TGCW12 Session 1: Tim Keller, On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God

Tim Keller, “On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God”

We’re here to connect women to hear and do Bible exposition, not to talk and think about women but to talk and think about God. This will certainly enrich the attendees but we want to enrich the whole church, women doing Bible exposition and thinking and talking about theology.

Exodus 19

Three sections:
The history and order of grace
The terrifying and beckoning God
The “going down” of Moses

The History and Order of Grace v. 1-8

The history:
From a recommended commentary by Alec Metier
God and Moses basically tell Israelites: trust us to bring you to land of milk and honey yet note that Sinai is further away from ultimate destination than Egypt. God led them in opposite direction and instead of milk and honey, a desert. It’s worse than Egypt and that’s where He meets them. And it is often so. You give your life to Lord, trusting Him with your whole life, and things seem to go downhill from there, worse and worse. You are further away from what you hoped God was giving you. So often in the history of grace: God seems to take us away from where He says He’s taking us. 

Examples: Joseph stuck in prison for years vs Elisha and his servant seeing chariots of fire immediately. Both prayed. God was just as operative in both lives. It took years for God to break Joseph and brothers open to grace: you meant it for evil but God meant for good.

We get to promised land through desert.

Jesus’ example: Surely his followers wondered what good could come from cross? We know of course that the cross is the Lord’s purpose to redeem a people for Himself. Again the way to promised land was through desert.

Everything is needful that He sends. Nothing is needful that He withholds. (Newton)

The order of grace
Metier: three things. The sequence of elements in v. 4-6 is important for understanding whole Bible. 1. saving acts of Lord 2. our responsive obedience 3. the blessing the obedience brings. Nothing must ever be allowed to upset this order.

He saved them and took them out of Egypt out of sheer grace. I saved you, now obey me.

This narrative is the most astounding and largest visual aid ever planned. A visual aid of what? the gospel! Israelite testimony: I was led out and saved by the mighty arm of God and then God showed me how to live out that salvation. We haven’t arrived to promised land but we’ll surely get there. This is the Christian’s testimony as well!

The gospel writ large: Grace, obedience, blessing. If it were law then deliverance we would have to obey to be accepted. Instead, I am accepted therefore I obey. On surface, both trying to obey. The person who understands this gospel sequence is motivated by love and joy and gratitude. Law then obey is self centered and motivated by fear. Christian obeys to get God, to please Him and love Him and honor Him. Utterly different dynamics.

1. You will be my treasure. Treasure: the personal wealth of the king in ancient culture. He’s already treasure them in that He saved them. Yet He wants them to obey into that kind of relationship. When you fall in love, you want to please your beloved: you are seeking the will of your beloved.
2. You will be a holy nation. Literally: a different kind of society. Separate, distinct. Obey so that you really will be different. Example: the ego cut by gospel surgery. C.S. Lewis: Think of yourself less. A holy nation: go live like Sermon on Mount describes and we really will be light of the world
3. A kingdom of priests. Priests are mediators, bring people to God. If we really live like His treasure as a holy nation, we will be light of world and will show His glory.

Christianity: God came down to find you. We do not have to find Him (other religions). The very way we approach God is exactly the opposite. He brought us on eagles wings HIMSELF. He did everything! That’s grace!

The terrifying and beckoning God, v. 9-19
Heb. 12:18ff:  Visual and auditory–Fire, deep darkness, storm (thunder and lightning), trumpet blast, voice, threat of death if you touch the mountain

What is so terrifying about God? Why are the people trembling? We are in such deep denial about how bad we are. If we could actually see what sniveling cowards we are, what depths of cruelty we are capable of, we would die, a “self-quake”. Most of us rest our self regard on our virtue, thinking we are really basically pretty good. Even a sense of the greatness of God makes you feel tiny. Isaiah: I am unclean! Peter: depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!

And yet despite the fact that God is terrifying, He is shrouded in cloud, not abandoning or diminishing his glory so that He can live with His people. Sinners cannot live in presence of holy God and yet He wants us still. How can this be satisfied? One word: Mediator.

The “going down” of Moses, v. 20-25
Moses is the mediator. He’s the go-between and yet people are still terrified. In Heb. 12:22 we have answer as to why it was possible for God to come to them in a cloud. Jesus Christ was the ultimate mediator because when He died on cross His blood cried out: grace! Accept them because I paid their penalty!

Matt. 27:45, 50-51. Here the veil was the cloud, what kept them from seeing glory and dying. But Jesus  was the one shaken, He bore the storm and the fury. We are the temple now. The blessings are ours as well. We are treasured. We need to be holy: look what He’s done for us. Let’s behold our God.

Note: these are my notes that were hastily typed during the presentation. Any and all error in transcription is mine and not the instructor’s. Also, please excuse the multitude of grammatical errors!


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

4 thoughts on “TGCW12 Session 1: Tim Keller, On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God”

  1. Great job! I think the quote was Newton instead of Edwards. My favorite part was his closing regarding because Jesus was shaken, we have been given an unshakeable faith (Heb 12:26-29). So very powerful!

  2. Thanks for the correction. It is duly noted. And my fingers (and brain) were too slow there at the closing. I knew there was an important and powerful statement I had missed so thanks! Yes! Powerful!

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