only way to enter is to be holy thy self. “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4a). A feat accomplished only in Christ.
So when God announced to Moses that he was going to come down on Mt. Sinai and meet the people – there was some serious preparing to do. For two days they got ready. Verse 14 says they washed their garments and Moses consecrated them. How? It doesn’t tell us. Perhaps by offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. For without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb. 9:22)
Furthermore, they were to abstain from sex and anyone, young or old, who even touched the edge of the mountain was to be killed. It was serious stuff. God’s presence was not to be taken lightly.
Then on the morning of the third day, “there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (v. 16). Even the mountain trembled at God’s arrival (v. 18) and smoke went up from it like a kiln, “because the LORD had descended on it in fire” (v. 18).
Consequently, when Isaiah had a vision of God sitting on the throne, “the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke” (Is. 6:4). Then later when John got a glimpse of God’s throne in Revelation we find out, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder” (Rev. 4:5).
So I don’t think the thunder and lightning was there just for effect. God himself had descended on the mountain. Shrouding himself in smoke so the Israelites would not be consumed in the presence of His glory.
And when the Israelites heard the trumpet blast they didn’t pat each other on the back saying, “Hey cool! There’s God!” No, they were terrified. And so was Moses for that matter (Heb. 12:21).
So terrified in fact, the people told Moses, “Hey from now on, why don’t you just go up and talk to God and then let us know what he says. Deal?” (My paraphrase.)
Which in turn, pleased the LORD. “They are right in all they have spoken. Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments” (Deut. 5:28b-29a). Why was God pleased?
Because reverence for God determines the godliness of our response.
To set apart Christ as holy (1 Peter 3:15) is to determine that His honor and glory come first. God’s holiness is everything. It’s why we do what we do. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Just as Leviticus 19:2 says, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
So to disregard the holiness of God is to disregard all reason for godly living.
Which is where I think we’ve gotten off track. No longer is God esteemed as he should be. If He were, we’d uphold his commands as invaluable. We’d respect His words. We’d fear the God who is able to save and destroy. Like a student under the watchful eye of a head master, we’d do what we’ve been told, instead of weeding through the stuff we like and rejecting the things we don’t.
To revere God is to fear God. Not in the sense of being afraid because we know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), but to be in awe of Him. To tremble in the wake of His vast glory, as Israel did the day they saw God descend on Mt. Sinai.
He is still the same God today as He was then. Just because we’ve been declared holy by the blood of Christ and allowed to enter God’s presence, doesn’t mean God is any less holy. It simply means He is kind. And merciful. And abounding in love to a thousand generations. Nonetheless, that’s the temptation, isn’t it? To bring God down to our level. To diminish His excellency.
We’re quick to forget we haven’t been invited to the throne through any means of our own. We’re on the guest list because of Christ. God owes us nothing, yet we owe him everything.
He is still untouchable. He is still to be feared. He is still to be praised. Honored with our mouths and respected in our homes. Yet where has the reverence gone? Why has the adoration subsided?
Oh that we might fear God as Israel did the day they heard His voice and saw the mountain quake at His presence. For we too have heard His voice. Not audibly of course, but in our hearts, the day he called each of us to repentance.
And He is with us. His presence a promise we can hold fast to. Yet He is still God my friend. Holy and awesome, there is none like Him. “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17
Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you think God’s holiness is lost or upheld in the church today? What about in the home?
Why should God’s holiness motivate us to live upright and obedient lives?
What choices have you made to honor God as holy?