God descended upon Mount Sinai on the third day with thunder, lightning, dark clouds, and a trumpet.
As GOD had told Moses, upon the third day, He descended upon Mount Sinai in a manner that was observable by Israel:
16 So it was that on the third day in the morning, there were thunderings and lightnings and a dark cloud on Mount Sinai; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, and all the people in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because God descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the people were exceedingly amazed. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.
20 Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 Then God spoke to Moses, “Go down and solemnly charge the people, lest they break through to gaze at God, and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near the Lord God sanctify themselves, lest He destroy some of them.” 23 But Moses said to God, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You solemnly charged us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain and sanctify it.’” 24 The Lord then said to him, “Go! Go down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to God, lest the Lord destroy some of them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.
(Exodus 19:16-25 OSB)
The details of GOD's coming upon Mount Sinai are significant to the Bible story. They each serve as a shadow pointing towards a later substance.
- GOD's arrival was on the third day.
- The people had to be prepared in advance to meet GOD.
- GOD came with a cloud.
- The sound of the trumpet announced GOD's presence.
As we have previously established, GOD is holy and must be feared and revered. Israel could not approach GOD without purifying themselves first.
It is important to note that the demonstrated character of these individuals likely played a role in GOD's approach here. Despite witnessing all the miracles, from the plagues upon Egypt, to the fulfilled prophecy of deliverance from slavery, to the parting and crossing of the Red Sea, to the victory in battle—these people had every reason to believe in GOD's leadership and providence for them, and in His servants Moses and Aaron.
Yet, what do we see them continually doing? Complaining and wishing they had died in Egypt!
GOD needed to grab their attention in an impactful way. What was about to happen at Sinai would shape the future of not only themselves but their children for generations. And, like the ultimate "choose your own adventure" story, their own choices would determine the ending and how the future would unfold. GOD's coming upon Mt. Sinai needed to be unforgettable, a story passed down to all future generations.