Summary: Our sin separates us from God but Jesus opens the way back to God
1 The Fear of God - Keep away
To truly understand the events of Good Friday we need to delve deep into the history of Israel. So let me take you back to Mt Sinai, in the first few weeks of the Exodus, the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. [Bible Reading: Exo 19:16-21]
As the Israelites look up at Mt Sinai, cloaked in clouds, with thunder and lightning cracking around the peaks, accompanied by a loud trumpet call, they’re reminded of the nature of God, the fear of God.
Fear of God is something we struggle with in the 21st century. We’re so steeped in the concept of a loving God who cares for his people that we forget that that same God is a God to be feared. And I do mean afraid in the sense of terrified.
The people come out to the edge of the mountain and we’re told there’s a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. They don’t actually need to have Moses tell them to stay clear of the mountain. In fact they tell Moses, we don’t need to come up with you. You just go on your own and speak on our behalf and then tell us what God says. We’ll take your word for it.
Later on, whenever Moses goes into the tabernacle, into God’s presence, they all watch from a distance (Reading 2: Exo 33:8-10). It’s not surprising that they hang back because in the next chapter we read that as he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses face shone because he had been talking with God. Now this wasn’t the sort of glow you get after a day at the beach or at the MCG watching the cricket. This was a visible shining forth of the glory of God. And the people were so afraid Moses had to cover his face with a veil so they wouldn’t be scared of him.
As we think about the events of Good Friday, let’s not forget that though Jesus has emptied himself, becoming just like one of us, he is God and God is a God to be feared.
For fallen human beings to approach the living God is a fearful thing. As we’ll see in our next meditation, the people of Israel needed God to set up a system of sacrifice so it would be possible for them to continue to live under his protection, to worship him, but even then it was always at a distance, always knowing that their sin ultimately kept them separated from God. This is the significance of the curtain that separated the people from the Holy of Holies, the place reserved for God. When Jesus came it had to be in human form so he could live among us and communicate with us face to face. In fact Jesus coming was the first step to us being brought back to the relationship with God that he always intended for us.
Heb 12:28-29: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”
2 The Holiness of God - Sacrifice for Sins - Garrett Edwards
God is now scary to us – could you imagine a time when we would’ve walked side by side, talked face to face with that same God who descended onto Mt Sinai, with bolts of lightning and peals of thunder making the earth shake? We once had a real intimate, personal relationship with that same God who the Israelites were so scared of going near, who I would’ve wanted to run away from.
Now God is a God who can’t be related to. Moses himself never saw God face to face or walked with him in the cool of the afternoon. As we delve into the deep history of Israel, he is a God no one can approach except through sacrifices.
Aaron, the chief priest brings forward a goat, he lays both hands on its head and confesses all the sins of a nation. He then sends the goat away into the desert, the man releasing it, needing to wash his clothes and bathe before coming back into camp. Aaron himself needs to bathe in a holy place and put on clean clothes before going out once again to offer a burnt sacrifice, a bull and a goat, for himself and the people to ‘make atonement’, he is even to burn the fat of the offering on the alter. Then the blood of those animals was to be taken outside the camp, their hides, flesh and its internal organs to be burnt. Again, the person taking those out would have to bathe before he could enter the camp again.