Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the church at the beginning of the 21st century is that it seems to have lost its reverence for God. In our day, God is viewed as our cosmic "buddy", who is always there to help us when we need it. It is no surprise, therefore, that the essential features of true worship have likewise become tarnished by our obscured vision of their sacred and precious character. The superficiality of modern day preaching, praying and hymn-singing betrays the fact that, despite all the hype about "exalting God" or "celebrating the Savior", there is a shallowness to it all, and this shallowness is due mainly to having lost a sense of the awe and majesty of God.
Certainly, this is true in the common "evangelical" churches of our day. But those of us who wear the name "Reformed" also need to do some serious soul-searching to consider whether God's name is as sacred to us as it ought to be. We are rightly distressed and disgusted with the unhallowed way God's name is treated in our society and in the majority of modern churches. However, we cannot expect this to change unless those who know best the sacredness of God's name are diligent to nurture and retain this precious knowledge in their own hearts and worship, and to display it to a world that has willfully exchanged it for the fleeting vanities of this present mortal life.
In every generation, God's people need to be seeking to draw closer to their Lord, in their affections, their worship and their conduct. At the very heart of this pursuit is sensing the sacredness of our glorious Lord. Surely, this is the ground from which genuine revival springs forth!
This article is offered with the prayer and hope that God will, with
a mighty arm, sanctify His great name in the hearts of His people in our
A Meditation on "Hallowed be Thy Name".
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray "Hallowed be Thy Name" (Matthew 6:9), He was teaching them that God's name (or reputation) is to be regarded as a holy and sacred thing... that God is to be recognized as being glorious and awesome, tremendously powerful, having unimaginable purity and integrity, unyielding in His justice, yet tender in mercy to the thousands He has chosen for Himself, and greatly to be both adored and feared. This is the very first petition in the Lord's prayer, and no wonder, for a proper sense of the sacredness of God is the root and wellspring of every good grace. The deeper we drink of this spring, the greater the potential for true godliness and spiritual service.
The term "hallow" signifies "to treat as sacred or holy", and thus, in a sense we are considering the holiness of God. However, we are considering it in a much broader sense than is often meant. When someone mentions God's holiness, we think primarily of the moral excellence of God's character. And, yes, this is surely the most excellent, beautiful and pervasive of all His attributes. But the sacredness of God's name radiates from all His glorious splendors... His awesome power, His tender mercy, His unyielding justice, His incomprehensible wisdom, His eternal, unchanging character, and His absolute, meticulous, all-embracing sovereignty, as well as His ineffable moral purity.
The term "holy" is used in at least two senses in Scripture.
It has both a moral usage and a ceremonial usage. Men are
to be holy (i.e. morally pure) in their conduct, but moral
purity is not something that can be ascribed to the holy vessels
of the tabernacle. They were "holy" in the sense that they were
to be set apart from other vessels, to be treated with special
care, and used solely in the sacred worship of God. This "ceremonial"
sense is closer to what we are considering in this essay. However, to call
it "ceremonial holiness" does not quite hit the mark... perhaps
"reverential holiness" would be a bit closer, but even this does
not express the profound wonder
that attends a true appreciation
of God's character."Awesome sacredness" is a better term, and this
is the concept we intend to explore in this article.
God's Moral Excellence.
There is no question that God is holy in the moral sense. Scripture resounds with affirmations of the pure moral character of God...
Habakkuk 1:13 - Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You cannot look on wickedness with favor ...
Malachi 3:2 - But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.
Mark 10:18 - And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."
History has shown us numerous examples of the horror of having great power coupled with great evil. We need only consider the Catholic Church in the 15th and 16th centuries, when so many godly men and women, and often entire families, were tortured or killed for their convictions. Literally thousands of French Hugenot Protestant Christians were brutally murdered on the nights of August 23 and 24, 1572, which began a bloody persecution that continued long afterward. Likewise, about ten thousand Protestant Christians were murdered in Holland between the years of 1567 and 1573. In addition, there have been many godly Christian leaders who were burned at the stake for their convictions, such as: John Hus (1415), William Tyndale (1536), George Wishart (1546), Hugh Latimer (1555), Nicholas Ridley (1555), and Thomas Cranmer (1556).
The twentieth century has produced its own "evil empires". The atrocities of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini are well-documented. The Communist regimes in China, North Korea, Cambodia, and elsewhere have been merciless in their persecution of Christians, and in enslaving everyone they don't kill. Similarly the activities of organized criminals and druglords have produced communities where terror, intimidation and slavery are a way of life. The entire history of mankind is riddled with this kind of powerful evil that produces only persecution, slavery, terror and bloodshed.
God has permitted such regimes to exist to show us how essential it is that great power be tempered by great righteousness. What a nightmare it would be if Divine Omnipotence and Wisdom were not governed by Absolute Purity! How we should rejoice that the reins of omnipotence are securely in the hands of Him who is absolutely holy and righteous in all His ways!
More than anything else, it is God's moral purity that makes us feel so unclean in His presence. God's infinite purity and holiness stand in such stark contrast to our own corruption and depravity that we seek to hide from Him, or to cover ourselves with aprons of hypocrisy and a veneer of self-righteousness...
John 3:20 - For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.God's holiness entails more than just His moral excellence. For example, there is a certain beauty and majesty to God's holiness. There is a certain overwhelming mystery to it, and a certain unapproachableness, whereby we may not draw too near lest we be consumed by it. And thus also, there is a sense of trauma or terror when we are confronted by it. And yet, in all this, there is a sense of rightness and propriety to it all. If God is truly God, then He ought to possess all these characteristics.
