I’ve just finished my work on Exodus 3-7 and have moved on to Sinai, to where Moses brings Israel to God in chapter 19-20. This a really intriguing chapter with a lot of going up and down the mountain, and a lot of making absolutely crystal clear how unapproachable God is in his awesome, not to say dangerous, holiness.
As I turned to the commentaries on this passage I’ve found comments that drive me to frustration, especially when commentators try to “improve” the order, or smooth out difficulties. However I’ve also found comments that are wonderfully encouraging so I thought I’d share this quote, from Childs’ commentary on Exodus as he reflects on how the New Testament relates to the picture of God in Exodus 19-20:
“The new covenant is not a substitution of a friendly God for the terror of Sinai, but rather a gracious message of an open access to the same God whose presence still calls forth awe and reverence”
In a day where many seem to try and drive a wedge between the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the gospels this is a wonderfully refreshing comment to come across. Old and New it is the same God, but in the New access is given to all who will come through Jesus. Or, to put it in the words of the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12 – read this after Exodus 19):
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. …
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.