The Exodus 20:20 Insight
It took them three months of travel, but Moses and the other Hebrews finally arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Moses instructed all the people to prepare themselves for God’s self-revelation and the covenant he would establish with them. On the third day, Moses led the people in a procession out of their camp to the foot of the mountain. “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it with fire. The smoke billowed up from it, like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”
From this setting, God gave them his covenant, which began with the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
What was the people’s reaction? “They trembled with fear.” And they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Moses’ response is very insightful. He told the Hebrews, “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.” In other words, “Don’t be afraid of God, fear him; don’t shrink back.” Moses encouraged them to boldly approach the presence of God, knowing that God had made a covenant with them. The fear that they felt was for their benefit, because it was the one thing that would enable them to keep God’s covenant and not sin against it. It was a good fear, a covenantal fear, given to them by a God who loved. He wanted to make of them a holy nation, but that would require obedience to his law, something that he knew was impossible if they did not properly fear him. The fear of the Lord is a wonderful gift from God.