Deuteronomy 5:24- (ESV)
24 And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. 25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27 Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’
28 “And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!’”
Just after reminding the people of the Ten Commandments, the terms of God’s covenant relationship with the nation of Israel, Moses reminds the people of their response to hearing the voice of God. The nation was terrified by the incredible experience of hearing God’s voice speaking out of the fire atop the mountain. So, the people begged that God not speak where they could hear him. They asked that God use Moses to speak to them instead.
God, for his part, commended the people for their fear. He saw it to be good that the people would realize that his voice and his holiness are actually scary. He said that it would be good if future generations would grasp the fact that we do not naturally have the right to hear the voice of God and treat him and his word with proper respect.
What grabbed my attention here is the way in which God is pleased with the fear of God among the Israelites. I think of that in comparison to how I and others often speak of being in God’s presence. And, this all causes me to be of two trains of thought.
First, I recognize that it is good to fear the Lord. Modern people do not often fear God. This is true of the lost and the saved alike. Far too many people among the saved do not consider the presence of God to be a frightening place. Far too many of us have given into the softened modern notion of God as a simple grandfather whose lap we hop into. We do not see him as the one whose throne is full of lightnings, thunders, and earthquakes as is seen in Revelation4.
It would be wise, very wise, for us to realize that any communication with the Lord is communication with the Holy One. It would b wise to remember that we are sinners, and we do not naturally have the right to approach him. In fact, should we approach him sinfully, without his protection, he would rightfully destroy us.
On the other hand, I also recognize that God has given us the right to approach him in a way that is far greater and far closer than he gave the Israelites. He has given us his Son. He has given us his Holy Spirit. And now he allows us to approach him freely and confidently as we see in Ephesians 3:12. God is our loving Father. He welcomes us.
I’m not totally sure how to build the proper balance. God welcomes us. God loves us. Yet, God is the consuming fire and Holy One. He is worthy of our respect, our fear, and our aw. At the same time, he has given us his love and his welcome. To borrow from the idea of C. S. Lewis, he is not tame, perhaps not even safe, but he is good.
Lord, you are holy. I have no right, in myself, to approach you. I pray, therefore, that you will remind me of your greatness, your majesty, and your holiness. You are King, and I am your subject. Help me not to approach you in any form of irreverence. At the same time, you have also welcomed me into your family in Christ. So, I also ask that you help me to understand your love and your welcome. Lord, help me to worship you and approach you rightly, in the way that will best glorify your name.