Summary: We must climb higher in God to catch a true vision of what, and who, God really is. Without that proper vision we stand in danger of perishing,
There was the Consuming Fire of God that would not only consume the very rocks of the mountain, or any beast of people that would wander into God’s buffer zone; but any man that came close was also destined to die either from the fire of God directly, or from the punishment meted out to those who disobeyed God’s Law. Only one man was chosen to be the Mediator and that was Moses. No other man on earth had the vision that Moses had, for God would not allow sin to approach him.
The world’s vision of God in that day was based upon the booming voice of God that sounded like the wailing of many trumpets; a sound that would strike fear and dread into the hearts of sinful men. It was based on the smoke, fire and darkness of the cloud that sat upon the mountain symbolizing God’s power and that fact that he hid his face from men lest they should all be instantly destroyed. Their vision of God was such that even when God tried to speak to them; they would beg Moses to tell God to stop. They simply could not endure his power; and they couldn’t understand God’s mercy and grace; and had no assurance in their hearts of being treated as a son or daughter of God. They felt more like subjects of God than children of God.
The bottom line is that under the Law the vision of God that the world had; and the only one they could have; was a vision of God’s terrible power and awesome ability to destroy those who rebelled against him. Their vision of God caused them to tremble in fear and cower in shame. God just seemed so far away that they could never touch him; and that was the truth because sin remained as the separating barrier between God and man. The Law could not remove that barrier.
But that was the vision of the Old Testament, and like Proverbs said, “Without a vision the people perished.” The sense that I get of what this verse is truly saying is that “Without a proper vision; or a right vision of who and what God is, it is easy for people to just give up, feeling its impossible to serve such a God, and thus they perish through doubt and unbelief.”
But we do not live under that Law any longer. Now we live under a new covenant of Grace, the way having been made to approach God, in a fashion far greater than even Moses could have imagined, through the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross that has paid for the sin of man.
Hebrews 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Though faith in Christ we can get a vision of God that no one could have dreamed of in the Old Testament. Through faith the way is open to the very presence of God, right into the very Throne Room of God, which is far greater than going into the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of Moses. We don’t approach God through the Mercy Seat upon the Ark of the Covenant with the blood of a lamb; but we approach the God of Mercy through the blood of Jesus.