“That We Might have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)
Exodus Chapters Nineteen Through Twenty-four–
THE VOICE OF GOD
When you go to church on a Sunday morning, do you feel a shiver of terror as you pass through the door into the sanctuary and sit down in pew? This is an almost silly question. Of course we don’t feel terror as we come to worship God. Christian worship is a joyful, uplifting activity.
But what a remarkable thing it is that this can be so, for in our worship we invoke the name of the Holy Trinity. And He is present among us as we worship Him, according to Christ’s promise that He will be in the midst of those who gather in His name, be they only two or three in number. We are sinners, and yet the presence of our holy God does not send us fleeing in terror.
It wasn’t always this way. When God appeared to Israel at Mount Sinai to give them His Law, the experience for them was indeed terrifying. The Lord told Moses to warn the people not to go near the mountain or touch its base, for anyone who did so would be put to death. When God spoke to the people from the mountain it was in the midst of thunder and lightning, thick smoke, and a trumpet blast that grew louder and louder.
The people couldn’t stand to listen to the voice of God; they pleaded with Moses: “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:20). God did speak to the people through Moses; the people received the holy will of God through the agency of a mediator. And the people learned that because of their sins they could not approach God except through a mediator.
The Perfect Mediator
Nor can we approach God without a mediator. But we have a better one than Moses. We have a perfect Mediator, God’s own Son Jesus Christ. He did more than communicate to us God’s will; He also fulfilled that holy will, fulfilled it perfectly by His holy life. He fulfilled it in our place, for us; He was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4).
Now we hear the voice of God in His Word. His law still terrifies the Old Adam in us, for it condemns with its absolute, holy “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not.” But the voice of God to us in His Word is especially the Gospel, assuring us that our sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus, who took them upon Himself and died for them. Because we have Jesus as our Mediator we can listen to the voice of God with joy.
The writer to the Hebrews summarizes the difference between the voice of God at Sinai and the voice of God in the Word. He writes: “You have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. . . .” (Heb. 12:18-24).
When you come into church on a Sunday morning, or when you open your Bible at home, thank God that He speaks to you not in the terrifying voice of Mount Sinai, but in the familiar, comforting voice of Jesus.
–Pastor John Klatt