To Tremble, To Perish, Then to Touch


16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” 24 And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ex 19:16–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

This is one of the great third days in history. On this third day, three days after arriving as Sinai, God descended to his people.

The people had to prepare themselves. They consecrated themselves, they washed, they abstained from sex, and they prepared and prayed.

On the third day, God descended to the mountain and Moses ascended up the mountain. But the people could not go. They would perish if they looked on the Lord.

On that third day, God gave Moses the law — the ten commandments. The law had always been there. It had been in the hearts of men. How else did Cain know it was wrong to kill Abel? That was Genesis 4 in the first two thousand years of humanity. “You shall not murder,” was Exodus 20:13 and came thousands of years and one giant flood later.

The law was on their hearts and on the third day at Sinai, God spoke the law and into stones was it fixed as an anchor.

The law on stone, however, came after the covenant with Abraham wherein God passed between the pieces of animals signaling he would uphold even Abraham’s part of the covenant. The law came after God remembered his covenant with Abraham and set about freeing the Israelites from Egypt.

The law came that third day in cloud and thunder and lightning. It came in smoke and fire, just as God has come in smoke and fire to pass between the animals as Abraham slept.

The people prepared themselves for the coming of God by consecrating themselves. Almost 1500 laters, instead of God descending the mountain unapproachable and unseeable lest the people perish, he climbed the mountain, bearing his cross to perish and die for us.

The very same God who came in thunder and lightning upon Sinai to deliver “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), climbed up Calvary as a man bearing the weight of sin and death for us. Then on that third day, the most important day in all of human history, instead of descending with law, he rose again from the dead.

God is great. He opened our eyes, he gave us the breath of life, and he created us in his own image. For a time he appeared unapproachable except by a few and even they — even mighty Moses, the greatest of the prophets — could not look on God’s face.

Are we greater than Moses? Can we, through God, part the Red Sea?

We can do so much more! We can do what Moses could not. The Apostles could recline at the table and eat bread with the very God who had been unapproachable on Sinai. They could touch the physical body of God Incarnate. They could look God in the eye and see His smile. We can have a personal relationship with a God who went through all trials and all temptation. We can have the relationship that Moses looked to as a reward (Heb. 11:26) and knew by faith would come. Moses pointed toward Christ. We have Christ. He is approachable. He conquered death. And he frees us, by his grace, from the law of sin.

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2)

We do not have to consecrate ourselves for three days, wash our clothes, and abstain from sex only to watch with fear and trembling as Christ descends. All we have to do is want the relationship and ask him to come into our lives. Whoever believes in Christ shall have everlasting life. And once we do believe in Christ, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Something will happen in your life. You will smile when others around you are crying. This is the power of God.”

God does not promise us an easy life on this planet. He promises more — an eternal life with him. We are, like the Israelites headed to the promised land, just passing through the pot holes of this world to the streets of gold in the next.

About the author

Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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