When God first spoke to Israel to give them the initial terms of his covenant, he spoke so that the entire nation could hear. And you may recall that this terrified the people of Israel. The people came to Moses and asked him to be a go-between for them to get the law of God. The people feared that, were they to continue to hear the voice of God, they would die.
What do you think when you hear about that? Do you think that sounds like a good thing? Was Israel, as a people, doing what godly people would do in that setting? Or is asking not to hear the voice of God any longer the sort of thing that showed their lack of devotion to the Lord?
Look at the Lord’s response to the people’s request in Deuteronomy 5.
Deuteronomy 5:28-29 – 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 heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”
God was not put off by the people’s desire that Moses talk to them on their behalf. God was not upset that the nation feared to hear his voice. In fact, the Lord was pleased.
Why was God happy with Israel’s fearful request? The request showed that the people understood that God is holy and they are sinful. They honored the Lord by asking God not to speak directly to them, as they knew themselves to be unworthy to hear the voice of God. They knew that for a sinner to be exposed to God’s perfection is deadly.
We would do well to learn a bit from this. No, I’m not suggesting that we should want to be distanced from our God. All who know Jesus are under his grace, their sin covered by his blood and their lives imputed with his righteousness. We may approach God with joy, confidence, and even boldness (Eph. 3:12). But, we should also understand that our ability to approach God is due solely to his grace. We did nothing to earn it. We are not righteous in our own merits. Were we to stand before God without the protection of his grace in Jesus, we would be utterly consumed in an instant.
Somehow, Christians, we need to learn to have a confidence to approach the Lord even as we have a proper, holy fear of God. We need to rejoice in the grace of Christ. We need to let his perfect love drive out fear. And we need a holy reverence and fear of the Lord, recognizing that apart from his covering we would be destroyed. Why not let this passage in which God affirms the fear of the Israelites remind you to tremble at the holiness of God even as you rejoice in thankful praise of the Lord Jesus and his grace?