Genesis 3:7 - Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
Perhaps we could argue that these other facets of holiness are merely
of God's moral excellence. It can be argued that the moral excellence of
God is the primary or essential facet of His holiness. Even
so, it is to our own spiritual detriment that we ignore these consequential
aspects of the holiness of God.
"Sacred" implies "Precious".
Our generation (I am now thinking of society at large, and not just the church), has become so "profane" that virtually nothing is sacred any more. Marriage used to be sacred, but the ever-accelerating rate of divorce, infidelity and cohabitation has devalued marriage. The latest attack on the sacredness of marriage is the ceaseless attempt by some to legalize and institutionalize "same-sex marriages". There is no sensible purpose to such a goal, other than to insult God and to desecrate His holy institutions. As marriage ceases to be recognized as the God-ordained union of a man and woman in a bond of loving, lasting, committed, single-hearted devotion to one another under God, then it ceases to be the precious and sacred thing it was intended to be.
Likewise, children used to be considered sacred, and the thought of perpetrating violence upon a young child would have been reprehensible to anyone. But our generation has seen a virtual explosion in the number of women and doctors who are not only willing, but desirous of murdering precious, helpless unborn infants. Truly, it ought to be asked of our generation "Is nothing sacred?" Are infants no longer precious in the eyes of their mothers, or, for that matter, in the eyes of society at large?
Of course, this is all evidence of the heinous depravity of the human heart, which seeks to transgress all boundaries, and to trample all that is sacred under the feet of self-indulgent arrogance. Why should we expect these lesser expressions of sacredness to be preserved when mankind has rejected Him who is infinitely more precious and worthy than anything on this earth? Indeed, all goodness derives ultimately from God, and this is true of sacredness as well. If anything has a right to be considered sacred, it is only because a sacred God has designed it to possess a degree of preciousness and sacredness. He has imparted a sacredness to some of the institutions He has made, that they might reflect His glory, and demonstrate to us in small measure how we should relate to Him with a far greater sense of sacredness and wonder.
Those things that are (or used to be) deemed "sacred" to us are things
that are precious and of surpassing value in the most pure
and noble sense. God is the Author and Architect of all that is
good, holy and pure (James 1:17). When we have a proper view of God, we
see Him as being of infinite worth, value and preciousness. We see Him
as being all-good, all-pure, all-worthy. If anything ought to be
eminently sacred, it is our all-glorious God, whose worth
and honor outshines any of the precious wonders He has created!
"Sacred" Implies "Handle with Care!"
We often see signs that say "Handle with Care!" There are many things in our society that require special handling: boxes containing fragile dishes, containers of radioactive material, static-sensitive computer chips, bank accounts, computer networks, high-voltage power lines, powerful construction equipment, infants born prematurely--the list is virtually endless! Generally, these things require special treatment either because 1) they can be easily damaged by mishandling, or 2) they can easily cause damage by mishandling. In other words, special handling is required both for things that are very weak (and therefore vulnerable) as well as for things that are very powerful (and could therefore pose a significant hazard if not handled carefully). Often, "special handling" requires specialists who have received training in the proper way to handle these objects.
There is usually a certain sense of respect afforded those things that require special handling. This respect may take the form of benevolent pity or affection toward things that are weak and vulnerable, or respectful fear toward those things that are powerful and dangerous. We sometimes experience a sense of mystery or wonder at things that require special care.
Things that are deemed sacred are likewise to be treated with special care. Sacred objects often may only be handled by members of a priestly class who have consecrated themselves properly and have received special training in the handling of the sacred objects. That which is sacred must be spoken of with respect.
A person who violates these principles is often regarded as a criminal, and the offense is usually regarded as being quite serious. During the Gulf War, the U.S. and its allies were very careful to avoid striking at any targets that were near Moslem holy sites lest, by violating that which was deemed sacred, they would incur the outrage and hostility of their Islamic allies.
These principles are also evident in Scripture. There were special instructions for transporting the ark of the covenant...
Exodus 25:12 - You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.When the Levites violated these instructions, and used an oxcart instead to transport the ark, it resulted in the instant death of Uzzah, who reached out his hand to steady the ark, lest it fall off the cart...
2 Samuel 6:6-7 - But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.The ark was very sacred, and special handling was required when transporting it; therefore the penalty was swift and severe when the ark was mishandled. Notice that it was Uzzah's irreverence that provoked God's anger. I don't think Uzzah willfully despised the ark, but clearly he did not demonstrate nearly as much reverence for the ark as it deserved.
However, God is far more sacred than the holy ark. We must treat God and His Name with very special care lest we provoke His wrath...
Exodus 20:7 - You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.God is Distinct, Separate, "Other".
One of the base meanings of the word "holy" is "separate" or "different". As we observed earlier, God is assuredly holy in the moral sense of the word. But He is also holy in the sense that He is separate and different from everything else... radically different. He is the Creator, and we are merely His creatures. He is eternal, unchanging, self-existent, sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise. Truly, there is no one in heaven or on earth who is remotely like Him...
Isaiah 46:5 - To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?There is a sense in which God is the "True Reality", and everything else is "artificial". Mortal man often makes the mistake of turning this around and supposing that "reality" consists in what he can see, hear, feel, smell and taste. Because God is not a material object, he supposes that God is perhaps only a figment of the imagination, an invention of man's unenlightened fantasy. But, in their materialistic foolishness, such men fail to see the transient quality of our present existence, and, in unbelief, fail to recognize the majestic Creator behind it all.
Isaiah 46:9 - Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Psalm 53:1 - The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God," They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good.God alone has eternally existed. Everything else had a beginning. God alone is unchanging. Everything else changes with the passing of time... in understanding, power and beauty, and ultimately decays or dies. God alone has infinite holiness, power, wisdom and understanding. God alone is self-existent and self-sufficient. Everything else owes its existence to Him.
