Thursday, November 2, 2017
Psalms 114:7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord.
I love storms. Not so much my wife. Several years ago, as my wife and I traveled home after a visit with family, we saw the dark clouds of a storm to the north and west of our location. We began listening to a local radio station to get updates on the weather. As we listened, we brought up the latest radar picture on a phone. There were severe storms developing all along our route home.
We heard the first tornado warning for our home county when we were 60 miles south of there, and we tracked the storm from a distance as it passed over small towns. The National Weather Service radar was indicating the possibility of a tornado in this storm, but none touched down until the storm had moved 40 miles to the northwest.
As we approached a city that was 40 miles from our home, it got very dark. Heavy rain began to fall. A severe thunderstorm storm warning was issued. We were traveling faster than the storm so we quickly got ahead of it, and just as we did, a tornado warning was issued for that city. We had just missed it. Fortunately, the tornado did not touch down.
I watch for tornadoes and have a very healthy fear of them. I have lived through a class 5 tornado that destroyed the town where we lived in 1979. A single, personal encounter with power like that makes all the difference. You respect the power. You live in awe of its presence and tremble to think of its potential. Above all, you live in profound humility because you recognize your inability to control it.
If all these responses are appropriate for tornadoes, then what are the appropriate responses to Almighty God?
I am deeply concerned that we have characterized God in simple friendship terms, and we have lost the true expression of awe that comes from a proper understanding of who He is.
Consider the average Sunday morning worship service in your church. There are people there who claim to believe that they have come to worship Him in His presence, yet they are more concerned about the presence of people than they are of God. They sing songs but are unmoved by their meaning as they focus more on the music than on the words. When asked to pray, they sit silently and think about other things, or they look around to see what other people are doing.
Far too many “worshipers” are avoiding the experience of the presence of God. They hear the word of God preached but it has little effect on their lives. Their spiritual mind, which could capture the truth, has been shut down by their apathy and insincerity. They leave the service claiming to believe that the presence of God indwells them, but they live as if He is not watching and not involved in their lives.
It is a sad state of affairs in our churches today that the fear and awe of God has been replaced with a friendship philosophy that reduces God to equality with one of our buddies. I am reminded of the quote from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Mr. Beaver describes the might and majesty of Aslan, the lion-God. When he finishes, Lucy asks, “Is—is he safe?” Mr. Beaver replies: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
This is our God: hardly safe, but thoroughly good.
In the 114th Psalm we are shown the awesome nature of God that produces both terror and blessing. The mighty power of God is revealed by His total control of nature to destroy the enemies of righteousness. The wonderful grace of God is revealed by His provision of water from the rock to satisfy His people. If we could choose between the two, we would love to live only in the comfort of the goodness of God. But we cannot dwell in the partial presence of God. If we are to be true worshippers of God, we must learn to live the balance of fear and friendship. We should be brought to our knees and tremble at the thought of God’s holiness and justice. Then, in humble recognition of our own unworthiness to be in His presence, we allow His grace to lift us up to stand before Him as His redeemed child and friend.
We tremble because we know who He is.
We stand in His presence because He knows who we are.
Fear and grace inseparably combine to generate awe of God.
Let that be our constant attitude of worship.