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  • Writer's pictureWill Stockdale

Terrifyingly Beautiful

Worshipping God of Sinai now revealed in Jesus Christ.

At Mount Sinai, the LORD descended in power in a way never before witnessed by the people of Israel. Not even Moses had seen God on display like this.

The mount was enveloped by black smoke like that from a kiln. It was thick and black, wrapping around from base to peak. No doubt such a sight was beautiful. But it was also undoubtedly terrifying.

Thunder rolling within was heard without. And when Moses returned from communing with the LORD the people of Israel stood trembling in fear. So frightened were they that they begged Moses to return up the mountain lest they be destroyed. And so Moses returned to the mountain. Walking towards that “thick darkness” to commune with their God whose glory was terrifyingly beautiful.

The glory and power of our God is too vast, too cosmic, too eternal to be limited by the archetypes of light and dark representing good and evil, respectively. There is a thick darkness around God, but it does not exist due to any evil. For there is nothing bad or evil or corrupt in Him. Rather, in God there is a holy mystery infinitely outrunning our finite minds.

John Owen expressed similar thoughts in The Mortification of Sin when he wrote, “Can the mind of man, which is as nothing, do any more but swallow itself up in an infinite abyss?... That infinite and inconceivable distance that is between [God] and us, keeps us in the dark as to any sight of his face, or clear apprehensions of his perfections.”

In his prologue, John writes that “no one has ever seen God” but also that “truth came through Jesus Christ.” As followers of Christ we hold these two things in tension. That our God is eternally beyond us and that He came intimately. The God Who descended in glory on Mount Sinai has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ.

And so this “thick darkness” surrounding God means something different for the followers of Jesus. In a world and life without God there is a darkness we dare not approach. But in living with God there are dark mysteries of his glory that draw us in.

Like a painting by Rembrandt, the dark mysteries of God reveal as much as they hide. As a viewer stands before one of his paintings she must stare more deeply into the dark places to know what the artist is doing. As she peers into the dark, shapes and figures appear and there she learns more about Rembrandt than if she hadn’t pressed in.

The mysteries of God’s glory are something like that. They are deep and rich and textured beyond imagining. Rather than retreat in fear from the deep mysteries of God, we press in to look more closely because He came close to us. And there we see depth and dimension we could have never dreamed; a mystery hidden for the ages, but now shown to us in Jesus. Life in Christ means we can now begin the search that will continue for all eternity.

Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C. and co-host of The Will & Rob Show.


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