God of the Trembling Mountain
It’s easier to obey God if you have a fuller picture of what He’s really like. He’s not JUST a shepherd holding a lamb.
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
What do you picture when you think of God?
A huge grey-bearded guy on the throne?
Jesus with a halo around his head?
How you picture God impacts how you live for Him, and I want to talk through that today as we return to our Rescue Series on the Book of Exodus.
Every year at Renovation Church, we walk through a Book of the Bible, chapter by chapter.
In 2017, we’ve been going through the Book of Exodus.
We’re going to finish out 2017 with it, and we’re going to need to go a little into 2018 to finish it, but that’s okay…it’s a good book
We last left off at chapter 18 back at the end of the summer.
However, I know many of you are new even this Fall…so let me give you a one-minute recap of what you missed in the first 18 chapters of Exodus.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt…so God sent Moses back in to deliver them.
Pharaoh said no, “So God sent 10 plagues until Pharaoh changed his mind”
The Israelites are then able to leave Egypt…but after they leave Pharaoh regrets his decision and the Egyptian army chases out after the Israelites.
Moses (w/ God’s help) then parts the Red Sea, and the chasing Egyptians, drown in the Sea…
The Israelites are now journeying through the Sinai peninsula en route to the Promised Land of Israel.
And we’ll join them there today at Mt. Sinai.
This all takes place about 3 months after the Israelites have left Egypt.
They’re going to be at Mt. Sinai for an entire year.
All the way to Numbers chapter 10 in the Bible.
In fact, 57 chapters of the Bible are devoted to what happened to the Israelites while they were at Mt. Sinai!
God is going to start a conversation with Moses by recapping what He’s done for the Israelites and where He wants to take them:
(Exodus 19:3-6) – NIV
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
So, the Lord says to Moses… I carried you on Eagles wings…and RESCUED you out of Egypt.
He saved them.
We’ve mentioned throughout the Book of Exodus, that Exodus, while a true story from history, is also a picture of our salvation with Christ.
That we were also delivered, rescued from our slavery to sin.
And when you get saved as a Christian, one of the next things you learn (from reading the Bible…from the people in your House Group) is how to LIVE as a Christian.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Mt. Sinai before, but here’s what’s about to happen at Mt. Sinai (and it’s what the mountain is famous for):
God is going to give the 10 commandments…and a host of other laws …to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.
We’ll cover the actual 10 commandments next week.
But this week, in chapter 19, God is PREPARING His people to hear how to follow Him.
And so, he reminds them that He saved them…and then…in verse 5…He says, “If you OBEY me…then here are the good things that will happen”
This is a common sequence in the Bible.
Grace comes first…and then obedience.
It might seem inconsequential to you, but flipping those two basically destroys Christianity.
It’s “religion” that says, “I obey…therefore I am saved”
But Christianity says, “I have been saved by grace… therefore, I obey”
And that’s the pattern here in the Old Testament as well.
God didn’t say to the Israelites in Egypt:
If you guys obey me flawlessly for 5 years, you’ve earned the right for me to come in and rescue you from Pharaoh
It’s grace first…then obedience.
GOD ISN’T JUST GENTLE, BUT AWESOME IN POWER
But before God begins to give them his rules for obedience (which will be highlighted by the 10 commandments), He shows the people a bit more of Who He is.
Now, you may think, “What’s the point of that?”
What does that have to do with His laws and precepts?
The point is this: How we see and picture God is a massive determiner for how we will live
And in the Christian faith, it’s always easier to obey, when you see God the right way.
So who is God?
Is this God?
(Show Jesus holding Lamb photo)
Yes, that’s what God is like.
He loves you
Cares for you.
Finds you when you’re lost
Forgives you when you make mistakes.
But is that all there is to God?
No, certainly there are many more aspects of His character…
And many of them look quite different than that
Let’s continue in our passage because God is going to give them another look at WHO HE IS before he tells them HOW TO LIVE.
(Exodus 19:9-19) – NIV
9 The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. 13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”
14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
Okay, so think about this…Imagine you’re there:
God is coming down the mountain to meet with you.
There’s thunder & lightning, fire & smoke, the whole mountain trembles (so the ground is probably shaking beneath your feet)…
There’s a loud trumpet that appears to just be playing from heaven somewhere…and then when Moses speaks, the super loud audible voice of God answers him back.
You better hope you went to the bathroom ahead of time.
So who is God?
Is it Jesus holding the lamb (show Jesus photo again)
Or is it “God of the Trembling Mountain?” (Show mountain photo)
Which is it?
It’s not a contradiction…but both.
(back to Message Title Screen)
Just as there are many unique aspects to your personality that make you WHO you are…the same is true with God.
You may be funny, but also ultra serious…and if you were just one of those things…it wouldn’t really be you.
