March 19, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’ The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”—Exodus 20:18–21 (NIV)
For me, the hardest classes in school were always the ones I didn’t understand the “why” behind. I knew we studied history to learn from the past—where we came from, how to avoid past mistakes, and other things. Basic math is essential to so many things. I understood the why behind home economics, shop, computer class, and even PE. But then there was the dreaded Calculus (or pick the higher level math course of your choice). Math naturally came easy to me, but these classes were hard because I didn’t understand the point of them and I typically didn’t like the teacher. So, I just did it to do it, and that’s a recipe for failure.
We see something similar in this passage. The nation of Israel gets to experience this incredible phenomenon God created after giving Moses the 10 Commandments. Their response says so much about them: “They stayed at a distance.” Do you see what happens here? They’re literally avoiding a real relationship with God to the point of saying we will listen to (and do) what He says, but we want our interaction with Him to be between us and Moses.
We can be just like this. We don’t want a real relationship with the Lord, we just want a sort of relationship—we want our pastor to go to God on our behalf, we want others to pray for us, we want to listen to a sermon someone prepared instead of spending our own time in the Word. When this happens, we completely miss the “why” of what God asks of us and our relationship with Him turns into a class in school we just do to do and hope we pass with a C.
Moses made it very clear to them that God gave them these laws so they would fear Him and not sin. This word fear doesn’t mean to treat God like He’s the boogeyman, but instead to have a healthy respect and reverence for Him that can only be developed through having a real relationship. Once we gain an understanding of Who God is, we begin to see the “why” behind the Law.
Moses understood this. While everyone else was afraid and stood far away, Moses “approached the thick darkness where God was.” From meeting God in the burning bush to this point, Moses has developed a real relationship with Him. There was nothing more special about Moses than the rest of Israel. In fact, he might even be worse. Don’t forget that Moses was a murderer! But I believe it was because of this that Moses drew so near to God. He gained an understanding of grace and mercy. He approached God as a loving Father, not as a closed-fisted dictator. When we begin to spend time with Him, we will grow in this understanding and in our relationship with Him more and more.
Pause: How could your view of God change if you began to spend more time developing a relationship with Him?
Practice: Dedicate an extra 15 minutes a day to growing your relationship with the Lord. It could be reading the Bible, praying, or even listening to worship music.
Pray: Lord, thank You so much for being a loving Father who helps guide me in the right ways. Help to draw me closer to You so I can know You more and more. I want my relationship with You to be based on love and not rules. Amen.