When God’s people gathered with Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai about 50 days after crossing the Red Sea, it was quite a show. There was smoke and fire, clouds and lightning, and the blast of the trumpet that grew louder and louder. The people were witnessing the presence of God—a presence that covered the mountain—a presence so powerful that the ground quaked beneath their feet. And when they heard the voice of God speaking to them, they were shaken with terror and they thought they would die. For these people of God, the presence of God was something to be felt, but not touched. It could not be touched because it was both sacred and frightening at the same time.
Hebrews reminds us of another way to experience the presence of God. As followers of Christ we can approach a spiritual Mount Zion, the city of the living God. We encounter God among the angels who celebrate with joy. We experience the divine presence of God in the company of all the saints who have gone before us. We know the God who judges all people and experience the promise of God revealed in Jesus Christ. In this spiritual Mount Zion we encounter God and God speaks to us.
The people gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai did not want to hear the voice of God. They demanded that Moses go to speak with God for them. God spoke and the people were shaken. God spoke and the ground around them was shaken. God spoke and their sense of reality was shaken. For God’s people listening to God speak, life was about to change. As much as they tried to avoid listening to God speak they could not avoid the change God would bring. Some of that change would become a challenge. The people would have to give up individual priorities and learn to live as a community. They would find that forming a community devoted to God would be hard work—that they would have to go without some luxuries in life, but that God would provide all that they needed.
For God’s people listening to God speak, life was about to change. Much of that change would be for the better—they would learn about freedom and justice and mercy. They would grow stronger and stronger in their faith as they journeyed through the wilderness. God would lead them to a new land—a land flowing with milk and honey.
In our spiritual Mount Zion, God speaks to us today. We hear God—the one who judges and holds us accountable along with all creation. God speaks and our experience of life is shaken. God’s word can shake the very foundation of the world. God speaks and we are challenged to work hard, to make sacrifices, to give the very best we have to offer for the sake of the community. God speaks and brings change to our lives.
Much of that change is for the better—as we grow stronger and stronger in faith and work for the values that reflect God’s reign—the values of justice, mercy, compassion, love, and peace. As we work for these values in the world we find that it is hard work—that we have to go without some luxuries in life—yet we know that God will provide all that we need and will make our faith secure.
God speaks and our vision for the world is transformed. God speaks and the world may never be the same. God speaks and we are challenged to be everything God wants us to be. If we trust in God and respond to God’s call we will discover an assurance of salvation and a certainty of faith. God speaks and the world is shaken, but our faith is not stirred.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Rik