In the book of Job, we see a glimpse of how God, from behind the scenes of our earthly existence, is actively governing the events of our lives.......
Job 1:6-12 - Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.We see this again when Micaiah prophesied the defeat of Ahab ...
1 Kings 22:17-23 - So he said, "I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. And the LORD said, 'These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.'" Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.' Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you."We are so quick to think that the events of this earthly life are directed solely by blind chance and human will. Scripture shows us, however, that the eternal God is sovereignly working to bring about His designs and purposes. Truly, He is the ultimate reality and we are but clay in His creative hands...
Isaiah 29:16 - You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me"; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?Man was originally created in God's image (Gen 1:27), and, though fallen, continues to bear a trace of the divine character (Genesis 9:6). Even so, we should never assume that man ever was (or ever will be) truly comparable to God in His character or glory. Consider the great disparity between a powerful F-16 fighter jet and a child's plastic model of the same aircraft. The plastic model bears the image of the original, but lacks the size, power, speed and flying ability of the genuine article. Even though humans bear the image of God, the chasm between God's glory and that of His human creatures is infinitely greater than that between an F-16 and a plastic toy replica of the powerful aircraft.
Isaiah 64:8 - But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Jeremiah 18:4,6 - But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. ... "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel."
When we properly view Him as the True Reality, we begin to realize just how special and precious He is, and this changes our entire perspective and sense of priorities. We begin to see all of life as existing for one ultimate purpose... to manifest the glory of an infinitely glorious God!
Romans 11:36 - For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.We make a grave error when we try to bring God down to our own level...
Revelation 4:11 - Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
1 Chronicles 29:11 - Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
Psalm 50:21 - These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.One of the most important lessons for us to learn is that God is much different from us, in the most wonderful, excellent and awesome ways!
The Mystery of God.
God is so much different from us, in fact, and so much greater, that we could never hope to fully grasp all that He is, nor to fully understand all His ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9 - "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.The various theophanies (appearances of God to men) in Scripture were often accompanied by smoke or clouds. When God led the Israelites through the wilderness, He appeared as a pillar of cloud by day (Exodus 13:22). When He appeared to them on Mount Sinai, it was in the midst of thick, dark clouds and smoke (Exodus 20:21). When Isaiah saw His glory, he described how the temple was "filling with smoke" (Isaiah 60:4). That God would appear to them shrouded by a thick cloud speaks to us of the mystery that surrounds His presence.
Romans 11:33-34 - Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
There is a profound mystery to God, and this is to be expected. Recall the illustration I gave of a toy model of an F-16 fighter jet. Suppose, as a child, you had been given such a toy model, but had never seen an actual F-16. Imagine the wonder and excitement when your father takes you to an air show to see the real thing! When you hear the engines roar and see the jet taxi down the runway, preparing for takeoff, you are seeing something that your little model was never able to do. When the jet suddenly lunges forward, engines screaming, and then launches itself up into the air, your heart races, and then you witness the spectacular aerobatics... rolls, loops, and powerful climbs, rocketing straight up into the azure sky! How does it do all this? Your little model only gives you a hint... its little molded engines are not functional, nor can its control surfaces (ailerons, rudder, flaps, etc.) move. To the little child who knows only about the plastic replica, the powerful jet is a profound mystery.
The point of my analogy is that God is totally unlike anything in our daily existence. When God says "To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?" (Isaiah 46:5), He is making the very profound statement that there is absolutely nothing in creation that is truly comparable to Him. Even though human beings are created in God's image, this does not imply that we can fully know God through introspection or by studying the ways of men.
Our best understanding of God is so limited that it is like the concept of the F-16 that the child had acquired from studying the toy model. There are many mysteries about the real aircraft that are not revealed in the model, or which are revealed in only a very limited way. Similarly, there is much we do not know about God, and even those things that we do know, we don't know in all their fullness and clarity.
In His Word, God has revealed to us many great things about Himself... His glorious, infinite attributes, and His holy, merciful character. Yet, we should not presume that, once we are able to recite His revealed attributes, we have a complete understanding of God. In His written Word, we have His own first-hand testimony of Himself, but even this does not tell us all that there is to know about God, for Scripture leaves many mysteries untold...
Daniel 12:4 - But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase."Scripture gives us a sufficient revelation of God (i.e. sufficient for saving faith, spiritual growth and effective service), but it does not give us a complete revelation of God. This is to be expected, since our finite minds cannot be expected to fully comprehend the infinitude of God.
John 20:30 - ... many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
John 21:25 - And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
2 Corinthians 12:3-4 - And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows-- was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
Revelation 10:4 - When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them."
Children sometimes ask "Where did God come from?" The correct answer, of course, is "God did not come into existence--He has always existed." Yet, the concept of eternity past is very difficult even for adults to grasp. What was God doing during all that infinity of time before He created the universe? Surely, His sovereign decrees, although made in eternity past, did not take an eternity of time for Him to compose. What else was He doing? Only He knows, and He hasn't revealed it to us.
The idea of a God who could create the entire universe in the space of a mere six days is mind-boggling to us... the power and immensity needed to create vast galaxies populated with enormous stars and nebulas... the intricate wisdom and delicate touch required to design the eye and the brain, birds that gracefully fly, cats that gracefully move, bats and sea mammals that navigate by sonar, microscopic creatures that can conquer the mightiest animals or men through disease... the list of wonders is endless! ... And He designed the world so that His creatures would have ample food to eat, and would be able to defend themselves from enemies as well as protect themselves from the ravages of weather and climate, and would be preserved for thousands of years!
