From the burning bush on Mt. Sinai where a barefoot Moses stood, to God’s presence descending as fire upon Mt. Sinai’s peak where Israel assembled in its shadows, God revealed something of himself. When God draws near we can learn a lot. Ultimately, God’s actions invite us into an unexpected response.
Consider some examples of what we discover. God’s choice to make his presence known through fire, a fire refusing to consume a bush but capable of raging upon a mountain’s top, solicits our respect. Fire is dangerous. We keep our distance.
Because God is holy, people must not rush into God’s presence in a haphazard way nor come before God on their own terms. Moses had to remove his shoes. Israel had to sanctify herself for two days in order to be prepared to meet God on the third day. Such holiness creates a distance between God and people.
Yet, God is concerned about people. At the bush, God acknowledged he had heard Israel’s cries. He also promised to rescue them from their suffering. During the second encounter, God offered Israel the opportunity to become his treasured possession, a holy nation. God chose to relate with humanity.
God’s drawing near to people finds its greatest expression when the Word which was God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Through his Son, God accomplished what we could not. He permanently eliminated the distance.
The blood of Jesus’ death “has perfected for all time those who are made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). Jesus’ blood thereby enables us to enter God’s presence with confidence (Hebrews 10:19). Furthermore, as those cleansed by his blood we are actually encouraged to draw near to God! (Hebrews 10:22).
Based on what we learn about holiness and approaching God in the Old Testament, this is unexpected. Yet, from what we learn about God’s desire to be in relationship with his people, we should not be surprised God closed the distance so that we can draw near.