In Exodus 19 the Holy God comes down; the transcendent becomes immanent. But when God comes down the ladder He isn’t less up. When Israel draws night to the One who is altogether separate, He does not become less separate. God is both holy and present; transcendent an immanent. Between God and Israel, there must be a mediator, and further, boundaries are set with threat of blood for trespassers.
God’s transcendent holiness is of such magnitude, not that it renders His presence impossible, but unavoidable. God isn’t big like Jupiter. God isn’t big out there. God is so big that He is big everywhere. J. Todd Billings has written, “While God is holy and transcendent, he is not at a convenient distance.” YHWH isn’t like the deist’s God, transcendent and forever beyond us. He’s more transcendent than that. He’s so beyond us that He’s beyond our evasion. “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! (Psalm 139:8)”
Yet, although God was there, He remained Holy. He remains other. The holy God is unavoidably present. You have to deal with the Holy. You do so either as a fool outside of Christ, or as those beloved in Christ.
This is not a fire for roasting marshmallows. After Moses ascends, God’s first command is for Moses to immediately descend and warn the people again. We quickly think we can climb without a harness. How soon we are desensitized by sin and behave flippantly in regards to the Holy. Let none presume to be a Prometheus able to steal the fire of YHWH. This is not a fire one can domesticate, harness, or contain. This is a fire beyond the one Nebuchadnezzar had heated seven times hotter than normal that consumed those who threw in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This is a fire, that like those three Hebrews, one can only survive by means of the presence of a fourth, of the Mediator, the Son of God. Let none presume to survive the fire without the Mediator.