How is it that millions of delicate Monarch butterflies are able to find their way each year, returning thousands of miles to the exact spot in the Mexican forest from which not they, but their ancestors, four or five generations earlier, had migrated? Where do these tiny, delicate creatures find the strength to make such a journey? Why are they not blown hopelessly off course by mighty winds, or torn apart by storms? How do they make the marvelous transition from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly? Men can give superficial explanations for some of these wondrous mysteries, but we don't fully know with the kind of comprehensive, precise, thorough knowledge that only their Designer possesses. Until men can create such a creature out of mere dust, he cannot claim to possess full knowledge of this mystery. And, even if he could perform such a feat, he would only be mimicking something that the Creator did first... he wouldn't be displaying the creative originality of our wondrous Maker!
The concept of a God who can carefully listen to the prayers of thousands of His saints simultaneously offered is hard for us to imagine. Even more difficult is the idea that God could have planned the entire course of history, down to the exact motions of all the tiniest sub-atomic particles, and to every thought and action that His rational creatures--both men and angels--would beget. It is equally difficult for us to fully understand how human responsibility and Divine sovereignty can co-exist.
It is one thing to believe these as propositions to be accepted on faith. It is quite another thing to have a full understanding of how God can accomplish these things, and what such a God must be like. Thankfully, God does not require us to fully understand these mysteries, but simply to believe that they are so, and to live accordingly.
Those with the greatest understanding of such mysteries are the ones most willing to confess their ignorance, for the more we know of God, the more we realize that there is far more we don't know. It is like climbing a mountain... the higher you climb, the farther you can see; but as you see farther, you realize that there are other mountain ranges you cannot see beyond. As you climb high enough to see beyond them, you find yet other ranges that you hadn't seen before, far more distant and more numerous, concealing yet other lands from your gaze. When men suppose that they have managed to stuff God into a philosophical "box", it only shows what a pitifully small and inadequate concept they have of Him!
When we have a proper reverence for God, we will eagerly study His Word, endeavoring to know as much about Him as He has revealed. Yet, at the same time, we will humbly confess our own ignorance of Him, and the impossibility of ever fully probing and grasping all that He is and does.
One of the profound mysteries concerning God is the way He providentially works in the world, and how he delivers His people in the most surprising, timely and remarkable ways...
There is yet another aspect to the mystery of God... namely, that God often conceals Himself from human view. This is the great fallacy of Atheism. Just as the Agnostic makes the unfounded assumption that God, if He exists, is unable to convincingly reveal Himself to men, so also the Atheist makes the unfounded assumption that if God did exist, He would not be able to effectively conceal Himself from men. Both the Agnostic and the Atheist prejudice their arguments about God by presupposing something false about God... ascribing to Him the inability either to reveal Himself, or else to conceal Himself. They treat Him as if He were merely an inanimate object that we must discover, rather than the omnipotent Sovereign He truly is.
Scripture clearly says that God sometimes hides Himself from men...
Isa 45:15 - Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!One of the reasons why God is mysterious to us is that He has chosen to conceal certain things from men. "Why?" you ask? ... One reason is because He is under no obligation to reveal anything to us, and by maintaining a certain mystery to His ways, He thereby maintains a sense of wonder and sacredness. A second reason is as judgment upon those who will not accept the revelation that He has given them. Yet another reason is so that He will always have new, wonderful surprises to give His people throughout eternity!
Matthew 11:25 - At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.
Matthew 13:10-11 - And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted."
There are things that God had never revealed to men in the Old Testament, but which He chose to make known to us through His apostles in the New Testament...
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NIV) - However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" -- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.But even the New Testament revelation does not exhaust the riches of God and His purposes...
Romans 16:25-26 - Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested ...
Ephesians 2:7 - and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.What does the future hold for the believer? ...An eternity of wondrous surprises, all revealing the splendor of God, and flowing from the fathomless grace of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Overwhelmed by God's Presence.
When we have a proper concept of God, we will be overwhelmed by it. It is difficult even to begin to describe this facet of God's sacredness without resorting to illustrations, and even then it is impossible to convey more than a faint shadow of it. It is being awestruck by seeing something that is so exceedingly greater and more wonderful than anything we have ever experienced that it produces a sense of shock or trauma at the size, depth, power and beauty of it. In the presence of His greatness, purity and glory, we feel small, helpless, threatened, and grossly corrupt and unworthy.
Have you ever endured a powerful Midwestern thunderstorm? ... Lightning incessantly flashing, loud thunder rumbling and shaking the house, powerful gusts of wind whistling around the eaves, rain pouring down in torrents (or else hail pounding at the shingles), while the weather bureau issues a tornado warning which gives you the uneasy feeling that perhaps your home could be smashed into splinters at any moment. And then, suddenly, the lights go out, and you are left in the dark, searching for a flashlight, and realizing that you may not get much sleep that night. In the darkness, the lightning seems much closer and brighter, the thunder seems to drown out any other sounds or thoughts, the wind howls ever more fiercely, and we wait anxiously for the storm to pass, hoping and praying that it will be merciful to our homes and lives.
We are awed by the power and fury of the storm! It makes us feel so vulnerable and helpless. Yet, God is far more powerful than a Midwestern thunderstorm. The great awe and respect we feel toward such a thunderstorm is but a feeble token of the awe and respect we should feel toward the omnipotence and holiness of God!
The fury of a raging thunderstorm is magnified to those who are sailing in a ship on the sea. Scripture gives us several examples of this. Remember the great storm that threatened Jonah's ship (Jonah 1:4-16), or the one that wrecked the ship Paul sailed on (Acts 27:14-44). In both cases, those on the ship began to despair that they would perish in the storm. Imagine how the disciples were terrified for their very lives when the storm raged over the Sea of Galilee...
