February 20, 2018
READ: Exodus 19:1-25
Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries (v.12).
If you have the opportunity to meet the Queen of England, don’t start the encounter with a bear hug or a hearty slap on the back. Keeping one’s distance is a sign of respect for this special lady. Although a courteous handshake might be allowed, people are generally advised not to touch the queen.
When the Israelites met God at Mount Sinai, their respect for God also required them to keep some distance. God told Moses to mark a line around the mountain. He said, “Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries’ ” (Exodus 19:12). When God descended onto the mountaintop, the people would be allowed to hear Him, but not actually approach Him. The penalty for breeching Moses’ borderline was death.
While this may have seemed harsh, the command to stand back was for the good of the Israelites. God was teaching His people about Himself. They needed to learn that God’s holiness—His transcendence and perfect ways—set Him apart from all of creation, especially from other gods (Exodus 15:11).
Most important, Israel needed to learn that God’s holiness was incompatible with sin. Understanding this would establish in their hearts an attitude of awe for Him. If the nation revered God, they would obey Him and become His own special treasure, a kingdom of priests—His own holy nation (19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9).
Reverence for God is significant for us as well, although we demonstrate it differently. Because of the blood of Christ, we don’t have to stand back from God. Although He’s as holy as ever, believers may come reverently and boldly before Him, where “we will receive His mercy, and . . . find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).
365-day plan: Numbers 14:5-45
Read Proverbs 1:7 and consider the connection between the “fear of the Lord” (reverence) and wisdom.
How have your life experiences caused you to revere God? Thinking about God’s holiness may create a desire to confess sin or to worship Him. Which is it for you right now?