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.” 21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
This chapter of Exodus contains the Ten Commandments, and these words follow directly after. The people saw the thunder and lightning; they heard the trumpet blowing and saw the smoke billowing out from the mountain. They were filled with fear, afraid they would die were they to hear God’s voice. Moses said no, that God only wants to keep us from doing wrong.
We need not fear God in the sense that we should be afraid God is about to send down lightning bolts to punish us. God wishes us to keep God’s name in awe, and to honor God by endeavoring to be obedient to his commands. To look over the list of commands is to realize we have broken many of them. Is money important to you? More important than God? Then you have broken the first command. Have you used God’s name when you were not speaking in reverence about God? That’s a misuse of God’s name and it happens a lot – breaking commandment three. And the list goes on.
Yet God does not wish for us to be afraid of him. Love God, revere God, honor God and obey God. That’s more like it. Know that God wishes to mold and shape our character through some of the trials and testing we endure, but the reason is that God wishes to keep us from sinning. May God be praised!
Keep our eyes focused on you, Lord, not because of fear or worry about judgment, but so that we may love you and follow your commands and do what is right before you. Let us give to you anything that keeps us at a distance from you, for Jesus has released the power of sin over us, taking it upon himself in the cross. Through his Spirit within us, help us by grace to draw near to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.