Do we as a culture have an accurate understanding of who God truly is as revealed in the Scriptures? Or have our imaginations created a “god” of our own liking who never threatens our security and looks nothing like the God of the Bible? Allow me to suggest four foundational attributes of God that we must embrace if we are going to be faithful Christians in an age where people are fashioning “gods” into their own image. These come from Exodus 19 where God showed up in blazing glory on Mount Sinai surrounded by thunder and lighting, fire and smoke, and blaring trumpets.
Exodus 19:16–18 reads, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.”
First of all, the HOLINESS of God should cause us to worship Him alone. Everything starts with the holiness of God. He is totally separate from us. He is unique. He is awesome. He is the Creator and He sets the rules. Exodus 19:23 says, “And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” Notice how God puts limits on Himself. God sets the rules on how humans are to approach Him. That is what it means to be holy. We can’t just barge into God’s presence as sinful humans.
God says, “You can’t touch or you can’t look at me” because I am too holy. If you see me as I really am, you will die. You can’t handle all of my holiness. I am absolutely pure and righteous and sinless and wonderful. Is this the God you worship? One who is absolutely holy and sovereign and dwells in unapproachable light and has the right to set limits and who cannot be seen or you will surely die. A God who is separate from you. Not an exalted man who is just a little better than humans, but a God who is so totally foreign and wonderful that all you can do is worship Him with your life?
Second, the TRANSCENDENCE of God should cause us to bow in humility. Transcendence means that God is so much higher than us. It means that He must stoop down to meet us because we are the creation and He is the Creator. It means that He is the Potter and we are the clay and we are totally dependent upon Him for everything. We don’t create anything. We are not the source of anything. We are not in charge of anything. But that He is the Creator, He is the Source, He is the authority, because He is transcendent.
God as transcendent means that He has no NEEDS! He doesn’t need anything. He is absolutely self-existing as God. Is this the God you worship? One who is exalted and must come down from His throne in heaven and who has no needs and who is sovereign and transcendent and higher than you? Or do you worship a wimpy, puny “god” made in your own image who has to be commanded at your beck and call?
Third, the POWER of God should cause us to tremble in reverent fear. On the mountain God shows His power. The mountain quakes with smoke and fire and lighting and thunder and trumpets. It is a powerful display of God’s absolute sovereignty over nature and to demonstrate His unlimited power. The Israelites cannot even go near the mountain or they would burn up or choke on the smoke. Do you tremble in reverent fear of God? Not cowering in a corner in fear that He is going to strike you dead even though He has every right to, but do you have a healthy, reverent fear of God for His power? Do you have a healthy trembling? Or are you flippant with God? Are you almost too casual with God that He is your buddy and not your Sovereign?
Fourth, the WORD of God should cause us to obey with the totality of our lives. All of this powerful demonstration of God’s holiness and transcendence and fire and smoke and trumpets was to prepare the people to receive the Ten Commandments. Everything hinges on obedience to God’s Word. The Israelites could have witnessed all the power and majesty of God on the mountain and had an emotional experience and felt very blessed to have been part of something so wonderful, but the real proof was going to be in their obedience to God’s Word.
Would they obey Him with their lives? Would they not just listen and let it go in one ear and out the other, but would they actually obey what they received at Mount Sinai? Would God’s Word have a transforming effect on their lives where they actually lived out what it means to consistently follow Him?
There is a huge difference between knowing ABOUT GOD and knowing GOD through obedience. You can cognitively know these descriptions about God. You can read this story in Exodus and see that glory of God and never be changed yourself.
Do you bow under the supreme holiness, transcendence, power, and authoritative Word of God? Is this the God you worship? Anything less is really no “god” at all, but a figment of our imagination and not worthy of worship