As a young person, I spent a long time being frightened of God, in varying degrees. It has taken many years of gradually coming to know him, to realise that, whilst he is magnificent and holy, and overwhelmingly awesome in the fullest possible sense, he is also my caring heavenly Father, who wants me to love him and have a relationship with him. So I have every sympathy with the Israelites, who woke up one morning to thunder, lightening, thick cloud brooding over the mountain, and an eerily loud trumpet blast (Exodus 19:14-25). As they were led out to meet with God, they encountered thick smoke, and the whole mountain shaking violently as God was descending upon it in fire. Talk about sensory overload. Of course they trembled! Put yourself in their sandals. Wouldn’t you?
The trumpet sound grew louder and louder, and then something amazing happened.
Moses opened his mouth and spoke. And God answered him.
I don’t know about you, but I find it stunning that God, magnificent in his holiness, resplendent in his glory, desired and responded to his child’s call. That in the midst of the noise of the trumpet and thunder, and all else that was going on, Moses spoke and God replied, with full attention towards him.
What’s more, God was highly concerned for the people – he knew the danger of them ascending unbidden – and did not want one to perish. If we cannot grasp how dangerous the presence of God was for them, it is only because we cannot grasp the pure holiness of God. We simply cannot conceive it. But we do right to be afraid.
And yet he bids us come. He covers us with the blood of Jesus, forgives and purifies us from our sin, and makes us fit to enter his presence. Then he desires and responds to his child’s call. Right in the midst of all his holiness and splendour. And right in the midst of all the anguish and turbulence and noise of our lives. It’s unspeakably amazing. He bids me come. Clothed in his righteousness, assured of his love, I come, unafraid.