January 29, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, “Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”’ The Lord replied, ‘Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.’ So Moses went down to the people and told them.”—Exodus 19:23–25 (NIV)
As seen earlier in this chapter, Moses shared God’s message to the people about being obedient to Him and thus being kept as His holy and sacred possession. To this, the people responded with, “We will do everything the Lord has said” (Exodus 19:8 NIV). If you know anything about the story of the Israelites, you probably know they didn’t actually do everything the Lord said. In fact, they quickly turned to making a golden calf to worship while Moses was on the mountain receiving the written instructions from God because it had been forty days since they saw Moses.
Although these people were very inconsistent in their obedience and devotion to the Lord, God remained gracious and faithful. God didn’t have to use Moses as an intermediary to relay His messages to the people. Knowing these people were still going to fail and betray Him time and time again, God didn’t even have to make this covenant with them. Against all reason and worldly wisdom, God still pursues the Israelites and seeks to set them apart and make them holy because He knows this is what will be best for them and bring them true life.
Therefore, reading these verses in light of what we know will happen next makes this passage much more powerful. God graciously permits Moses and Aaron to come up the mountain. Additionally, He extends grace to His people in allowing them to see a visible reflection of His glorious presence. He makes a way for them to see a glimpse of His holiness when they wouldn’t be able to stand or speak in His complete and unconcealed presence.
Seeing His grace here, we can appreciate the abundant grace we’ve received through the new covenant Jesus instituted in which our unholiness gets replaced with His holiness. This is something we can celebrate because our lives have been credited with the righteousness of Christ! As opposed to the Israelites in this story, we can enter the presence of God, approach His throne boldly, speak to Him as a Father and a friend, and walk around with His Spirit living inside of us!
On the other hand, may we never take this amazing gift for granted. In remembering the holiness of God as depicted throughout the Old Testament, we must still view His holiness with the same amount of awe and wonder. This will keep us humble and thankful for a God who is simultaneously holy and sovereign while also being compassionate and gracious.
Pause: In what ways can you remember God’s holiness today?
Practice: Spend some time today, whether it be a few minutes in the car or before bed, meditating on the holiness of God and how various people in the Bible reacted to seeing Him or being in His presence.
Pray: Holy Father, thank You so much for being so abundantly gracious and so perfectly holy all at once. You are truly beyond all comprehension. I cannot believe I get to have an intimate relationship with a righteous God, yet here I am. May You help my wonder and awe to continually be present in my mind and heart. Thank you. Amen.
Samy Rodriguez has been serving with the Calvary writing team since 2020 as a senior at Calvary Christian Academy. Before going to study communications, biblical studies, and intercultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, she interned with the Calvary Communications Team and was a student leader in HSM (High School Ministry). She is passionate about communicating God’s Word and looks forward to continuing to serve in ministry after college.