Summary: God's glory is a consuming fire, burning away our sin because He loves us and wants us to experience the abundant life that He has promised us.
We have been looking at experiencing God’s glory, and our last study of Scripture was with the Israelites as God’s glory – visible in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night – led them out of Egypt to the Red Sea, and then delivered them from Pharaoh and his mighty army. We talked about that together, and were awed – perhaps even a bit frightened – by the overwhelming nature of the glory of God. And that might cause us to shrink back, to be apprehensive, about the idea of us today experiencing God’s glory. That would be a terrible mistake.
Ex 19: The Beginning of the Covenant
As the story continues throughout Exodus, the cloud and the fire lead the people for two months (Ex 19:1) across the desert to Mount Sinai, where the God of the Universe enters a covenant with His people – they promise to always obey everything the Lord commands (Ex 19:7), and God says to Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my arrival. Consecrate them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. 11 Be sure they are ready on the third day, for on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people watch. 12 Mark off a boundary all around the mountain. Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death. 13 No hand may touch the person or animal that crosses the boundary; instead, stone them or shoot them with arrows. They must be put to death.’ However, when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, then the people may go up on the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down to the people. He consecrated them for worship, and they washed their clothes. 15 He told them, “Get ready for the third day, and until then abstain from having sexual intercourse.”
Now, just before I read this next part, I want you to imagine yourself there. Imagine that you are one of the Israelites. Just over two months ago you were a slave in Egypt and some strange things started to happen. You have heard about this God that your ancient ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew and experienced, but all you have ever known is whips across your back and mud beneath your fingernails as you make bricks. Then some guy named Moses shows up, strange plagues happen, some weird stuff, and suddenly you are leaving Egypt following a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and then Pharaoh’s army is chasing you down and this cloud protects you and then destroys the entire army. And you are free. You walk across the desert for a couple months and come to the base of the mountain, and are asked to make a decision to follow this God that you see in the cloud and the fire, this God that delivered you from slavery, and you have stood and said “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.”. You heard Moses’ command, and you have spent two days getting ready. Now it is the morning of the third day, you wake up and join the rest of your kin prepared to meet and enter a covenant with this God. Imagine you are standing there…