The sudden roaring burst of thunder jolted me into consciousness. I thrashed upright as the room illuminated with lighting.
My husband’s voice let me know he was awake. “That was really close.” The whip-up from Hurricane Florence raged, but we could still hear the sound of our two youngest kids through the thunder. The clock read 2:13 am. Once the children had fallen back asleep, I rejoined my man in our room. “That was amazing. No wonder the Israelites were terrified of God’s voice.”
Not even 18 hours before, we sat in worship, Bibles open to Exodus 20. While Moses received the Ten Commandments, the Israelites remained afraid of the thunder and lightning. As we read the familiar text, I noticed a phrase I had previously underlined. Immediately after the commandments are listed comes this passage:
“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ” You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die. Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin. The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”
It is so easy to scoff at the Israelites. Afraid? Okay, fine– but GOD is there. Gird your loins, be brave and endure the fear to be with God. The last time the Israelites had seen thunder and lightning was during the plague of hail in Egypt. No wonder they were scared. The Israelites had the opportunity to go up a mountain and hear the voice of God- to be in his presence. Yet they didn’t, because they were afraid. God’s purpose was to keep his people from sinning, but they chose to stand far off from what they feared. They wanted to know God’s Will and receive his blessing without the risk.
I don’t want to be in the dark place either. There is a lot to be afraid of in the darkness.
Oh, we want to hear from God and get the blessing of his Word, but why the testing? We want to walk by faith, but still see where we are going, thank you very much. I can’t see God’s faithfulness to care for me if I am capable of doing everything myself.
If everything we want comes easily and without cost, I will love God for what he can do, not who he is– and God knows it.The posture of my heart is often to stand far off. Climbing the mountain, taking up one’s cross, submitting to the Lordship of Christ– it is daily and difficult.
As a mother who has faced disability and the threat of cancer for not one but two young sons, I can tell you that the choice to climb the mountain and draw to God in the thick darkness is a daily, difficult choice. Honestly, there are days I chose to stand far off. Facing God makes me face myself. That puts the fear of God in me more than any whooping or lecture I’ve ever received.
In my grieving, I often have time where I am content to dwell in God’s presence but I don’t have the words to pray. It’s much like giving your spouse the silent treatment while still cooking him dinner. I love you, I’m glad you are here, but I am hurting and don’t know what to say. I’d rather not engage, for fear of hurting worse.
Reading the Word always draws me back.
When we have a correct view of the might and power of God against out own frailty, it keeps us from sin. When God speaks to us, we DO die. We kill our selfishness and sin, and putting it to death is painful.
I am tempted to love God for what he has done and what he can do rather than what he has done. If God strips away all the good things he has given me, is God still enough? Is it enough that Christ saved me from sin, even if he doesn’t save me from cancers, disabilities, and the life I expected?
Thick Darkness blinds us, so that we can’t see. We have no bearings. We are vulnerable and lost- we can only have God as he is, not as we expected to see him.We meet God on HIS terms.
I can tell you one thing with great authority– I do not fear the “Shadow of Death” because I have sat in the Thick Darkness with God. That is how I can face the fear of my children dying of cancer and yet still praise God. The Ten Commandments reveal God’s nature and character. To experience God, the fearful reverence for who God is must outweigh the fear of death and all that life can bring.
I’m still learning to hear God’s voice in storms and to keep climbing in thick darkness. The beauty of it is that we can all draw near.