Summary: We see two completely different pictures of God at Mt. Sinai. How can we fit them into our hearts? Don’t bother reading this if you’re looking for cute stories and illustrations for your entertainment.
August 24, 2003 Exodus 19, 20, 24
How do you FEEL about that? As a Lutheran, a German, and a male that question and that focus has nearly driven me nuts throughout the past years. It just isn’t natural or easy for me or most males to be “sensitive” or “emotional”. But the fact of the matter is that Christianity involves EMOTIONS. It has to. How can you say, “I believe in Christ,” without some emotion? Did you ever stop to think that Luther, the consummate male German, explained our commandments first and foremost with strong emotions, when, said “you should fear and love”.
Those words “should” and “love” just don’t go together. Imagine going up to someone and telling them, “you should love me!” Feelings aren’t things that can be commanded out of people. They’re things that come naturally. When you try to will yourself to fear or love something, it just doesn’t work very well. Yet fearing and loving are two emotions and actions that God expects of us. So you may ask yourself, “do I fear God? Do I love him? If I don’t, how can I?” The purer view we get of God - the more these emotions will naturally come about. As we look at God’s presentation of the Ten Commandments, we’ll find how it is difficult and easy it is to -
Fear and Love God
I. We fear a powerful and demanding God
When the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai, Moses said, On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. . . . 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19 and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Ex 19:16-19) How did the people respond to this view of God? It says in vs. 16, Everyone in the camp trembled. When the Israelites saw this terrifying view of God - they were absolutely afraid of Him.
Sometimes I enjoy seeing God scare the daylights out of people. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Daniel 5. The Babylonians had a king by the name of Belshazzar, who thought that he would make a mockery of the LORD by drinking out of the goblets that were taken from the temple in the overthrow of Jerusalem. As they sat their and drank their wine they said something like, “praise be to the gods of silver and gold! How much greater are they than that puny God of the Israelites!” God’s Word says, Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way. (Da 5:5-6) In an instant God turned this arrogant and seemingly powerful king into a blubbering and terrified baby - falling on his knees before the LORD. Those stories are neat to me. But it seems somewhat strange for God to do that to His very children - the Israelites. If I snuck in my daughter’s room at night with a Freddie Kruger costume and scared her to death, people would call me mean and demented. Yet God does something similar to that in His presentation of the Ten Commandments.
When we really take an honest look of the God that is revealed to us in the Bible, He will scare the pants off of you. Think of what He tells us to do in the Ten Commandments. Jesus described the First Commandment - to have no other gods - in this way. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Mt 10:37-38) “Murdering someone isn’t just a matter of physically killing them”, Jesus said. Even if you hate someone or get angry with them you’ve murdered them in your heart. He described the Sixth Commandment by saying that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Even the raw Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 20 show us that breaking God’s law isn’t just a matter of not doing something wrong. Even if I want to - if I covet - I’m sinning. Therefore, when Jesus talked about going to heaven, he said, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible.” (Mt 19:24-26) Jesus once described hell as a terribly hot place where a man begged Abraham just to have someone dip his finger in water to cool the tip of his tongue. These words and commands of God paint a picture of God who does not allow sinful people into heaven. If you have ever been greedy, ever committed adultery, God says you will not inherit the kingdom of God, and you will end up separated from God in a very hot place for eternity called hell. Doesn’t that scare you?