May 15, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, “Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.” Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.’”—Exodus 19:10–13 (NIV)
“Please do not touch.” Most of us have seen or heard this instruction at some point in our lives. Maybe we even delivered that instruction. In either case, there’s an audience (those to whom the message pertains) and a speaker (the one giving the message). In today’s passage of Scripture, the Lord gives Moses detailed instructions about how he and the Israelites were to prepare for God’s coming.
When you hear the word “instruction,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a booklet which teaches us how to assemble an item of furniture or how to program an electronic device. Either example contains a set of instructions that inform and direct us on how to make optimal use of that item. Instructions may also contain warnings or cautions about improper usage of said item and the possible consequences for disobeying those warnings.
The Lord starts by telling Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exodus 19:10–11). God’s holiness is one of His most terrifying and beautiful qualities—terrifying because we’re sinful and guilty of all forms of unrighteousness; beautiful because He’s unmatched and unrivaled. God makes it clear to Moses that the people needed to cleanse themselves and set themselves apart in preparation for His coming.
Next, the Lord tells Moses, “Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death” (Exodus 19:12). This instruction carries a heavy consequence to those who don’t follow it. It may seem harsh, but consider other instructions where death is a likely possibility:
Yet people frequently disobey at least one of these instructions, even knowing the possibility of dire consequences. It’s tragic when someone dies as a consequence of not heeding instructions. Thankfully, God is good to clearly lay out His set of instructions and the corresponding consequences so we’re made fully aware.
The Lord’s final instruction to Moses is an indication of the appropriate time for the Israelites to approach His presence. If you’re like me, you tend to quickly and easily forget that when you enter God’s presence you should do it with reverence and obedience. Here’s how that typically looks for me:
I’m grateful God is gracious and longsuffering with my lack of respect and disobedience. Today’s passage of Scripture reminds me of the importance of closely following ALL of the Lord’s instructions, not just the ones that are convenient to me.
Pause: Take a moment to reflect on areas where you’ve neglected to closely follow all of God’s instructions for your life.
Practice: Ask God to reveal areas of disobedience or a lack of reverence that you may have toward Him. Then ask Him to help you bring those areas back into proper reverence and obedience.
Pray: Thank You Lord for Your instruction. I’m grateful that You speak and give me instructions for my benefit. Please help me to closely follow ALL of Your instructions with reverence and obedience to You. Amen.