Summary: God is Holy, this is not a term that describes his nature, it describes Deity. Something who is Wholly other. When we encounter God it is a Holy Cow God moment
Holy Cow! –God moments.
I still remember the first time we took Hayden to Chick Fil-A and they had the cow roaming. We had been there on many occasions and the “Chick Fil-A Cow” , hence forth to be remembered simply as “The Cow” roamed then as well, but this time, Hayden was old enough and cognoscente enough that she recognized the cow. She had seen pictures. She had seen the other children and heard other children talk about “The Cow” but now she would get the chance to experience it for herself. Interestingly enough, this “Close Encounter of the Third Kind” with The Cow occurred in Nashville and my sister’s kids were there to share this experience. Hannah is the one that pointed it out to Hayden. Hannah is almost two years ahead of Hayden and so these close encounters were a bit of old news to her. But to be able to share in the first time experience with another child, was to be a new experience for Hannah. So it was with great eagerness that Hannah pointed out The Cow to Hayden. In retrospect I’m not sure from which she derived more joy: showing the cow to Hayden, or watching Hayden get the life scared out of her. Regardless, Hayden’s first “close encounter” with The Cow did not go well. If she had been able to verbalize it she might have said something like “HOLY COW.” The Cow could not come within 25 feet of Hayden without her clutching me in a choke hold lest The Cow “get her.” Regardless of where The Cow was within the restaurant, Hayden always kept a close eye on it. If The Cow looked in the vicinity of Hayden, she made a quick retreat. Despite our reassurances, there was no convincing Hayden that this 6 foot cow was friendly. She knew there was something out of the ordinary about this creature. In her short life she had not been around many normal cows, but something inside her little mind knew that 6 foot cows were not normal. As far as Hayden was concerned, she had seen enough of The Cow to know, that she wanted it to “go away.”
The Israelites at Mt. Sinai had never met God either but when he appeared in a dark cloud in the midst of great thunder and lightning, they also knew something was amiss. They had their own “HOLY COW” moment. This “YHVH” was unlike any other God, and anything they had ever witnessed. Sure when Moses came down glowing there was that Hint that YHVH was a little different. But now they are standing in the presence of Him. The Bible uses fear to describe their reaction. Exodus 20 18When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance. Despite Moses’ assurances that everything was going to be okay, they would not be convinced otherwise. They had been taught not long prior to this what happens to those who cross the boundaries set forth by God.
Exo 19:12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
Exo 19:13 no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
Exo 19:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.
Exo 19:22 And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.
Annie Dillard in “Teaching a Stone to Talk” writes in poetic prose about their reaction. “They heard God’s speech and found it too loud. The wilderness generation was at Sinai; it witnessed there the thick darkness where God was: And all the people saw the thundering and lightning, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. It scared them witless. Then they asked Moses to beg God, Please never speak to us directly again. ‘Let God not speak with us lest we die.’ Moses took the message. And God, pitying their self consciousness, agreed. He agreed not to speak to the people anymore. And He added to Moses, ‘Go say to them, Get into your tents again.’”
The Hebrew word hear means to “shudder with terror.” This was not a mere respect of God, or being awe inspired. They so feared for their lives that asked God, through Moses, to go away.