Select Wisdom Brand

A Deep Light

A Deep Light

Exodus 20:20-21

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.

Because I typically try to only write three or four devotionals per chapter of Scripture, implementing a broader, more impressionistic approach to these reflections than a verse-by-verse expositional one, I’d like to jump past the next five commandments and add a few thoughts on the final two paragraphs of Exodus 20 that include in my opinion some of Moses’ richest illustrations yet.

The people stood far off, while Moses drew near. What a line. What a contrast. Moses tells us in verse 20 that the thunder and lightning and trumpet blast and smoke terrified many of the people, causing them to stand back, but there’s more to it than that. This distance between God and these unbelievers isn’t just a spatial gap, but a spiritual chasm. Why does Moses walk forward into the smoke, into the peals of thunder, into the darkness? Why does he feel safe to enter into the foreboding presence of the Almighty? Because he sees past the flashes of light, through the dense cloud, beyond the gaping blackness into a luminous Heart. Thunderings? That’s just a heartbeat! Lightnings? That’s just glimpses beyond the heavenly veil! Trumpet blasts? That’s a triumphal procession! See, friend, unless we enter in by faith,  unless we interpret the fire and brimstone of our trials and tribulations in death’s valley through Redemption’s light, we’ll always be far off, always distant from God’s greatest work, always facing Providence with a brooding countenance rather than a hopeful one.

To the thick darkness where God was. Bathe your spirit in the riches of this paradox, friend! Holiness is too blinding for sinful eyes; Justice is too dense a darkness for souls not calibrated to it. But—the further we ascend up Sinai’s Mount by faith, the further we progress through the shadows of doubt and despair, the more our reason becomes accustomed to Heaven’s light, the more we see! The more the outlines of God’s handiwork appears! And what was unreachable and unknowable and unsearchable for us just yesterday, is—today—becoming manifest.