If God is just Jesus holding the lamb…He’s not much of a God.
Kind of puny…hard to take serious at times…it seems like He would even care if you didn’t anything wrong
“You just be you…I love you”
And if God is just the “God of the trembling mountain”…He’s not much of a God either.
It’s hard to see the love and kindness in it.
But He IS both.
Even Jesus (because He’s God’s Son) is both
Just the other day, I was reading the Bible to my kids (like we do every night before bed), and we were reading about Jesus flipping over the tables in the temple and my son Jeremiah said, “Daddy, Did Jesus make a bad choice by knocking down all the tables?”
He was struggling, like most of us, to incorporate that picture of God…into the one where Jesus holds the lamb (which is a typical children’s bible version of Jesus)
By the way, most cultures throughout history, have had a harder time incorporating the “Jesus & the Lamb” picture in…than the “God of the trembling mountain” picture in to their view of God.
And not only is Jesus a good example of what it means to be both loving and strong…surprisingly, even our American conception of what the perfect Father figure is looks similar to that.
We want our dads to be gentle and loving, playful and forgiving.
But if you’re 6 years old, and some teenager in the neighborhood starts bulling you and grabbing you by the back of your shirt, you want your dad to come by, tap that kid on the shoulder, and say, “HEY! GET OUT OF HERE…NOW!”
You don’t want him to say, “It’s okay…everyone can do what they feel is right”
We want our fathers to be loving AND strong
IT’S EASIER TO OBEY WHEN YOU SEE GOD THE RIGHT WAY
So how exactly is this strong image of God…the image of “God of the trembling mountain”…helpful to us?
Well, first of all, remember the context of what’s happening in the Bible right now.
God is putting on a show (with the trembling mountain)…as a precursor to giving the 10 commandments and “the law” (for how to live)
He very specifically and purposefully wants to show the people who He is.
Because when you see God the right way, it’s always easier to obey
And when we understand that picture of God (“God of the trembling mountain), we’re more likely to fear the consequences of disobedience.
Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, that sounds a bit intense…or archaic…or authoritarian.
In Western society, phrases like those make us feel all sorts of uncomfortable
But let’s bravely look at what the God’s Word says here.
Skip ahead a chapter…to right after God finishes speaking the 10 commandments (which chronologically take place MINUTES after our chapter 19 does today)
(Exodus 20:18-20) – NIV - KEEP UP UNTIL IT SAYS TO GO BACK TO MESSAGE SLIDE
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
That’s an important phrase that we, as modern people, simply do not understand well…because we don’t like how it fits with “Jesus holding the lamb”
But remember, that’s not ALL that God is…
And it will be easier to obey if you understand God the right way
So what exactly are we supposed to fear?
Look at verse 20…there are two very different types of fear here…and the Bible often talks about these TWO types of fear.
The first…is where it says… “Do not be afraid.” (Don’t Fear)
Yes, God Himself is coming down with thunder and fire…
But if you’re a believer, the teaching of Scripture (and this verse) is that you don’t need to fear that He’ll disown you
No, his perfect love drives out our fear of eternal judgment…because we know our salvation is secure…there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
“My God loves me, and whatever the world brings…I don’t need to fear”
HOWEVER, the second fear listed (at the end of the verse) is different
Here, we are told that we should fear the earthly consequences of our sin…
So, the true “fear of God” is not cowering from God…it’s an awe and a respect for His Words…
That they are to be SO trusted, and valued as SO important, that we should literally fear not listening to them.
Walking with God is like visiting the Grand Canyon.
Did you know, by the way, that an average of 4 to 5 people die every year while visiting the Grand Canyon?
Mostly from, what tourist websites describe as… “overly zealous photographic endeavors” (think “selfie on the other side of the guard rail”)
The Bible is saying, God is telling you at the Grand Canyon of choices, “Don’t walk on the other side of the guard rail!”
And if God is telling me that, I’m going to have some healthy respect for those words
But my obedience to those words is also grounded in how I look at the person who’s saying them.
If I’m at the Grand Canyon, and some guy cuddling a lamb walks by and says, “Hello beloved. Did you see the guardrails? Did I say I love you? … I might think, “Pst, whatever cuddly lamb guy…you don’t know anything anyway!”
I honestly think one of the reasons modern people are so likely to trust in their own ideas about morality and how we should live (rather than God’s commandments) are in part because many of us think of God that way.
“Why do I even need to listen to cuddly old Jesus from 2,000 years ago?
“He probably doesn’t even understand the complexities of modern living…like I do”
But think of how the Grand Canyon illustration changes if we throw in a different character.
What if muscled man walks up to you, and you see that he’s the chief park ranger, and He says, in a deep voice: “HEY! DON’T GO BY THE GUARD RAIL”
I’m going to say, “Yes sir!!”
