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When the people saw the thunder and lightening 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)

While at first glance the reaction of the people might appear reasonable - after all the sight must have been terrifying, we need to remember that they had experienced God’s love and compassion. Exodus 4:31 says that when Moses told the people that the Lord had heard their groaning, ”the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited them and that He had looked on their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped.”

Father God had ”heard their cries and remembered His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He looked down on the Israelites and felt deep concern for their welfare.” (Exodus 2:23-25, New Living Translation)  So God had come down to deliver them out of their bondage.

They had seen God’s hand of protection as He spared them from the plagues He inflicted upon Egypt. They had seen His power as He parted the Red Sea.  They had eagerly accepted His promise to be His people and accept Him as their God.’  But now they stood afar off. 

Not one except Moses accepted His invitation to come close.  Not one listened to Moses’ encouragement. Not one approached God.  Not one!

Before we pass judgment on Israel, let us ask, ”How many people today have seen God’s power, experienced His love, received His provision and protection yet still stand afar off?”

God is still inviting people to approach Him - to come closer into intimate relationship - yet often we too hold back. 

Why?  Why do we often turn our backs and refuse God’s offer of love, peace and joy?  Why do we instead run to others and to things to find that which we so desperately need and want?  The very things God is promising?  Why do some even insist that there is no God?

Without being simplistic, I think the answer lies in our misunderstanding of who Father God is.  We hear Him called Father and we instantly compare Him to our earthly fathers who often have disappointed us.  But who can be compared to God?  Or to whom can God be compared?  No one!

 

"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you--majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

Rather than coming to Father God with our disappointments, we use our disappointments to keep us away from His healing touch.  We forget that even though our earthly fathers might have been caring, generous, and loving, they are still imperfect.  Often they carry with them the wounds and pains inflicted by their imperfect parents.  There is only one perfect love, the love of Father God; for God IS love.

God’s perfect love not only soothes, comforts and heals; it also casts away removes all fear.

We have not only misunderstood who God the Father is, but we have also distorted the fear of God to mean being afraid of God.

Moses said that God revealed Himself in the thunder and lightening so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.  Misunderstanding the fear of God is another reason why we often stand afar off.  Fearing God was meant to keep us from sinning, not to keep us from drawing closer to God.

For years I stood afar off.  It felt like being outside of a bakery, mouth watering at the delicious smells of chocolate chip cookies.  The door was open and the baker invited me inside.  But I was afraid. It was safer to stand outside with empty hands than to go inside and be disappointed or rejected.  That’s what fear does,  keeps us outside, empty and afraid.

It is only as I’ve come to trust Father God and let Him heal the wounds from my past that I have been able to come inside embracing and being enveloped in His perfect love.

Father God’s perfect love gave us His Son so that we would be able to experience His love. Strange as it seems, it was God’s love for us that purposed for His Son to be crucified as atonement for our sins. 

The cross is the picture of God’s love and God’s holiness.’ God’s holiness demands sinless perfection.’  But God’s grace and love provides forgiveness that we might be delivered from sin!’  Only the forgiven (without sin in God’s eyes) can approach God.

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us set us right with Him, make us fit for Him we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand  out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting out praise. (Romans 5:1, The Message)

And yet, despite God’s invitation and provision to approach Him, there are many today who stubbornly insist on approaching God their own way.

That is nothing new.’ Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu did exactly that. God’s response was quick and fatal (Leviticus 10). Therein is the fear of God!

The love of God bids us approach.

The holiness of God provides the Door through which we can approach Him.

The fear of God sends us through that Door.

       j

 

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