Mostly, I am glad for the informality of the society in which I live. 30 years ago, a white shirt, jacket, and tie were ‘the rule’ for office and pulpit. I now wear my blue jeans and cowboy boots even on Sunday mornings. Mostly titles and honorifics are a thing of the past. I like being more approachable, the first name basis, that we now enjoy. There is, however, an area of concern. Our casual interaction with one another spills over into our relationship with God and the fear of the LORD is too often lost on us when we rob God of His majesty, imagining Him to be tame and safe. Is He?
When the people of God were on their way to the Promised Land, they made a stop at Mt. Sinai, where God met Moses to give the Law. It was a terrifying encounter with the Holy One. “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.” (Exodus 19:16-19, NIV)
If you are ready to remind me that we don’t live at Mt. Sinai any longer, that we are brought, by Jesus, into the Presence of God, I will not argue. Jesus has opened the way to knowing God, beyond the old ways, by presenting Himself as our sacrifice and tearing down the curtain between ordinary people and the Holy of Holies. Yet, He remains the Holy God of Glory and we approach Him in confidence, with reverence. The inspired Word teaches us that we are not cowering under the dread that came with the Law, but we are worshipping a God Who remains ‘the great I AM.’
Read this text prayerfully. “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. … At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12)
We make a costly mistake when we decide that our God is “the Big Guy in the sky.” Jesus is our Brother, He offers us love, and there is ‘no more condemnation.’ Yet, He remains the Almighty. Let’s not confuse true reverence with politeness or religious form. God reveals Himself as our Father so we will come to Him in conversational prayer with love. We need not use the “Thee’s and Thou’s” of another era as we address Him. That is not what He desires. The true fear of the Lord is shown in our deep humility, in our unquestioning faith, in our quick obedience. For all of our love of the informal, there is a need to ponder His majesty so that we will offer adoration, open our hearts in honest confession, and make petitions that rest on His amazing power to act in ways that are beyond our imagination.
This holy, majestic God comes to live in you and me, the Spirit making us His holy temples. Are you living in ways that are worthy of Him? “Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT)
When was the last time you sat in the Presence of the Lord and sensed His awesomeness, falling silent, or even moved to tears? I make no argument for turning God into a remote, unapproachable Person. Jesus Christ loves us. He walks with us. The Holy Spirit comforts us. Yet, we need a real awe which Proverbs reminds us is the fountainhead of wisdom! “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Let us not forget that the same Jesus who held children in his arms, who extended forgiveness to an adulterous woman, and who fed hungry crowds, is also revealed in this fearsome imagery – “in a robe and gold breastplate, hair a blizzard of white, Eyes pouring fire-blaze, both feet furnace-fired bronze, His voice a cataract, right hand holding the Seven Stars, His mouth a sharp-biting sword, his face a perigee sun.” (Revelation 1:13-16, The Message) When John saw this vision he reports “I fell at his feet as dead.” (Revelation 1:17, NLT) Jesus touched John and told him not to be overcome with terror!
Here is a word from the Word. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. … what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4, NIV)
Abba, (Heavenly Father) how I thank You that You tell me of Your love.
I am overwhelmed with the thought that You choose to bring me near.
Teach me to love You acceptably, to revere You even as I know You as my Father.
Move me, with the knowledge of Your Holy Majesty, to trust You fully,
To obey You readily, to live with deep assurance in days of uncertainty.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.