The red velvet rope. You know, the one that cordons off an area reserved for someone important and keeps the crowds at a distance from an exclusive area. It immediately makes you wonder, “Who is this coming on the other side?” If you had the opportunity to go inside the rope, you would likely be prepped on protocol: what to say and not say, where to stand, what to do and not do. The Israelites had been anticipating such a day. Their guest was more than important, he was holy; he was God. And the announcement of his coming and the necessary protocol was much more than a red velvet rope.
- Is there a time when you were able to meet someone famous or important? How was their arrival announced, and what protocol was in place?
READ THE WORD: EXODUS 19:16-25 (ESV)
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Read verses 16-20 again slowly, picturing the scene clearly in your mind. How would you have felt, and what would your response have been if you had been present?
- List all the ways that God used to get the Israelites’ attention. What did he want them to see and know about himself?
- How did the people respond to these things (vss. 16, 17)?
- Why did God ask Moses to come up and down the mountain several times?
- What is God doing in your life to display his holiness and greatness?
RESPOND TO GOD
It is human nature to want to get closer, to see better, to disregard those red velvet ropes. Even though the Israelites were close, heard God’s voice, and saw remarkable evidence of his presence, they never actually laid eyes on him. He kept himself hidden in clouds and smoke because he is too holy to be seen by human eyes. Yet, he is also incredibly personal; it was he who came to them and he who spoke directly to Moses. In our casual culture, it is often hard to keep our view of God as holy, powerful, and awesome, and easy to let him slip into the role of only our pal. Biblical commentator Matthew Henry says, “In drawing near to God, we must never forget his holiness or greatness, nor our own meanness and pollution.”
- Praise and thank him that he is a holy God.