On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.” -Exodus 19:16-19
God was about to teach His law to His people. For the Israelites were called to be sanctified—set apart—unlike surrounding nations. You may read Exodus 19:16-25 here: Bible Gateway.
A storm in Scripture often symbolizes God’s power and awesome presence (Ps. 18:1-15; 29; Hab. 3:1-16). Darkness, lightning and thunder, and earthquake and fire manifest God’s greatness.
God’s manifestation on Mt. Sinai not only portrays His holiness, power, and purity, but also the separation that He demands between Himself and sin. The combination of washing their clothes, keeping their distance from Sinai, and witnessing the storm must have left a great impression on the Israelites’ sinfulness and God’s grand holiness. Not only did the Israelites tremble with fear, but Moses also admitted his own fear (Heb. 12:21; Deut. 9:19). And rightfully so, for “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). Only as the people revered God and obeyed could they truly be God’s holy nation and enjoy the privileges of being a kingdom of priests.
What does it mean to have “the fear of God”? GotQuestions.org. explains this concept well.
For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” This reverence and awe is exactly what the fear of God means for Christians. This is the motivating factor for us to surrender to the Creator of the Universe. (You may read the entire post here: “What does it mean to have the fear of God?”)
Have a great week!