Matthew 8:24-25 - And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!"But imagine their awe, wonder and gratitude when Jesus stilled the wind and the sea, saving them from certain death!
Matthew 8:27 - The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"Jonah's traveling companions were likewise amazed when the storm was stilled by casting him into the sea...
Jonah 1:15-16 - So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.In each case, the sense of terrifying, life-threatening awe engendered by the raging storm was transformed into a sense of intense awe and respect for the mighty God who had control over such powerful, life-threatening forces, and who could, at His will, engage them to destroy or, in sovereign mercy, cause them to be instantly stilled!
Have you ever flown in an airliner over the ocean? You can see to the horizon in every direction, but all you can see is water and a few clouds. You keep watching. Hours pass, and still all you see is a huge sheet of water, stretching, it seems, out to infinity. The vastness of the ocean boggles the mind. It is hard to imagine anything so huge. Sitting in the airplane, you can imagine what it must be like to be sitting in a small rowboat in the middle of this vast expanse of water -- thousands of miles from the nearest land -- with no one to help, no way to send for help, and with no possible way to row thousands of miles to safety. What is one person compared to the overwhelming immensity of the ocean?
Yet, the vastness of the ocean is nothing compared to the vastness of God! For, what are earth's oceans compared to the vastness of the universe? Our earth is a relatively small planet. The largest planets are but grains of sand compared with the stars they orbit. But even the very largest stars are like microscopic drops of mist to the galaxies that contain them. And each galaxy is but a tiny speck in the vastness of the universe!
Yet Scripture says that even the universe, as vast as it is, cannot contain God!
1 Kings 8:27 - But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!The very immensity of God should fill us with wonder and awe, and it should beget in us a sense of our own littleness, mortality and insignificance!
And yet, our vast God is not simply the God of stars and galaxies, but of every sub-atomic particle of the universe as well! Once we begin to comprehend the immensity of God, then we will share the Psalmist's wonder...
Psalm 8:3-4 - When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?This thought is repeated often in Scripture...
Job 7:17 - What is man that You magnify him, And that You are concerned about him,The thought of God's bigness should beget in us a sense of our own smallness, and of the wonder that such a great God should take notice of us, or be so kind as to provide us with the things we need. This should cause us to humble ourselves in the presence of such an awesome, yet condescending God!
Psalm 144:3 - O LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him?
Hebrews 2:6 - But one has testified somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?
Scripture describes several occasions when men have been confronted by the presence of God, and have been overwhelmed by it! One such example is Job's reaction after the Lord reminded him of the wonders of His creation...
Job 40:3-5 - Then Job answered the LORD and said, "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. "Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more."Isaiah's vision of God gives us a powerful illustration of the trauma associated with a profound encounter with God...
Job 42:1-6 - Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.' I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."
Isaiah 6:1-5 - 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."The utter, overwhelming majesty and holiness of God is revealed in the fact that "the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke," and in Isaiah's response "Woe is me, for I am ruined!" It is also revealed in the fact that the seraphim, who are the holy creatures that dwell in the very presence of God, require wings which are designed, not merely for flying, but also to cover their faces and their feet. Even God's holiest creatures cannot bear to look upon His glory! This was an overwhelmingly awesome vision of God, which caused Isaiah to feel utterly helpless, unclean and undone when he saw it.
Another example is when God appeared to the Israelites at Mount Sinai...
Exodus 19:16-19 - So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.The terror of this encounter is suggested in the statement "so that all the people who were in the camp trembled." Hebrews elaborates on the trauma of this event...
Hebrews 12:18 - For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling."So terrifying was this encounter that the Israelites "begged that no further word be spoken to them". This implies that the mere sound of the words spoken to them by God was so loud and powerful, and was attended by such displays of terrifying darkness, gloom, thunder, lightning and fire, that it was more than the people could stand to bear. Even Moses himself was filled with fear and trembling! Let these words sink into your soul, dear reader, and imagine yourself to have been there. Consider how awesome it must have been to have been so crushed by the sound and the fury that you would beg that no further word be spoken!
The Seriousness of God's Sacredness.
Yet, as terrifying as this encounter was to the Israelites, it was a profound exercise of God's merciful restraint that He did not loose upon them such wrath as to destroy their bodies and crush their souls in horrible despair and agony. This was a mere object lesson on God's part--a faint shadow of the terrors of His wrath which will be fully loosed upon sinners when He will one day cast them into the lake of fire...
Revelation 14:9-11 - Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."The horrors of hell, as expressed in the awesome words "the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger", denotes such excruciating agony as can scarcely be imagined. Jonathan Edwards helps us to understand the significance of these words when He says...
--And consider here more particularly,The justice of hell is vindicated by the exceeding sacredness of God. When men hold God in contempt, and treat as unholy and profane the name of Him who is infinitely sacred and precious far above anything we love or value, then they fully deserve the horrors of hell... to be trampled upon, by the unbearably crushing weight of the omnipotence of the infinite God, in the fierceness of His wrath and anger, without pity, respite or moderation, for all eternity!
1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. "The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul" (Prov. 20:2). The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. "And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke 12:4, 5).
2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18 "According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries." So Isaiah 66:15 "For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." And in many other places. So, we read of "the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Rev. 19:15). The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God," the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is "the fierceness and wrath of God." The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also "the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!
Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. "Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them" (Ezek. 8:18). Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only "laugh and mock" (Prov. 1:25, 26, etc.).
How awful are those words which are the words of the great God. "I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment" (Is. 63:3). It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
Jonathan Edwards, from "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", 1741.
