Sometimes we know things for a long time before the significance of placing two events side by side strikes us. (Daddy used to say that something had to strike me pretty hard to penetrate.) So it was just the other day when for some reason I happened to think of Mt Sinai and Isaiah close enough together to discover a significance.
First, consider the reaction of the children of Israel when they came into the presence of God, “And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before you, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was” (Exod 20:18-21).
Then, note Isaiah’s reaction when God appeared to him, “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he touched my mouth with it, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin forgiven. And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me” (Isa 6:5-8).
In both cases they feared God greatly. The Israelites backed away and asked that God speak no more. Isaiah exclaimed, “Woe is me” as his sins became evident in the presence of the holy God. But, contrast in your mind their subsequent actions—Isaiah exclaimed, “Here am I, send me” and entered a lifelong ministry to God. Israel backed away from God and within months rejected God in faithless disobedience and all died in the wilderness.
It seems that we come into the presence of God blithely. We sing, “Our God is an Awesome God” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” with fervor, but no fear. God hoped that their fear would keep Israel honest, “Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” (Deut 5:29). When even Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake,” it is hard to call this a simple respect (Heb 12:17). Multiplying praise songs is no substitute for meditation with fear. We have buried our fear of God in a sea of redefinition to respect and therefore, many have followed Israel and so few have followed Isaiah.
Certainly we have been adopted as sons and can come with boldness to the throne of grace, but perhaps an unseemly familiarity has overwhelmed our sense, “If you call on him as Father, pass the time of your sojourning in fear.” (Rom 8:14-15, Heb 4:16, 1 Pet 1:17).
It may be that we have confused our own emotion with coming into the presence of God! Because we feel warm and “touched,” we construe this as the presence. Let us consider that even the most righteous fell in the presence of just an angel (Dan 8:17,27; 10:8, 10). Surely we would do well to be less pushy about our family status and more aware that He is GOD! Then, perhaps we could walk as Isaiah walked.
But ye are come unto….. God the Judge of all, and… to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…. see that ye refuse not him that speaks. For if they escaped not when they refused him that warned them on earth, much more shall not we escape who turn away from him that warns from heaven:….let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:22-29)
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12)