Scripture: 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. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” Exodus 19:12-13 ESV
Observation: Having reminded Israel, his treasured possession, of how he rescued them from the yoke of the Egyptians and led them now to his holy mountain (Sinai), Yahweh instructs Moses to consecrate the people so that they may draw near to him on the third day (19:10-11). In preparation, by cleansing their garments and refraining from sexual activity, Israel’s purified outward appearance will remind them to devote themselves wholeheartedly to God (19:14-15). Meanwhile, Yahweh warns Israel three times via Moses not to approach their holy Lord presumptuously until the trumpet blasts (above verses and 19:21-22, 25).
Here, the literary device of repetition emphasizes a critical teaching point to the author’s readers: we sin-marred creatures must not presume to draw near our holy Creator lightly. Thus, as often depicted in the biblical narrative, the Lord’s presence is marked with shock and awe—utilizing visual and sound effects on a grand scale. As theologian W.C. Kaiser aptly notes, “The advent of God took place amid a most impressive display of cosmic disruptions: thunder and lightning (verse 16; Psalm 77:18; Hebrews 12:18–19; Revelation 4:5; 8:5; 11:19), an exceedingly loud trumpet blast (Revelation 1:10; 4:1), and a thick cloud (Exodus 19:9; 2 Chronicles 5:14).”
Takeaway: While the overarching principle of approaching God with fear and reverence applies in this post-resurrection era, Christ has bridged the divide so that we may come as we are to our Savior’s throne of grace. No matter how far we may stray, since Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins, we no longer need to clean ourselves up to draw near him. Indeed, as the author of Hebrews declares: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV).
This excellent news is the heart of our Gospel. We have free access to our Father because his Son, the mediator of our New Covenant, paid the price for our sins so that we might freely approach his holy Mount Zion, cleansed by his blood (Hebrews 12:22-24), and thus receive his mercy and grace to help us when we most need it. Hallelujah!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, we now have free access into your presence. Would you please help us remember the incalculable price paid that we might reverently avail worship, prayer, and your Word to draw near you and enjoy your presence? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling