Standing at a Distance from God

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

Exodus 20:18

After the Lord finished delivering the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, they were appropriately impressed. In fact, they were afraid because of the awesome spectacle associated with God’s revelation, not to mention the content of the covenant. So the people stood “at a distance” from the mountain, “trembling with fear” (20:18).

I have spoken with many Christians whose experience of God has been similar to that of the Israelites in Exodus 20. Though they grew up in Christian churches, they nevertheless understood God to be the angry lawgiver who was ready to punish any disobedience of his strict standards. These people tried to keep their distance from the Lord. They never felt the freedom to draw near to him, and never had confidence in his love and mercy. Moreover, they never, ever imagined that God might be a good shepherd seeking them in their lostness or a father who runs to them to embrace them in spite of their sin.

Jesus revealed God as such a shepherd and father, one whom we can even address as our Father. But the Father of Jesus is not a different God than the formidable lawgiver of Mt. Sinai. This very holy, awesome God of justice is the one who saves us by his grace and invites us to approach him without fear. Thus we read in Hebrews 4:16: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Thus we no longer need to stand at a distance from God because he beckons us to draw near. Yet, even as we come, we must remember that God is not our comfortable cosmic pal, but the holy God of justice who revealed himself on Mt. Sinai.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever stood at a distance from God because you were afraid of him? When? Why? What helps you to draw near to God without compromising his awesomeness?

PRAYER: Holy, majestic, powerful God, how easily I can take you for granted. How quickly I forget your awesomeness, your justice, your purity, your might. Forgive me, Lord, when I neglect to give you the reverent respect you deserve.

How I thank you for making yourself available to me, for inviting me to approach you with confidence. What a wonder that I have such an invitation from you, given my smallness and sinfulness.

As I draw near to you, enjoying the access that I have in Christ, may I never forget or minimize your majesty. Remembering who you are, may I continually marvel at the relationship you have offered to me, the new covenant through Christ’s own death.

All praise be to you, holy, awesome God, merciful, loving, justifying God. Amen.