10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.
I wonder if any biblical concept has been lost as much as the understanding of God’s holiness. I know that we often use the word. We sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” but do we have a clue what we are talking about? I don’t think that we generally do.
Exodus 19:10-12 gives us a picture of what it looks like to prepare to experience the holiness of God. You get ready. You must be clean, consecrated. Then, you dare not encroach. God said that anybody who even dared to touch the mountain upon which he was standing was to be shot on sight. God’s holiness is nothing to be trifled with. God’s holiness is deadly.
Now, return to our modern era. Our modern sensitivities have little place for a holy God who would demand separate space from us. How dare he not let anybody who wishes simply to climb up and take a peek at him? Why can’t we simply bound into his presence? Why would we need to be cleaned up? These are the kinds of questions that show in the lives of many of us today.
If you think my questions of the last paragraph unrealistic, just think about the world’s concept of whom God must accept. It is nearly universal outside the church that the world assumes that, if there is a God, he must accept anyone who is not Hitler or Stalin. The majority of people think they will go to heaven when they die (if there is a heaven) simply because they want to. Very few understand that God has the right to demand that only the pure stand in his presence.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not pure in and of myself. I am a sinner. But God made a way, only one way, for sinners to be made clean in his sight. God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus, to pay for my sin and to cleanse me in his sight. Because of Jesus, I can be forgiven and enter into God’s presence. Because of Jesus, any person who will repent of sin and place their trust in Jesus will become God’s child. This is the good news.
Christians, don’t let the good news become blasé. It is stunning to think that God would let us in his presence. He has every right to fence off the mountain and kill anyone who would even look at it. He has every right to shut the gates of heaven and consign us all to the torment that our sin deserves. That God would allow us to live is grace. The fact that God would forgive us, that is amazing grace. The fact that God allows us to be made clean in Christ and to enter his presence for eternity, that is amazing, glorious, unbelievable, marvelous, matchless grace. Give God praise for such kindness from one who is so holy. And let’s try to keep the holiness of God in mind as we approach him in worship.