Exodus 20

We recently thought about the 10 commandments in our morning services so I'm not going saying anything about them here (if you missed them, the sermon recordings are here). But as far as I can see, the giving of the commandments is the only time in Exodus when God spoke directly to the people as a whole (rather than via Moses and/or Aaron) - and they did not enjoy the experience. Immediately afterwards they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (v.19).

This raises the question of whether any of us really want to hear God's voice. One attraction of someone else speaking to us on God's behalf is that we can always ignore what they are saying on the grounds that they aren't really speaking God's words.

Moses responds, “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” (v.20). Notice how Moses tells them not to be afraid but also tells them that some fear of God would be quite a healthy thing! This reflects the rather nuanced attitude the whole Bible has towards fearing God:

  • Being frightened of God (because you are unsure whether he might do something crazy or unpredictable) is not encouraged. After all, he is not a tyrant.
  • Being in awe of God's glory, and having a concern not to disrespect or offend him, is strongly encouraged. After all, he is God.

In Exodus 1, fear of God made the midwives disobey Pharaoh; in Exodus 3 it made Moses hide his face; in Exodus 14 it made the people trust God; and in Exodus 18 it qualified some of the people for leadership.

Do you have a healthy fear of God and his word?