If you found yourself in the presence of God, what would you say? How would you react or respond? What would you do? Our responses might all look and be a little different or varied from each other, but two of the ones that many, if not all of us, would be feeling would be described in these two emotions: fear and joy. Those two might not seem to go together and one might think that one would be felt without the other. Now, while that last point might ring true for some, it is worth noting that we all need to continuously be reminded that we feel and experience both when we come before God.
Let’s start with the feeling of fear. This week we are going to be looking at the second part of Hebrews 12 which talks about two mountains: The Mountain of Fear (Mount Sinai) and the Mountain of Joy (Mount Zion.) The Mountain of Fear is described this way: when the people of Israel were led out of slavery in Egypt, God brought them to His holy mountain to reveal Himself to them and to give them His Law, His Ways to live by as His people. The peoples’ experience with this mountain went a little something like this, as described in Hebrews 12:18-21: this mountain could not be touched, it was burning with fire, God’s voice boomed and shook the ground to the point that the people begged to not hear the sound anymore, the sight of all of this was so terrifying to Moses that he trembled with fear. This would truly be an eye-opening experience and one that would strike some fear in me, too.
What was God communicating to His people with this scene? That He is scary? No, but that He is to be feared. God is so unapproachably holy that His awesome power, His righteous presence, His perfect standard should be met with a realization that we do not match up or stand up to the glory, majesty, and impressiveness that is our God. A similar response is given to us in Isaiah 6 where the prophet Isaiah finds himself standing before the throne of heaven with God seated right in front of him. Isaiah thought he would surely die because his unclean, sin-filled-self had seen a perfectly holy God. When Isaiah sees himself in his sin and his shortcomings in comparison to the righteous majesty of God, he is shaken to his core. When we see ourselves in our sin and shortcomings compared to God’s perfection and His standard, we need to be shaken to our core.
But as many of us know, it doesn’t stop there and neither does the author to the Hebrews. He writes that this mountain is not the only one, it’s not the one that we stay at. There is another mountain: the mountain of joy. God’s holy mountain where He serves as King and Judge, where thousands upon thousands of angels sing and praise Him in glorious assembly, where we are made perfect through the finished work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is this mountain that is our future home, it is this mountain that we await, it is the promise of this mountain that gives us hope.
We need both sides of God. We need to feel the fear that grips us and puts us in our place and reminds us who God is and who we are without Him. It is only when we have that perspective of God’s Law that we can fully experience His Grace. We can be like Isaiah, shaken to his core, his eyes and mind getting the full picture of his uncleanness. But we read that one of the beings that worshiped around the throne brought a burning coal from the altar of God’s temple and touched Isaiah’s lips with it. After it touched his mouth, this seraph said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
God comes to us in much the same way today. Even though we can be shaken by our guilt, shame, and the evils of this world, we can be reminded that He is for us, He is on our side, and His promises to us are true. May we continue to be shaken by His “unshakableness” and be reminded of our glorious future with Him where we can see Him and experience Him as He is and where we are made perfect through what Jesus has done for us.
Standing on His unshakable promises that never fail,
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Pastor Ben Bigaouette