Sunday, March 29, 2009

Approaching a Holy God

This week, I was driving quietly along without my children, listening to Nichole Nordeman’s This Mystery. Although I’ve heard the songs on this album many times over the past couple of months, the words of her song “Tremble” suddenly caught my attention. The two verses of this song question how we approach God:

“Have I come too causually? / Because it seems to me / There's something I've neglected / How does one approach a Deity / with informality / And still protect the Sacred? / 'Cause you came and chose to wear the skin of all of us / And it's easy to forget You left a throne….What a shame to think that I'd appear / Even slightly cavalier / In the matter of salvation / Do I claim this gift You freely gave / As if it were mine to take / With such little hesitation? / 'Cause you came and stood among the very least of us / And it's easy to forget you left a throne.”

Then, in between these verses, her chorus rings out, “Oh, let me not forget to tremble / Oh, let me not forget to tremble / Face down on the ground do I dare / To take the liberty to stare at you / Oh, let me not, / Oh, let me not forget to tremble.”

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear of God was very real throughout the Old Testament—even pagan nations feared the God of the Israelites. But, fear of God isn’t something you hear too much of in America today. Modern-day Christianity has focused so much on God’s mercy and love that it has failed to help Christians understand God’s complete character and all His attributes. Fear of God isn't popular. Yes, God wants a personal relationship with us where we call him Abba Father; He wants us to love Him. But what most of the pulpits of America don’t say is that God also desires and commands our respect and reverence.

Our God is holy. There are so many verses in the Bible espousing this particular attribute. Psalm 145:17 says, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” I Samuel 2:2 says, “There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” I Peter 1:16 says, “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” But, do we really know what “holiness” means? Do we really know how or why this particular attritube of God should affect our approach to Him?

Merriam-Webster defines holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” How should we approach A God who is completely worthy? Completely good? Completely righteous? The answer—with respect, reverence, fear, and trembling.

In the Old Testament, the best example of this comes Isaiah 6:1-5. When the prophet Isaiah has a vision of the Lord enthroned, he trembles at God’s holiness: “In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (my italics). Did you notice that the very foundations of the temple trembled at God’s voice?

The New Testament continues to impart our need as Christians to approach God in fear and reverence. In Luke 12:5, Jesus, Himself says, “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: ‘Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.’” 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” Acts 9:31 tells us the first church was “walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.

Fear, then, should be a part of every Christian’s relationship with God. A healthy fear of God should lead us to revere and respect Him. In fact, Merriam-Webster says one definition of fear is just that: “as to have a reverential awe of.” Love of God and reverence of God are not mutually exclusive ideas. God demands both. Granted, 1 John 4:17 says, “perfect love casts out fear,” but here, John is merely saying that Christians don’t need to be afraid of God. This does not mean we as God’s children don’t have to obey Him or that we are on equal terms in our relationship with Him…or that we don’t need to respect and revere Him, to “fear” Him. God is still holy and the sole authority.

If you do not have a sense of reverence and awe about God, ask yourself why not? Without proper fear of the Lord, you cannot have the relationship with Him that He desires. A healthy fear of God should leave you in such awe of His holiness and His saving grace as well as an understanding of your total sinfulness without Him that you desire to serve Him, to follow His commands, to accept Him as the sole authority over your life. Ask yourself this week if you truly fear God. Are you following all His commands out of love and reverence?

Oh, let us not forget to tremble.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. I'm so humbled that somebody would find my posts worth reading. Thank you much, and I hope you find something that leads you to a deeper relationship with Jesus.