Glimpses of God’s Glory – Exodus 197 min read
Exodus 19 marks the beginning of Israel’s encampment at Sinai – the mountain of the Law. In this chapter, Israel is introduced, not to the power of God as at the Red Sea, but the glory of God. They learned by His presence the importance of a proper attitude before Him: this an attitude was crucial to maintain, because it meant life or death in many cases. Such is the weight God places on one’s attitude toward Himself, for it affects the honor given to Him and our obedience. The purpose of this article is not for mere information, but rather for our hearts that we might fear God with a greater zeal and thus obey in the way He demands.
Firstly we notice from our chapter the general nature of God’s glory. Verse 19 says “Lo I come to thee in a thick cloud.” Only would it be necessary to descend in a thick cloud if there was great glory to be covered – glory that is beyond the capabilities of man to conceive – glory that is beyond man’s limit to see – glory that is beyond man’s depravity and ability to appreciate and withstand. When considering the glory of God, we need to understand that it is actually a reflection of His Person. In fact, we could define glory as the expression of God’s holiness – that which defines and surrounds His very being. Thus, where there is great and magnificent glory, we can conclude that God is indeed tremendously awesome: we should learn to appreciate the unfathomable nature of the God we serve and cry in wonder as the angels did so long ago, “Holy, Holy, Holy! The whole earth is filled with His glory!”
Secondly consider the holiness of God’s glory.. “There shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stones or shot through, whether it be beast or man” (v 13). Holiness denotes the set apart nature of a person, object, or place. In this case, the holiness of God’s glory also caused the mountain on which it sat to be holy. One can look back to a similar occasion in Moses’ life when God said “Take off your shoes, for the place you stand upon is holy ground.” Why did He say this? Because God’s glorified presence represented in the bush made that place set apart – a place righteously distinguished from the rest. So it was several months later in the same mountain: God’s presence rendered Sinai untouchable except for the select few whom God allowed to draw closer to Him. Such is the weight of our God’s holiness: it is not to be trifled with as if nothing.
Thirdly, the power of God’s glory should be mentioned as we see in verse 16 the thunder and lightning associated with it. In Greek mythology, Zeus was the head god – the god of lightning. Pagan worshippers understood the fear that lightning “stuck” into man’s heart because of its power. Yet at Sinai, this was no weather show, but a display of God’s omnipotence. It is foolishness for a man to limit the God of eternity. Over and over again the Israelites learned the mistake of doing this, for as they would forget their Creator and Redeemer, He would surely remind them of the truly omnipotent One. Such will be the case for all who forget. Remember the world of Noah’s day. Remember Babel. Remember the famine of Elijah’s day. Remember the Captivity. Remember Pentecost. All these events point to a jealous God Who will always be the ultimate One declared Lord. Our God is One of Almighty power.
Fourthly, God’s glory reflects His authority. Accompanied with the awe-inspiring lightning was the sound of a trumpet. This trumpet call announced to the people that they were to come before the mountain (v 15), and they could only but tremble when they heard it. Such was the force of its sound. Such was the authority of His call. The people understood that this was no optional call, but one of necessity to obey. Is this not the only way God speaks – with power, with weight, with authority? Is this not the only way we should treat His voice?
Finally, we see a glimpse of the dread of God’s glory: “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” Such a view is one that must strike fear into any onlooker, and truly our God is to be feared. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” One can only be a fool who does not tremble at the thought of God’s righteousness and wrath. “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” “Fear God and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Sad thing that the One Who deserves greatest honor is the One receiving the least honorable recognition. Is this so in your life? “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
In closing, the point of these few thoughts was not simply to state facts: a response is to be expected. This was the response demanded of the people: “Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” When God faces us with profound truth, we are accountable to respond. Trivial things are to be taken lightly, but reverence is to be expected when God speaks to us, especially when He speaks concerning Himself. And when we are faced with His character, He desires that we respond with a renewed passion to pattern ourselves after it. When faced with the holiness of God we should be deeply concerned for our own need for personal holiness: how can we claim to serve One we do not properly represent? “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” When it comes to His power, this should invoke a deep trust in His ability to deliver and provide. When faced with His authority, we should be impressed with the profound nature of our standing as servants. And as we read His Word, knowing His authority, we should feel obligation to obey our Master in the fullest way, we should preach Scripture in dignity, and we should uphold it faithfully. No other response is appropriate to such authority as that which God holds. Then considering the dread of His glory, we should understand that service is never complete unless it is rooted in true Scriptural fear of the Lord, not in that we are paranoid of judgement, but that we understand the weight and accountability of living for God. But also we should bow in worship as we consider that we have been delivered from wrath, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet what about the unconverted? The fear of wrath is still very much a reality for him. We as believers holding a true attitude toward God should make it our priority to intercede for them in prayer and to verbally warn them of impending doom. So then, in light of these facts, may we go on to serve with a new fervour and yet with a new maturity and reverence about Whom we serve. One’s attitude toward God is central in his service: let us not waste our lives by a wrong view of God. That would certainly be a shame.