“You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'” (Exodus 19:12)
As I noted yesterday, Mount Sinai was considered holy only because and only when the Presence of the Almighty was there. It is similar to when Moses encountered God in the Burning Bush; he was told to remove his shoes because the ground he was upon considered holy. What made it holy? The Presence of the Holy One sanctified the ground that was kissed by His Presence.
Rabbinically, it is understood that the Sinai experience was to serve as a precursor of what the Sanctuary was to be in the life of the Hebrew people. In dramatic fashion, they were to understand that the Creator of all was among them and, consequently, there was a certain standard of behavior expected of them. To amplify the connection between the Sanctuary and Sinai, commentary suggests that the foot of the mountain, where the people were, corresponded to the courtyard gate. The mountain itself corresponded to the interior of the Courtyard. The cloud, where Moses stood, corresponded to the Holy Place and the thick cloud corresponded to the Holy of Holies.
The point is that the Holy One desired to dwell among His people and challenged them to be a set apart people — a holy nation. They would be a holy people because He resided with them and if they committed themselves to live according to His holy standards. To approach the Almighty meant that they had to abandon certain deeds and attitudes that would be regarded as unclean and the ways of the nations. That standard has not changed. God still expects us to deny ourselves if we wish to draw closer to Him.
In a manner of speaking, the message of the Bible boils down to this: God is committed to having a relationship with us and is looking for those who are desperate to have a relationship with Him. He made His position clear when He sent His Son to pay the price for our transgressions. As far as our commitment to this relationship, it is up to us to make clear where we stand. Will we seek Him with all of our heart or just part of it? Are we content to stand at the courtyard gate and go no further or do we desire to dwell beneath His wings in the Most Holy Place? What far are you willing to go?
Blessings and Shalom,