They say that sometimes the anticipation of a thing is better than the thing itself. The excitement before a holiday, the pregnant pause before an announcement, the vivid daydreams of a coming vacation are all delicious and wonderful and perfect, especially because the reality of the thing, with its drawbacks and disappointments, hasn’t come yet. But before then, what you’re waiting for is everything you could have ever wanted.
Did this rule hold true for the Israelites in this chapter? As of yet, it remains to be seen. Either way, the Israelites were anticipating something; they were preparing for something. In fact, that’s practically all this chapter of the Bible is about. God comes to Moses and the Israelites, reminding them that they are chosen and treasured by Him. Then He tells them that He is going to visit them at Mount Sinai.
Imagine trying to prepare for a visit from the Creator of the Universe, the most powerful Being in all the universe, the One who is the source of all goodness and all perfection. What on earth could you possibly do? The Israelites probably had no idea where to start, which is why God gave them instructions through Moses. They were to purify themselves: wash their clothes, avoid sex, set up barriers, and gather together to await their Savior’s presence. God’s people followed His instructions. The day came. Thunder, smoke, fire, and trumpet blasts announced His arrival. Moses and Aaron approached the mountain (verse 24) and the Israelites waited with bated breath for what would come next.
The Treasures Within:
Know Your Place
For Someone who had of His own free will decided to come visit the Israelites, God sure seemed to be turning His nose up at them. He gave them strict rules for how clean they needed to be for His arrival (verse 11), He wanted barriers to keep them from getting too close to Him (verse 12), and He threatened to kill them if they did get too close (verses 13, 21, 22, 24)! What was that about!? This whole thing, literally this entire thing, from the creation of the Israelites to their current location in the middle of the desert, was His idea. Why did God want to remain so far away from the people He claimed to love?
We as humans commit a logical fallacy sometimes. We think that love is a feeling, and if so, then love is merit-based. We love people who are good to us, or who are like us, or who say the right things because of how all of that made us feel. If the goodness or nice words or similarities cease, the feelings cease, and thus we sever the relationship. We apply these same misconceptions to God. We think God loves us because we are good or because we are like Him – we are made after His likeness, right? If we didn’t have some goodness or weren’t akin to Him, then He wouldn’t love us.
But when we tell ourselves these things, we are telling ourselves lies and in the process avoiding the truth about ourselves: we are the worst. Like, literally, the worst. We are sickening. We are wicked and selfish and disgusting and rude and unlovable. We are like trash, like dirt, like manure compared to the perfection and goodness that is God. God is on a level of purity and perfection that is so far above ours that it has a natural eradicating, overshadowing effect on us. It’s like how bleach pulverizes bacteria and destroys it – God’s goodness would completely wipe us out if we were allowed to get close enough.
We don’t think about this truth that often because – as part of our natural grossness – we live to prop ourselves up. It’s as if we’re walking around drenched in filth, emitting a nauseating smell wherever we go, yet we preen and turn this way and that when we look in the mirror. We don’t realize how sinful we are. We don’t realize how lowly we are. We don’t realize how much we need God. It’s only passages like this in the Bible – shocking passages, jarring passages – that nudge us to take a sobering look at ourselves and, most importantly, the mercy of God. He went out of His way to protect His filthy children from the bleach that was His glory, not because their filth was understandable or okay, but because He wanted to give them a chance to allow Him to remove the filth from them, rather than destroying the filth and its carrier. He spared them, He spares us, and He will continue to spare us, not to lull us into complacency but to give us a way out of this hell. Too many of us are too busy gazing into our own, crud-filled navels, but now is the time to snap out of it and instead look up, at Jesus.
God’s Message To Us:
“I will bridge the gap for you.” Discussing the truth about ourselves and how drastically, desperately low we are compared to Jesus is not a fun topic. It’s not cheery or easy to think about. But thankfully, it’s not the end of the story. In verses 4-6, God engages in a beautifully public display of affection, calling the Israelites His “treasured possession”, “a kingdom of priests”, “a holy nation”, and promising to wrap His arms around them and hold them. Imagine God saying those words to you. Yes, you. The filthy one. The sinful one. The broken, angry, fumbling one. You. There’s something weirdly amazing about Someone knowing exactly who you are, to the core, and loving you unconditionally anyway. It’s better than being known and rejected. It’s better than hiding behind a mask and being accepted. It’s also supernatural, because no one will know the true you better than Jesus, yet no one will love you more.
What do you think? Does this chapter change the way you think about your relationship with God? Why did God write this chapter of the Bible for you?
There Are Always Questions:
- In verse 14, preparing for God’s visit, the Israelites wash their clothes and consecrate themselves. Makes sense, is reasonable, all good. Then in verse 15, they “abstain from sexual relations”. Why? Was sex impure? Didn’t God create sex? What was this particular rule for?