You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Deuteronomy 4:11
In 2020, the Ecuadorian volcano Sangay erupted. The BBC described the “dark ash plume which reached a height of more than 12,000 m.” The discharge covered four provinces (about 198,000 acres) in gray ash and grimy soot. The sky turned dingy and grim, and the air was thick—making it difficult to breathe. Farmer Feliciano Inga described the unnerving scene to El Comercio newspaper: “We didn’t know where all this dust was coming from. . . . We saw the sky go dark and grew afraid.”
The Israelites experienced a similar fear at the base of Mount Sinai, as they “stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire . . . with black clouds and deep darkness” (Deuteronomy 4:11). God’s voice thundered, and the people trembled. It was terrifying. It’s an awesome, knee-buckling experience to encounter the living God.
“Then the Lord spoke,” and they “heard the sound of words but saw no form” (v. 12). The voice that rattled their bones provided life and hope. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments and renewed His covenant with them. The voice from the dark cloud caused them to quake, but also wooed and loved them with tenacity (Exodus 34:6–7).
God is powerful, beyond our reach, even startling. And yet He’s also full of love, always reaching out to us. A God both powerful and loving—this is who we desperately need.
When has an encounter with God made you tremble? How did He also communicate love?
God, at times I’ve approached You too casually, assumed too much. Thank You for Your patience with me. And thank You for Your love.
The book of Deuteronomy concludes the five books of Moses (also known as Torah or the Pentateuch). The word deuteronomy means “second law,” which describes the contents of the book—a second telling of the law Israel had received at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 20). This was important because forty years had passed since those days at the base of Sinai. The generation who’d received the law and accepted it had died during their years of wandering in the wilderness. Now a new generation of Israelites stood at the threshold of the land God had promised them. Therefore, it was imperative that the law be reaffirmed as preparation for their entry into the land.