Editor’s note: The following devotion was written by Lyle Mattson:
In my devotional period every day, I read one chapter of the Bible. Today, I am on Matthew 6, which begins:
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:” Matt 5:1-2 LSB
As I read this, my mind wandered back to the first time God came to deliver the Law:
“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain.” Exodus 19:16-20 LSB
The same God, the same Law—yet there are two very contrasted presentations. The first giving of the Law was met with trepidation primarily because of the presentation—the second giving was met with trepidation strictly because of the content. The disciples came that day with what they thought was a fairly complete understanding of God and of God’s Law. When Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew writes:
“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Matt 7:28 LSB
Why were they astonished? These knew the Law—many there that day had probably memorized the words handed down by Moses on Mount Sinai amidst the thunder and lightning. In fact, if we had been there that day and taken a survey before Jesus spoke, as to how many wanted to hear more about the Law—most probably would have responded with a bored, “No, thank you—we know all about the Law—we want to hear more about the Messiah!” Yet Jesus spoke of the Law and the people left that day with a new impression—the Law was not difficult to obey—it was downright impossible! And that is exactly what Jesus wanted them to leave with that day. Jesus didn’t come to redeem good people—He came to redeem the lost, the hopeless, the destitute, the condemned, the sinner. There is no fresher feeling then when we walk outside after a summer storm. The lightening, thunder, wind and rain clear the air of impurities—the air is more invigorating and the zest for life more intense. When God first brought the Law, the Israelites experienced that presentation outwardly—seeing first hand the awesome power of God. When Jesus explained the Law in His Sermon on the Mount, the lightening, the thunder, the wind, and rain worked inwardly on the souls of those who listened. They were astonished because they saw who they were anew—they were sinners in need of a Savior.
Lord, help me be astonished every time I look to Your Word. Help me, as you did on that Mount in Palestine, to see anew my hopelessness and my need for Your saving grace. Amen.