Come As You Are
Saturdays sure have changed since I was a kid. Back then our family spent most of the day getting ready for Sunday church. You’d think we were about to meet the royal family in person. It’s different today when most of us “come as we are” to church…tattered blue jeans and all. (I guess we’ve been set free)!
Every Saturday the ironing board was set up in the dining room. It’s where I learned to press Dad’s white shirts. Mom’s method was collar first; cuffs before sleeves; and the body of the shirt spread smooth until every wrinkle evaporated in the heavy steam. I balked at wearing shoes for this task, but that was Mom’s safety requirement. You never knew when a hot iron might land on your feet!
Meanwhile, the family’s combs and brushes soaked in soapy ammonia water. Cleansing every bit of dirt hiding in the bristles from the past week. The residue was disgusting, and we certainly didn’t want to contaminate recently shampooed hair. Cleanliness was next to godliness, and I figured these preparations were important to God.
After my hair was washed, Mom rolled my straight, just-washed hair in pink spongy rollers. Curls were the preference. How did I sleep with those things on my head! That was the price of looking good, and we always followed Momma’s rules.
Our Sunday go-to-church clothes were cleaned and pressed as well. Shoes polished. No scuffs. We never wore white after Labor Day or before Easter. (I wondered if the fashion police made those rules). My Sunday patent leathers were buffed with Vaseline until you could see a bit of your reflection across the toes. We were ready at last to meet God.
That’s how I spent my Saturdays as a child–doing everything required for church the next day.
Reading the following scripture references reminded me of my family’s weekly preparations. Of course, it was much different before Jesus came, as strict requirements were laid out by God and Moses before the people could approach God. And always from a distance. Today we live under grace, and I’m very thankful we don’t have to clean ourselves up before we can meet with God. Even though my mother was a stickler for cleanliness and proper attire, she taught us that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He paid the price with His own blood. The following passages show how Jesus paved the way for us to have a close personal relationship with Him. Cleaning ourselves up before we can come to God, not required.
Exodus 19:10-20 excerpts
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'”
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. 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.
The Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish.”
You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai when God gave them his laws. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice with a message so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to thousands of angels in joyful assembly. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the covenant between God and people and to the sprinkled blood which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did.
Questions to Consider:
1. What was required of the people to get ready to meet with God at Mount Sinai?
2. Describe the atmosphere of the physical mountain where God gave his laws.
3. What are some other names for Mount Zion?
4. What stands out to you in the Hebrews passage? Name those we come to at Mount Zion?
What a contrast between the people who were terrified to approach God at Mount Sinai and those who were joyfully welcomed at Mount Zion. Thank God for Jesus!
Mount Sinai was a description of the old covenant’s ordinances and severe penalties. Israel could not draw near to the mountain for fear of death. Even Moses trembled in fear. Mount Zion depicted the new covenant Jesus came to provide. The diagram below gives a simple comparison of the covenants.
Mount Sinai Mount Zion
- Law Grace
- Distance Intimacy
- Fear Joy
- Lambs blood His blood
- Rules Freedom
- Sin Righteousness
Israel cringed in fear at a safe distance from the mountain while Moses talked with God face to face. Today we are invited to come boldly into God’s presence. We have a choice of how close we want to get to God. Close enough to escape judgment and hell? Or close enough to attach ourselves to the King allowing Him to rule our lives? An intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is what I desire. Thankfully, we don’t have to earn our way there. Jesus paid it all.