“The earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel” (v. 8).
Sinai, as important as it was, was never meant to be the last word from God or even the apex of His acts of revelation. This is implied in the meeting between the Lord and Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, for we see how the Creator covered Himself in cloud and smoke (Ex. 19:16–19), indicating that He was not going to disclose everything to His people at that time. The failure of Israel to abstain from idolatry while Moses received the Law on Sinai (chap. 32) is yet another sign that as momentous as the occasion was, more would have to be said and done to free the people from their sin and bondage to Satan.
Psalm 68 helps confirm the idea that Sinai was not the apex of redemptive history. This psalm celebrates the work of the Lord in the history of Israel, retelling the great salvation of God in order to lead the people to praise Him. Starting with the exodus and rebellion of the wilderness generation in verse 6 and moving through the conquest and settlement of the land (vv. 8–14), David ends his account with Yahweh’s ascent into the sanctuary (vv. 15–18). This understanding is based in part on verse 17, which is difficult to translate into English from the original Hebrew. It does seem best, however, to render it as the NIV does: “the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.” This is because the immediate context stresses the movement of Israel from Sinai into the Promised Land. God moved on from Sinai; He did not stay there. Neither, then, was Israel to consider the revelation there the Lord’s final word.
When verses 17–18 speak of God entering His sanctuary, David is really speaking of the Lord’s enthronement in the temple on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. With the ark of the covenant as His footstool (1 Chron. 28:2), the Holy of Holies and the heavenly throne room merged, as it were. There God dwelt in a special way, and from there, not Sinai, the Lord would speak decisively to His people once more.
Israel’s unrepentant sin polluted the sanctuary, making it unfit as the divine throne room, so God eventually pulled up His stakes and left it (Ezek. 10). Yet our Maker promised to return to the temple and in the Holy City reveal Himself most clearly in both judgment and salvation (Mal. 3:1–5). This He did two thousand years ago as He showed forth the fullness of His wrath and mercy on the cross (Rom. 3:21–26).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Legalism is the inevitable result when we fail to remember that the cross was the high point of redemptive history, not the covenant ratified at Sinai. As we meditate on the cross, we recall the glory seen in His death and the grace that was extended to us. Consequently, we are reminded of our need to extend grace to others and endeavor not to bind the conscience where God has left it free. Let us show kindness as indiscriminately as God does.