Some people regard the God of the Old Testament as a judgmental God. Yet, in the book of Exodus God begins to make a way for the people to approach God, or rather, more importantly, for God to approach the people. Notice this progression in the book of Exodus about how people approach God.
- In Exodus 19:10-13. God tells the people don't come near or you will die.
- Then, in Exodus 20:18-21 God give the people the law, but from a distance.
- Again in Exodus 24:1-2, God tells the people, don't come near me (implied, you will die).
- Then a remarkable things happens. In Exodus 24:5-11 God introduces blood sacrifice. After a sacrifice the leaders are able to approach God, see him, and eat with him. They don't die.
- After this God give instruction for the building of the Tabernacle, the place where sacrifices were to be made. And God tells the people in Exodus 25:8, "I will dwell with you."
Notice that the giving of the law did not make the people righteous. The blood sacrifice for sin made them righteous. It changed the paradigm. Through blood sacrifice it was not that man dwelled with God, but that God would dwell with man. It is not that we drew near to God, rather, he has drawn near to us.
In Genesis, in Eden, man was near God. Eden was a place where God drew near to man. After God's nearness was established he gave them a law (Don't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). But when Adam and Eve broke the law they were sent away out of the place where God would dwell with them. The angel who was posted on guard would slay them if they would have tried to come near his special presence again. But Christ changes all of that.
After Jesus' sacrifice things change again and we can draw near to God (James 4:8). When we die and enter Heaven we enter a special, sacred space, where we can dwell with God. Now, both things happen. We draw near to God and he draws near to us. The relationship becomes two-way and not just one-way under special restrictions. We can approach God at any time. And he has done more than approach us, he has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell with us, more importantly, in us.