Psalm 104:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

"SUNRISE" as viewed from "Mount...

“Sunrise” as viewed from Mount Sinai

It started on the morning of the

third day, just as God had told

Moses it would.

A cloud moved in—blistering dark—and swallowed the newly risen sun. An eerie sight made even more unsettling, once the first blade of white fire had flashed and struck the ground. On its heels, another strike. And another. Thunder shook the camp. The earth rumbled and moved.

Grown men dropped to the sand, curled, and shielded their heads. Children ran screaming into the folds of their mothers’ skirts. Women wailed while dragging their children back inside their tents. Then out of nowhere, an unrelenting, ear-piercing trumpet blast split the air. The Israelites covered their ears and begged it to stop.

The Promulgation of the Law in Mount Sinai (il...

The Promulgation of the Law in Mount Sinai (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was the Israelite’s reality that morning. Nothing else. Not breakfast. Not work. Not even an argument. Only what felt like the end of the world.

Moses gathered up God’s people—previously consecrated, clothes washed, and three days pure in body—and led them out of the camp to the foot of God’s Mountain to meet with the Instigator of such holy dread.

But the mount was burning. The presence of the Divine billowed up like smoke from a colossal furnace.

“Go for us!” They cried out to Moses. “Pray for us that we don’t die here.”

Oh, to have the gift of holy fear! To be shaken out of my apathy into grateful reverence and continually be a living and holy sacrifice that is acceptable to God. This is my spiritual service of worship, after all. Each waking minute of each day. A living and obedient sacrifice. Taking every thought captive.

But it is not my clothes that need washing today, nor is it a ceremony of purification I must practice. It is my heart that needs to beat anew with love for Jesus; whose perfect death has torn the veil of separation and opened up heaven to me.

No more fear of death! Perfect, mature love for Jesus expels all fear. But if I am afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and shows that I have not fully experienced His perfect love (I Jon 4:18).

Because of Jesus, there is no more barrier to Eternal Life, for Christ has made my access secure. “And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure (I John 3:3).

Radiant splendor of God, bring me to my knees and make me tremble with gratitude. For I know You will not devour me but cleanse me with Your holy fire. My lips are unclean, and my thoughts are cruel, and my deeds are sometimes selfish or dispassionately withheld. 

Holy God, nothing separates us from Your intimate love for us. Your true children come with confidence then, to the throne of Your fearsome Majesty. We find there countless unexpected mercies and forgiveness incalculable. Our fear is a reverent fear; for perfect love is not afraid of You, Elohim.

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This God Who Goes Out Of His Way, Part II

God forgives and forgets

Over these past thirty-three years, one thing keeps gnawing at me. What physically happened the day God forgave me?

It’s one thing to know I am forgiven, to see that word in my head and “get it,” understand it, even accept the forgiveness handed to me, which allows me to move on. But to feel forgiven and clean…it has stumped me all these years.

This morning I had my nose in Isaiah…King Uzziah just died, right? We’re talking national hopelessness. Isaiah must’ve been pleading with the invisible God to send a leader—ASAP. Kinda like I was doing back in 1979: buried alive in hopelessness, begging God to help me and just as clueless as Isaiah, as to what I was really asking for and how it might actually play itself out.

First thing God does is, He opens this bay window into the heavenly Temple where Jesus sits in all His divine majesty on His throne. Isaiah sees Jesus surrounded by mighty (huge, perhaps, frightening-looking) seraphim whose reverberating worship of “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” shakes the ground, and smoke fills the entire building.

I grew up in southern California where earthquakes and fires are common enough occurrences; I know that panic intimately, when the earth shifts and rumbles beneath your feet, when the canyons are ablaze and smoke is everywhere you turn. I also know how the genuine worship of other believers have opened me up—as if God was reaching right through my ribcage, squeezing my heart for all its forgotten affection toward Him. And I am instantly reduced to a puddle of pitiful humanity, crying, and knowing with every fiber of my being that I am standing on holy ground and brimming with sin and empty, broken promises.

The second thing God does is, He assists Isaiah in seeing his own guilt. Profoundly so, and Isaiah knows that he is without excuse, doomed. I knew that feeling, too.

But this God…He bends over from the heights of Heaven and presses His ear against this man’s as-good-as-dead lips, and listens. Then, hearing the sobriety of his sobs, God steps into this earthbound room and shows the man his specific sin; because Isaiah immediately hones in on the guilt of his mouth. God was just as specific with me. I couldn’t water them down or deny them. I couldn’t justify them or cast the blame elsewhere.

Then God forgives Isaiah and cleans his sin away.

But He doesn’t stop there.

An angel takes a burning coal and touches Isaiah’s lips—the avenue through which his sin had been travelling. The burning coal cauterizes all the damage from the sin and burns away all the guilt.

I think what I felt when God forgave me that day, was the weight of condemnation lifting off me. Because it does weigh us down, doesn’t it? It really is a physical thing. And I believe that that is a gift from God. Just as pain is a gift. But John tells us, “that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

As for the instant cleanness I’d felt…I imagine that was just part of the mystery that surrounds an eternal, all powerful, death-defying, life-breathing God. This side of Heaven I’m just never going to make sense of it. And that’s okay with me.