Moses brought this message to the Israelites after they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the trumpet blast, and saw the mountain in smoke. Verse 18 says they “stayed at a distance” and “trembled with fear.” Imagine being close to an erupting volcano, combined with fierce thunder and flashing lightning. Their fear of God is palpable as they say to Moses,”Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (v. 19) They had witnessed His miraculous power before in the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of quail and manna and water from a rock. But God is not providing for only their physical needs here. This is the setting where they hear God’s requirements – the law, the Ten Commandments. He is now telling them how to live.

“Fear not; for God has come to prove [test] you, so that the {reverential} fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Or, “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Moses seems to be saying, “Replace your fright with reverence.” There is unhealthy fear and there is healthy fear.  Respect God’s show of force, His majestic power and authority. He’s showing you this side of Him so that you can avoid sin.

Even in a situation where God’s awesome power is frightening to behold, He comes with unmistakeable love and concern for His people. He knows what sin will do in our lives and wants to “keep us from sinning.”  Obedience and a reverential fear will help us stay close to Him, and for that reason, we do not have to be afraid of anything else.

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