A Holy God

Exodus 3:4-6 “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid is face, because he was afraid to look at God.”

On the mountain Moses came face to face with the God who is holy. Ordinarily, Moses’ sandals kept his feet from being defiled by the dirty, dusty desert floor on which he ran his sheep. In God’s presence those same dirty sandals defiled the dust made holy by the presence of a God so pure, so distinct from the people he had made, that Moses was afraid to look at him.

At best, people conceive of gods who are larger-than-life versions of themselves. These homemade gods value what they value, crave what they crave, tolerate what they tolerate, and condemn what they condemn.

We sometimes laugh at the cartoonish gods of Greek and Roman mythology. They are greedy, lustful, envious, moody, petty, violent, conceited–larger-than-life versions of the people who worshiped them. I submit to you that those same gods, minus the cartoon images, have largely conquered and colonized the culture in which we live today. They have made deep inroads even into our Christian churches. That is why, in the name of god, people will defend perversions of every sort, stinginess, disregard for the poor, the slaughter of the innocent unborn, deceit, vulgarity, and worse. That is why the person who tells you to listen to the voice of god within is probably an idolater urging you to make a god who looks like yourself.

The holy God of Mount Horeb is not one of us. If you find it hard to look at him there is a reason for that. He is better than we are. No, that is an understatement. He is everything we are not. He is so utterly true and authentic that we shrink from his absolute honesty. He exposes me, the fraud I am. He sets the standard of right and wrong. He is the standard of right and wrong. He tolerates no deviation from it. He is the only being in the universe who has a right, a claim, to making everything about himself. He is God.

But in his holiness we find not absolute selfishness but absolute love. He lets nothing get in the way of giving his creatures exactly what they need, not even their own objections, not even his own pain and sacrifice. His burning desire to save his people moves him to come to their rescue. Moses was the man of the moment for his saving plan. Jesus is the greater Savior for all people, whose mission to rescue us from sin God was protecting by sending Moses to rescue Israel from Egypt.

“So this is what God is really like,” Moses must have thought as he stood barefoot in front of a fire that didn’t burn, and he hid his face. He is so holy, and yet he comes to us and stoops to save us. He is still so holy, and so zealous to come and save.

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