Exodus 19:21 “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish.’”
God is love. That’s what the Bible tells us. Yet, in so many of the places we read about Him, it seems to us like He’s anything but. It started in Eden. It was here, at the very beginning of man’s existence, that God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned them that if they ate from that tree they would surely die. We are told that Satan then came along to say, in so many words, “Did God really say that? Do you really believe what He said? Don’t you realize that He’s lying to you? He’s only trying to rob you of something really good for you. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).” That’s when we are told that Eve took a long, hard look at the forbidden tree and realized that “the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (Genesis 3:6).” You see, it looked good, no matter what God said, so what He said didn’t make sense. How could a God who really loved them keep them from what seemed so good? Then to her, and our, great loss, she disobeyed the One who loved her.
How often have you heard people say that if they could see God, they would believe in Him? I read that Richard Dawkins, a leading atheist, was asked what He would say to God if after he died, he actually met Him. Dawkins said he would ask “Why didn’t you give me any evidence?” Dawkins wants to see God to believe in Him. So, why doesn’t God just show Himself to us?
As in the passage above from Exodus 19, why didn’t God want Israel to see Him at Mount Sinai, which is where this particular account occurred? Simply put, if they did see Him, they would die. God has told us in His Word that no one can see Him and live (Exodus 33:20). You see, God is so pure that He cannot possibly tolerate to look at iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13), i.e., look at it in the full sense of His personal presence. And because we are so full of iniquity that even what we view as “righteousness” is as filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6), for us to actually see Him would be the end of us.
God, in His mercy, tells us about Himself rather than shows us Himself. He loves us and although He “to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6),” before that can happen, we must be cleansed. So, how does that happen? Only God can do it. And how did He do it? Only by loving us so much that he gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins on the cross.
The love of God: it is wide, and deep, and long, and high. Everything God has ever said to us proceeds from that heart of love. Unfortunately, in our sinful condition, we don’t always understand that, and so we frequently rebel. As the children’s song says so well, “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, ’cause He’s still workin’ on me.”
May God continue to work on us, and may we thank Him for the incredible patience He shows us as He commands us in ways that are rooted in His love, while we so often question, doubt, and even fight against what He has said.
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