A Midweek Devotional - Holiness
Having just been miraculously freed from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites still found ways to grumble and complain. And yet the Lord continued to provide for His people, bringing both sustenance and victory. Now here in Exodus 18-20, we see the Lord shaping the people into a nation. The Law, given at Mount Sinai, provided a constitution of sorts for this new nation. We’ll spend quite a bit of time there in the coming weeks as we turn to Exodus 20 after our time in Colossians. In the meantime, let us look to Exodus 19 to catch a glimpse of God’s glory, the same glimpse the Lord gave the Israelites as He spoke the words of the Law.
Wednesday, March 10th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Exodus 18-20
Focused Passage for Reflection - Exodus 19 (particularly vv. 10-25)
Reflecting on the Text:
How do you prepare yourself if you are planning to meet someone for dinner? I suppose for most of us that depends on who we are meeting. At a minimum, you would likely bathe. And depending upon who this person was, you might iron your clothing. Or if it was really someone special, you might go out and buy a new set of clothes.
In Exodus 19, Moses is preparing the people to meet someone, not for dinner, but to receive the Law. This "someone" was not a messenger but was the Lord Himself. So this preparation took on an extra measure of diligence. The people were to consecrate themselves for 3 days.
To consecrate is to make oneself sacred. That meant they were to wash their clothes. They were to avoid anyone, anything, or any action that would make them unclean. And on the appointed day, they were not to get too close. They couldn’t even touch the mountain, because the Lord was there. Thunder clapped and lightning flashed. There was a loud blast from a trumpet, and the people responded as you might imagine…with fear and trembling.
Exodus 19 points us to the holiness of God. He is holy and transcendent. It is a picture of glory and one that we need just as much as the Israelites did on that day. But how does that Old Testament picture fit with our New Testament concept of God the Father? Are they different?
In the New Testament, we see glory in the person of Jesus Christ. If the picture of the Lord in Exodus 19 was one of transcendence, the picture of Jesus in John 1:14 is one of imminence. He comes near. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. He was with His people. His glory was seen in His coming and was magnified in His dying. On the cross, He humbled Himself by taking upon Himself the wrath of God in our place. His glory should strike the same sense of fear as the glory of the Lord on Mount Sinai. So do we see it that way?
How often do we separate the God of Exodus 19 and the Jesus of John 1:14 (or even of Jesus on the cross in John 19)? But the word tells us that He is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15) The word tells us our God is triune and that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. The picture of transcendent glory in Exodus 19 accentuates the picture of imminent glory in John 19, and vice versa.
So what does all of this mean for us today? God gives us a sustaining picture of His glory in the text meant to build within us a sense of fear, or awestruck wonder. So let us be captivated by the picture. And let the picture build within us a sense of awestruck wonder over the cross. As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, let us take serious His holiness. Let us embrace His cross. Let us experience His love.
Questions for personal reflection:
Are you tempted to brush past the OT images of God’s holiness? What impact does that have on your relationship with the Father?
Are you tempted to build a complete image of God based on the picture of Exodus 19? What impact does that have on your relationship with the Son?