Trembling in His Presence

This morning I was reading Drew Dyck’s Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God so Stop Trying. I was moved by the following excerpt and just had to share:

The Bible is filled with kings and beggars, prophets and prostitutes, warriors and weaklings, merchants and thieves. But when they encountered God, or even one of his angelic envoys, they reacted in remarkably similar ways. They trembled. They cowered. Some went mute. The ones who could manage speech expressed despair (or”woe,” to use a biblical word) and were convinced they were about to die.

Fainters abound in Scripture. Take the prophet Daniel, for instance. He could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened before him, he swooned like a Victorian lady. Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After witnessing Yahweh’s throne chariot lift into the air with the sound of a jet engine, he fell face-first to the ground. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord was so overpowering “the priests could not perform their service” (1 Kings 8:11).

New Testament types fared no better. John’s revelations on the island of Patmos left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Rev. 1:17). The disciples dropped when they saw Jesus transfigured. Even the intrepid Saul marching to Damascus collapsed before the blazing brilliance of the resurrected Christ.

How different from our popular depictions. In movies, angels are warm, approachable. Teddy bears with wings. God is Morgan Freeman or some other avuncular presence. Scripture, however, knows nothing of such portrayals. Divine encounters were terrifying, leaving even the most stout and spiritual vibrating with fear — or lying facedown, unconscious.

It may not be pleasant to think about these kinds of encounters. It isn’t comforting. You won’t find the passages of Scripture previously referenced on plaques that hang in living rooms and church foyers. They’re absent from most devotionals and even most sermons. I understand why it’s tempting to skip them altogether. Fast-forward to more assuring passages. But that’s a mistake. We can’t fully appreciate God’s grace and love until we consider his holiness, his otherness. Pastor Matt Chandler wrote, “The work of God in the cross of Christ strikes us as awe-inspiring only after we have first been awed by the glory of God.”

That’s why we need to be jarred by God’s glory. Astonished afresh by his majesty. Staggered by his power. If we ever hope to trade the shallows for the deep, we must rediscover the holiness of God (28-29).

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