Monday, January 27, 2014

The Fence. By Tim Matsis

Appreciating the oneness of God’s immanence and transcendence

(Adventist World)  While working my way through boarding school, I was told of a bull with a reputation for being extremely dangerous. It was very large and muscular, and charged at anything that came within what it considered its domain. When having to move the bull around the farm, its owners never entered the paddock in person; they did it from the safety of the truck. Sometimes the truck came off a little worse for wear.

Just imagine the damage that beast could have done if it had escaped its paddock and made its way into a crowd, or onto the main highway. Fortunately there was a good reason the bull never got out. Around the perimeter of the paddock was a wire that ran a reasonably strong dose of electrical current! Despite the animal’s utter contempt for the farm workers, the truck, and just about everything else, it showed the electric fence great deference!

The same power that gives us light, heat, and numerous other conveniences was recognized by a crazed animal to be worthy of great respect. In fact, anyone who knows anything of electricity knows that it is to be both appreciated and feared.

Mount Sinai

When God descended on Mount Sinai to meet with His people, He also commanded that a fence be erected. He said: “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live’ ” (Ex. 19:12, 13).

This was no common, social gathering; it was a divine audience with the all-powerful Creator, and God's people were to show an attitude that would be fitting for such a solemn occasion. The people prepared themselves to meet with God by both cleansing their hearts and their attire (Ex. 19:14).

The Bible records that on the third day “there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. . . . Now Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly" (Ex. 19:16-18).

God was trying to teach His people that the great God of creation, who had sheltered, warmed, and led them in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, was also a God to be feared and respected. The God who loved them enough to rescue them from their enemies and feed them with the bread of heaven was also a God who required their utmost respect and reverence.

God knew that His willingness to condescend, to dwell, and to speak with fallen humanity would also be an avenue Satan would exploit by fostering an attitude of familiarity and disrespect. However, like electricity, but with the added blessings of divine personality, God wanted it known that He was to be both loved and feared.

God repeatedly told Moses to warn the people of His holiness and transcendence (Ex. 19:24). Sadly, a short time later His people forgot this important lesson (Ex. 32). The solemnity that was to characterize their worship of the Creator was replaced with revelry. There was music and dancing, and rather than dressing up to meet their God, they undressed. Their conceptions of a holy God were reduced to a statue of an animal—a golden calf. If you are tempted to think that this depiction of God is not so bad, being made of gold, just imagine ordering a portrait of yourself by describing yourself to an artist over the phone, then being sent a picture of a golden cow!

The Levites rightly refused to participate in this degraded worship and were honored by God with the priesthood, while many of those who led out in igniting this alluring but false revival perished. I wonder about the close link between loss of respect and reverence for God and the increased sense of human independence sometimes present in our worship experience ... Read the full article by Tim Matsis in Adventist World

Author: Tim Matsis is a lawyer who lectures in law, leadership and business at the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill, New Zealand. In addition to serving in Wicklow Street Seventh-day Adventist Church church, he has also been involved as a lay member at conference and division levels. He is currently doing further study in the field of Theology and Ministry. He is married to Leslea and is the father of two children Samuel, age three, and newborn son Benjamin.


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