Light of the World: Day Seven
A Lit Mountain
Read Exodus 19 – 20:21
(Don’t forget to read the passage listed above before beginning the devotional below.)
Growing up and living in Southern California my whole life, I have not experienced very much variation in weather. However, earlier this year we were trailer camping in South Dakota when a huge thunder and lightning storm rolled in very quickly. What was a beautiful spring day turned into a dark and stormy night. The thunder was so loud, you could feel it growing from a low rumble into a roar while the cracks of lightning lit up the night sky so brightly, it was as bright as day for a moment or two. To say our knees were knocking as we sat in that trailer waiting for the storm to pass is putting it mildly. We were terrified of the awesome might of the storm and what it had the potential to do to our little trailer, and more importantly, our family who was inside.
In Exodus 19 we read of another incredibly and terrifying theophany (an appearance of God). The Lord brought the Israelites to the base of Mount Sinai in order to institute a covenant with them. God first instructed the Israelites to prepare for this encounter by consecrating themselves for 3 days. Then, on the morning of the third day, the Lord descended upon the mountain. The Israelites shook with fear as they beheld this awesome sight: lightning, a thick cloud, a trumpet blast, and the mountain engulfed in smoke, “because the Lord had descended on it in fire” (Exodus 13:18). God only allowed Moses and Aaron to come up onto the mountain, the rest of the people needed to stay a specific distance away from the mountain. But the people were so terrified by all they heard and saw, they didn’t even want to approach God and they begged Moses to speak to them on behalf of God.
What does all of this teach us? God is exponentially more holy, glorious, and terrifying than our finite minds can comprehend. C.S. Lewis describes this well in his beloved book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” as he describes the lion, Aslan:
People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan's face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembly.
This God who we’ve seen is loving and faithful is also holy and just. He is both good and terrifying. This God “who dwells in unapproachable light” (2 Timothy 6:16) is not your homeboy or your copilot (no matter how many bumper stickers you see that say so). This God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and to behold him is to immediately recognize your own unworthiness, just like the Israelites did.
Yet, the incredible reality is that this same God who dwells in unapproachable light came down to the Israelites to meet them at Mount Sinai. While the Israelites could not and would not dare to get too close to the mountain on which God descended upon, a time would come when God would wrap himself in flesh and live and walk among us.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Immanuel. God with us.
Action Point: Read John 1:1 and Hebrews 1:3. Spend a few moments meditating on the fact that this great God of Exodus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). How does thinking deeply about the nature of God expand your gratitude for Christ’s incarnation?