And I’m not going anywhere near that thing.
This is closer to what’s happening in Exodus 19 before God lays down his commandments.
I’m guessing as the Israelites were listening to the trumpet blowing from heaven while the ground shook below their feet from the trembling mountain…
I’m guessing that when God, immediately thereafter started sharing the 10 commandments with them…I’m guessing they thought, “Yeah, you’re right. I trust YOU! YOU’RE THE ONE I TRUST!”
God is displaying Himself in that manner so they can see how Big and how Trustworthy He is.
And so many of us don’t trust God (we don’t have absolutely belief in his Word) because we just don’t picture Him as all that awesome or majestic.
Maybe God has been putting some conviction on your heart lately to cut something out of your life…
Or to take a risk and be obedient in something He’s been calling you to.
But if your picture of God is rather wimpy…you won’t obey.
Or if you’re in need of help…many of us won’t call on Him…until we think we’re out of options. “Oh, I suppose maybe that shepherd could help me”
Author and Pastor Timothy Keller explains how a teacher in one of his classes at his church drastically changed his view of God…back when he was 20 years old.
The teacher said, "Let's assume the distance between the earth and the sun (92 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of this sheet of paper.
If that is the case, then the distance between the earth and the next nearest star would be a stack of papers…70 feet high (taller than this room).
And the diameter of our galaxy would be a stack of papers…310 miles high."
Then Keller's teacher added, "And our galaxy…is just a speck of dust in the universe.
YET…Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power."
Finally, the teacher asked her students, "Now, is this the kind of person you ask into your life to be your assistant?"
And is this the kind of person…when God says, “Live your life this way…love people this way…live by these principles…”
That we ought to say, “Pst…I don’t know if I agree”
No, if we understood the sheer awesomeness and majesty of God, it would indeed be easier to trust Him would it not?
That’s the Biblical principal of Exodus 19.
It’s easier to obey when you see God the right way.
Now, ideally, in our Christian walks, the Holy Spirit is moving so mightily, that we just crave righteousness.
But, I find life doesn’t always work that way.
But what if you find yourself craving sin and disobedience instead?
In that case, know that it’s okay, in fact it’s Godly, to think, “If I break one of the 10 commandments, and say, commit adultery, that will completely blow up my entire life…according to how God has ordered how life works…and I “fear the earthly consequences of that”…so I’m going to stay as far away from that as possible”
That’s what the Bible would call “good fear.”
Nowadays, we have this odd conception that all fear is bad.
But that’s not true.
That’s why the Bible talks so much about Fear of the Lord.
And we oughta have fear of the Lord…even in the little things in life.
Let me give you an example that those of you in the workplace might see often
Last year, as we worked a lot on our land deal, I had to work with a ton of different people (surveyors, realtors, city workers, contractors, bankers, lawyers, and a lot more)
Some were amazing, but I couldn’t believe how many times it was recommended to me that I just lie.
Not outright of course…
But all too often we would face a little obstacle and some person we were working with would recommend, “Meh, just say this (a little white lie), and it’ll keep the process going and get you guys where you need to go”
And I’d always say, “no, I’m not going to lie”
And not just because “I shouldn’t lie” but also because I truly believe…in fact, I fear, the natural consequences of sin.
You might think it’ll work out better for us if we do that…but I don’t.
I want to operate in a manner that God is going to bless.
That’s not just “Fear of the Lord” …that could also be called “trust”… “Trust in God’s ways”
Fear of sin and Trust in God are just opposite sides of the same coin
And we’re shown the “God of the trembling mountain” not just so we’ll fear falling over the guard rail, but also so we can instead enjoy the view
God doesn’t just want obedience for obedience sake.
“His desire that you fear what’s on the other side of the guardrail (that you respect his commandments) is born out of a desire for you to prosper.
Think of it this way:
If you see your 3-year-old wandering out into the middle of the road…you might even shout their name so loud that they’re startled and stop.
They might even cry and say, “Why did you yell at me?”
It’s a good question.
They’re asking: “Why were you thundering like a trembling mountain?!”
Because…you want them to FEAR…so that…they can prosper…and live.
And that’s what God wants for you
In Moses’ retelling of the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy chapter 5, he tells us that afterwards God also said this:
(Deuteronomy 5:29-33) – NIV
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
30 “Go, tell them to return to their tents. 31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.” 32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Do you see God’s heart?
He wants you to fear disobedience…because like a good parent or a teenager…He knows it will be so hurtful to your heart.
This is a God that cares so deeply for you (He sent His son for you)
And He wants you live and prosper.
And one of the best things you can do…is to Keep diving into the Bible.
Keep learning about who He is.
Because it’s easier to obey when you see God the right way.
Let me pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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