If someone were to smash an empty soda bottle, we might think little or nothing of it. But, if, instead, they tried to destroy a priceless vase, the only one of its kind, unearthed from an ancient tomb and put on public display in a museum, we would expect them to be arrested and their offense to be treated as a serious crime. The seriousness of their actions is directly proportionate to the value or sacredness of the object against which their violence is directed. If a person ought to be jailed for attempting to destroy a mere vase, how much greater is their crime when they vent their violence against the sacred Creator of all things!
Those who complain that hell is disproportionate to man's sins have
no concept of the sacredness of God, for the greatness of
human sin is measured by the preciousness and awesome splendor
the glorious God whom sinners have so despised, neglected and reviled.
The reality of an eternal hell, therefore, is one of the chief testimonies
to the exceeding greatness of God's glory and sacredness. Why did God create
hell and ordain that there should be angels and men who should be subjected
to its horrors? ... One of the chief reasons is to demonstrate how precious
a thing His sacredness is. If we wish to acquire a proper sense of God's
sacredness, we must be willing to seriously contemplate the awful reality
of eternal punishment.
The Fear of the Lord.
It is no wonder, then, that Scripture has so much to say about "the fear of the Lord". God's warnings of impending judgment are not mere idle threats. He has not only has the right to judge His creation, but also the resolve to dispense the judgment and terror that sinners so thoroughly deserve when they despise His person, His authority, and His holiness by engaging in even the "least" of sins. There will be literally millions who will be cast into hell at the last judgment, and this should be a most sobering fact to us!
Proverbs 9:10 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.To pray that God's name be hallowed is, in part, to pray that we might come to have a holy fear of Him... Not in the sense that those who are truly His are in danger of eternal perdition, but rather the fear that comes from knowing how overwhelmingly mighty, and unapproachably pure He is.
It is the fear that comes from a narrow escape from death, for surely, the only thing that saves us from the dread punishment we so justly deserve is God's mere sovereign will, in choosing us to be saved from it, when so many are passed by.
Romans 9:18 - So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.It is the fear that looks upon our unsaved friends and family members with great compassion and horror, when we consider the destiny that awaits them if they do not cast themselves on the mercy of God.
1 Peter 4:18 - AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?
2 Corinthians 5:11 - Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men ...It is the fear that dares not presume on God's mercy, but which moves us to earnest diligence in making sure of our calling and election, for what will be our horror and despair if we should find that our confident sense of faith and salvation was based upon self-deception rather than upon a true work of regeneration wrought by a sovereign God?
Matthew 7:21-23 - Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'It is the fear that recognizes that even the chastisements, trials and persecutions that God has ordained for us can be dreadful. Consider how Job was stripped of his children and wealth in just moments, and then of his health shortly thereafter. Consider how David was persecuted by Saul in his early life, and by Absalom later in life. Consider how frequently God's people have been cruelly tortured and killed for their faith over the centuries!
2 Peter 1:10 - Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
Romans 8:35-36 - Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."Indeed, we have great reason to fear if we are not recipients of God's chastisement!
Hebrews 11:35-38 - Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
Hebrews 12:3-6 - For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."
Hebrews 12:8 - But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.We should never assume that "the fear of the Lord" is merely an Old Testament concept that has been done away at Calvary, for the New Testament also teaches us that a proper attitude toward God includes a sacred fear of Him, coupled with "the comfort of the Holy Spirit".
Acts 9:31 - So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.In the New Testament, both saints and sinners are commanded to fear God. This is coupled with the command to "give Him glory". A proper fear of God is requisite to giving Him the glory He deserves...
1 Peter 2:17 - Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.And, recall how "great fear" came upon the disciples when Ananias and Sapphira fell dead for lying to the Holy Spirit...
Revelation 14:7 - and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
Acts 5:5 - And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.Surely, the judgment that fell upon Ananias and Sapphira caused the church (and any would-be Christians) to have great reverence for God's holy name. May God grant that we would acquire this same reverence by considering seriously the judgments recorded in Scripture, rather than needing a re-enactment of them in our own day!
Acts 5:11 - And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
The Relation of Love to Sacredness.
A proper sense of God's sacredness involves not only reverential fear, but also loving adoration. If we truly love God as we should, this love will engender in us a sense of His sacredness.
There is a certain sacredness in all family relationships -- toward father, toward mother, toward husband, toward wife, toward children, toward grandparents, toward grandchildren, etc., and each of these is intimately related to the love we feel toward these respective family members. God's position as the loving, Fatherly Creator and Sustainer is the antitype and model for every family in His creation.
Ephesians 3:14-15 - For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,Even more, God is the precious heavenly Father of all His elect people, and His relation to us as "Father in Heaven" is the precursor and basis of the request "hallowed be Your name".
Matthew 6:9 - ... 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ...'Similarly, Christ's devoted love toward His elect people is the antitype and model of the husband's love for his wife.
Ephesians 5:25 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,He is precious and sacred to us because of His unconquerable love toward us, which echoes back from us as grateful, submissive love toward Him.
Ephesians 5:23-24 - For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.There are many kinds of love, and the language of the ancient Greeks had a separate word for many of them... brotherly love was expressed as philadelphos, love of self was philautos, love of money was philarguros, etc. However, the Greek language recognized three primary types of love...
But Scripture views loving devotion (agape) as the highest form of love. It is the kind of love that husbands are commanded to have for their wives. It is the love that prompted our heavenly Father to send Christ to the cross to save us from our sins.
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.Likewise, this is the kind of love that we are commanded to have toward God and toward our neighbor.
Matthew 22:37-40 - And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."Thus, when we have a proper sense of God's sacredness, we will simultaneously have a devoted, submissive love for Him which saturates our heart, soul and mind. God will be so precious and delightful to us as a tender, loving, holy, all-knowing, all-powerful Father, that we will think of Him often, and will live our lives as those who know no greater delight than to rejoice in Him and to seek the things which are pleasing to Him. And, our love for Him will overflow to others as well, genuinely seeking their welfare.
