Exodus 19:18 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, the whole mountain trembled violently,
Can you imagine the excitement, wonder, awe and fear that we Christians would experience if God manifested his presence like this before us? This is our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel. We have His Spirit within us and we belong to Him.
This verse describes what the Israelites saw and experienced. After spending their lives as slaves in Egypt, God rescued them miraculously. They were witnesses to the supernatural plagues that He sent upon Egypt. They experienced His presence daily in the cloud and pillar of fire by night. They experienced the parting of the Red Sea and walking through it. They knew that God considered them His.
The experience of the Israelites who saw and heard this on Mt. Sinai was dominated by fear. In response, 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.” (Ex 20:20).
There is a strong message in this scene for us – as Christians today. This is our God and He hasn’t changed. On the one hand He can be frightening beyond imagining. On the other, He tells us not to be afraid. He tests us, far more than we think He does. We experience His incredible love through Jesus yet He offers us the opportunity to fear Him in order to keep us from sinning. I think of the Apostle John falling down as though dead upon seeing Jesus in Revelation 1:17. Jesus then put his hand upon John and said, “Do not be afraid.”
The fear of the Lord must be a vital part of our lives. It is one of the most important gifts that He has given us. It is not just awe and respect – it involves recognizing God for who He is. It is not in conflict or at odds with the love of God that we have experienced in Christ Jesus. It is the opposite side of the same coin.