In old movies with battles depicting fierce hand-to-hand combat, the warrior preparing to deliver a death-blow to his opponent would dramatically proclaim, “Prepare to meet your Maker!” Moses proclaimed the same message – but with different words and intent — to the Israelites he had led out of Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. They were, in fact, in danger of dying if they tried to come up the mountain, but life was the true goal. The life-blow awaiting the people was an encounter with the living God.
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.” “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, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.” (Exodus 19:16, 18-19)
Perhaps you can recall a time when you were caught outside in a terrible thunderstorm directly overhead. It’s quite scary. But add to that an earthquake and something like a volcanic eruption directly in front of you. Yet, magma is not spewing, nor is the rock burning or tumbling, even though it’s on fire. Out of nowhere comes a trumpet blast that grows in volume to be heard over all the deafening natural noise. Although Moses is speaking, you can barely hear him. But he is immediately answered by a disembodied voice so thunderous that it drowns out all other noise. Had you and I been there, we would have been trembling with fear along with the rest of the people. What Moses said next to the people was very important: “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.” (Exodus 20:20)
Most of us will never encounter a traumatic event on the order of this one. Our traumas are man-made, but also fearful, and usually have to do with violence and crises among people, devastating illnesses and deaths, financial catastrophes, abuse of every description, and all threats of loss. Even so, Moses’ admonition still applies. Of primary importance is to refuse fear, as it is working overtime to keep us blinded and frozen in the situation. Refusing fear breaks its stranglehold so that we can see the presence of God, Who still desires to make Himself known in the trauma. God’s love and grace always provides us a way out of these stuck places (1 Corinthians 10:13), and step #1 is to refocus on the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of true understanding (Proverbs 9:10) Standing in awe of His power, authority, love and grace obliterates fear and opens our spiritual eyes to see the test.
The test usually has to do with our knowledge of God. The more we understand His constant Nature of watch care that will use everything for our good (Romans 8:28), the less we will panic and the more we will trust Him. He always shows Himself faithful in the crisis — not according to our wants or expectations, but according to what He knows is best. He repeatedly proves Himself, although He doesn’t have to prove Himself to anyone. This additional revelation of God is so rich and deep that we cannot help but love the One unconditionally loving us. Our hearts should be changed so that we don’t want to hurt Him by sinning.
But are they? Is our greatest desire to please Him, or are we simply enjoying the reprieve from the crisis as we return to life as usual? Time will tell. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)