The Relation of Faith and Hope to Sacredness.
Faith and hope are two more graces that accompany a genuine sense of the sacredness of God. Once we see the majestic uniqueness of God, and that all things depend upon Him for their origin and continued existence -- once we see that He is the Ultimate Reality, and everything else exists by His mere purpose and will -- then it should be immediately obvious that we ought to seek from Him all that we need for this life and the life to come.
If He is the ultimate Giver of every good gift, then how can we look anywhere else for the things we need?
James 1:17 - Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.If He is the almighty God who created this vast universe, with all its galaxies populated with millions of enormous stars and nebulas, and who designed and fashioned every creature by His own limitless understanding, imagination and wisdom, then how could we ever hope to successfully fight against such an overwhelmingly mighty God as this? But, if we are His friends -- no, rather, His own beloved children -- what enemy could we possibly fear? What enemy could possibly overpower such a mighty and magnificent Protector as this?
Matthew 7:11 - If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
It was this thought which prompted the psalmist to write...
Psalm 20:7 - Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.... and which prompted Martin Luther to pen those beloved words:
Psalm 46:1-3 - God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
Such trust and hope, of course, has the solid foundation of God's unfailing promise that He will befriend all who come to Him in true faith and repentance.
James 2:23 - and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God.
Romans 10:12-13 - ... for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."He is trustworthy because He is the sacred God who possesses all power and authority and who cannot lie. His sacred promises serve as the unshakable foundation for our faith and hope -- a faith and hope which are not mere wishful thinking, but are instead an abiding recognition and assurance of the eternal realities of the sovereign God and of His unconquerable salvation.
Acts 16:31 - They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved ..."
Hebrews 6:18 - ... it is impossible for God to lie ...What greater basis could we have for our faith than the immutable promise of an infinitely powerful and trustworthy God, who demonstrated His great commitment to saving us by giving His precious, sacred Son to suffer and die as the propitiatory sacrifice for our sins?
Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
John 10:27-29 - My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
Romans 8:31-33 - What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;
The Sacredness of Earthly Kings.
One of the reasons why our present society has lost its sense of sacredness is that we have become so accustomed to democratic rule, and the concept of a despotic Monarch is to us foreign and unjust if not wholly unknown. Yet, most societies throughout history have been governed by a sovereign ruler, such as a king, a dictator, an emperor, or a tribal chieftan.
Israel in the Old Testament (prior to King Saul) was governed by judges, such as Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel. However, even then it was understood that the judge was merely the earthly representative of Israel's true King: Jehovah Himself. When the Israelites rejected Samuel and demanded an earthly king such as her pagan neighbors had, God comforted Samuel with these words...
1 Samuel 8:7 - The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them."So, prior to the time of the kings, Israel had still had a king, and her king was God.
During the time of Christ, Herod was the vassal king over Israel, whereas Caesar was the sovereign earthly king. (Of course, both Herod and Caesar were answerable to God, the heavenly sovereign). When it seemed that Festus was about to deliver Paul over to his Jewish persecutors to be tried in Jerusalem, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to have his case heard by Caesar.
Acts 25:11-12 - "If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar." Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, "You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go."Throughout Israel's history, therefore, from the time of the judges to the time of Paul, men were ruled by kings -- always by the divine King, but often by earthly monarchs as well.
The significance of this fact is due to the fact that the king had absolute authority over the lives of his subjects. The king could command that you go fight in battle, and you had to go. He could enlist you for service in his royal palace, and you dared not refuse. If the king was angry with you, he could imprison you, sell you into slavery, take your belongings, or even have you put to death...
Proverbs 20:2 - The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.As a result, wise people were very careful in the way they spoke about the king, or how they acted in his presence.
Often, there were certain rules to be followed when in the presence of the king, and it was a dangerous thing to violate these rules. One notable example of this occurs in the book of Esther, when Queen Esther was asked to approach King Ahasuerus to defend the people of Israel against Haman's wicked plot. This was a very risky thing for her to do, since she could be put to death for approaching the king when he did not send for her...
Esther 4:10-14 - Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days."Certainly, the king was greatly feared and respected because of this rule, and no one dared to approach the king without having a very good and important reason to do so. Were we living under the authority of such an earthly king, people today might have a far greater sense of God's sacredness than they do. The king's great authority and the respect it commanded served as an object lesson of God's greater authority and the greater respect He deserves.
When the three Hebrew youths refused to worship his image, Nebuchadnezzar became so enraged that he ordered them to be cast into the fiery furnace.
Daniel 3:19-22 - Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.This demonstrates, not only the serious consequences of disobeying the earthly king, but also the greater respect and sacredness with which the Hebrew youths regarded the sovereign Lord of creation. They understood well the principle set forth by our Lord when He said:
Mt 10:28 - Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.The Unapproachable Nature of Sacredness.
Often, that which is sacred is "off limits" to all except those who have the proper permission or qualifications. In our day, we think of security measures which are enforced to restrict access to sensitive information or resources. Only those having the proper clearance are granted entry into controlled areas, or are permitted to read classified documents. Usually, only a very few people have the special permission needed to obtain this access.
In a similar way, the Lord did not allow the Israelites to come near His sacred mountain, Mount Sinai ...
Exodus 19:12 - You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'Even their animals were prohibited from approaching the mountain, under penalty of death! (Exodus 19:13).
