All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Exodus 20:18-19
There are times when I don’t feel very close to the Lord. Perhaps you have experienced it, too. Maybe you have experienced those times when reading the Bible seems dry and your prayer life feels shallow and the Christian music you try to listen to just annoys you. You may yearn desperately for the presence of God, but somehow He seems far off.
It is easy in those times to be unhappy, or even angry, with God. Why does He keep Himself at such a distance?
Remember that proximity to God is a two-edged sword. We may long for the intimacy with Christ that comes from being in His presence but in that presence also rests God’s purity and holiness, the kind of holiness that cannot tolerate the presence of sin. Unholy things that come into the presence of God are sometimes destroyed, sometimes with fire.
There is a reason why the Israelites did not want to be in direct communication with God. They knew enough about God to be afraid of Him, and afraid of what would happen if they brought their sin into His presence. In this same scripture, the Lord sets boundaries around the mountain in which He was present so that the people did not get too close.
Why was God trying to keep them at a distance? Was it because He didn’t love them that much? We know better than that. The cross of Christ proved the depth of the love of God for all time. He kept them from getting close, to keep them from destruction. Is that why God sometimes keeps his distance from you and me? Perhaps. It is certainly worth considering that if God’s closeness is a measure of His perfect love, so is His distance. Perhaps instead of being angry, I could be repentant of all the things that separate me from the Lord, and maybe then, He would bring me closer.