Likewise, God's sacred tabernacle had a room which was especially sacred. It was called "the holy of holies", or "the most holy place". This room was so sacred, in fact, that no one, not even the priests, could ordinarily enter the room, and, if they did, they would immediately be put to death. Only the high priest, on the sacred day of Yom Kippur (the "Day of Atonement"), could enter the Most Holy Place, and then he had to carry with him a vessel of blood from the sacred sacrifice which had been offered for the sins of the nation. If God was displeased with the sacrifice, the high priest would not come out alive. It is said that the high priest had bells along the fringe of his robe, and that a rope was tied around his ankle. If the jingling of the bells ceased before the priest emerged, the rope would be used to draw his dead body from the sacred chamber.
Hebrews 9:3-7 - Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.Our sacred God is said to dwell in unapproachable light. His holy creatures may not enter His presence without permission, and His sinful creatures are typically consumed by entering His presence. This unapproachable holiness is God's most glorious attribute, and evokes praise from the inspired apostle...
1 Timothy 6:16 - who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.The brightest light that we humans ordinarily encounter is the light of the sun. It is very difficult to look directly at the sun -- we involuntarily squint when we try to look at the sun, and it is natural to want to look away from the brightness of its light. A mere second's glance at the sun produces an after-image that results in partial, temporary blindness for a minute or so. Those who stare at the sun for longer periods of time may suffer permanent eye damage.
But we should remember that the sun's light is filtered by miles of atmosphere, and attenuated by the earth's great distance from the sun -- nearly 100 million miles. An astronaut in orbit around the earth, far above earth's slender protective sheath of atmosphere, would find the sun's brightness even more blinding, and must wear darkly tinted eye protection. If his spacecraft were to venture closer to the sun, the sun's brightness and heat would increase rapidly. A space traveler who moved to within half the distance to the sun (~46 million miles) would experience sunlight 4 times brighter than when he was in orbit around the earth. At one-third the distance (~31 million miles), the sunlight would be 9 times brighter than from earth-orbit.
Not only does the intensity of the visible light increase at this rate, but the invisible heat-producing infrared light increases just as quickly, as does the harmful ultraviolet light. To attempt to approach the sun in this way would require protection from these various kinds of light to avoid immediate blindness, burning and skin damage. No human could ever actually touch the sun's visible mantle without being destroyed by the incredible energy emanating from the sun long before he even got close! Truly, the sun itself "dwells in unapproachable light", and is designed as an object-lesson to teach us of God's unapproachable holiness.
It is only the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ that enables us to stand in the presence of our holy, sacred Sovereign!
Ephesians 3:12 - in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.Those who suppose that they can be, in themselves, virtuous enough to stand in the splendor of God's holy presence are entirely deluded and mistaken! Human righteousness is of less use than an SPF 3 sunscreen...
Isaiah 64:6 - For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.In order to stand before God's infinite holiness, we need a righteousness as pure and glorious as His own -- we need His righteousness, and this is what God freely imputes to those who put their faith in His sacred Son, Jesus, who suffered and died to purchase our pardon...
Titus 3:5 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
Romans 3:19-26 - Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Jesus, then, is our righteousness -- our protection from the consuming holiness of God, allowing us to enter into God's presence unharmed. His divine righteousness has become ours as well, making us fit to dwell in God's presence unharmed.
Romans 4:22-25 - Therefore IT WAS also CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
2 Corinthians 5:21 - He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Romans 5:1-2 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.This underscores the sacredness of Christ, as well as of His Father.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 - But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."
The Sacredness of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is especially sacred in many ways.
First, He is and always has been the eternal God, the divine Son of the Father.
Isaiah 9:6 - For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.Thus, He is sacred for all the same reasons that the Father and the Holy Spirit are sacred. All the various facets of God's sacredness we have already considered apply equally to the Son as to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Micah 5:2 - But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.
John 1:1-3, 14 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. ... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Second, Jesus is sacred because He is precious and glorious in His Father's sight. If the Father is infinitely sacred, and the Father esteems the Son with an infinite love, then surely the Lord Jesus should be very sacred to us as well.
2 Peter 1:17 - For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" --Third, Christ's sacredness is manifested in the fact that He is the only way to the Father. There is no salvation except by believing solely in Him. There are many religions that pretend to be a way to heaven, but Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ is the only one who can save us, and that salvation belongs only to those whose faith rests solely in the historical person, Jesus Christ.
John 17:5 - Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
John 17:22-16 - The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."Neither Moses nor Mohammed nor Buddah nor Joseph Smith, nor any other being in heaven or on earth, living or dead, is able to save us from our sins. That distinction belongs to our precious Lord Jesus alone. Only He is the incarnate God. Only He suffered the full penalty for the sins of His people and redeemed them from God's righteous wrath. Only He raised Himself from the dead and then ascended to the right hand of the Father and lives forever to faithfully intercede for us. Only He is returning someday to judge the living and the dead. Surely such a unique and precious Person should be infinitely sacred to us!
Acts 4:12 - And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
Fourth, Christ's sacredness is displayed in the fact that He willingly went to the Cross for us. He did not have to be dragged against His will, kicking and screaming. Nor was He led, unsuspecting, to an unforseen ambush, for He even predicted the kind of death He would die...
Mark 10:33 - saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles.At any time, He could have called for mighty armies of angels to come protect Him from harm...
Luke 18:31 - Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.
Matthew 26:52-54 - Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?"But He went to the cross freely and willingly, in order to save His people from their sins...
John 10:11 - I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.Likewise, the sacrificial death of Jesus should be preeminently sacred to us for many reasons...
John 10:17-18 - For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.
It is a sacred thing to consider that the eternal God took on human flesh and humbled Himself to suffer one of the most cruel forms of punishment devised by man, even unto death, that He might thereby redeem His elect people from their sins.
It is a sacred thing to consider that the eternal Father would choose to demonstrate such great mercy and compassion to us that He would make such a profound sacrifice, giving up His precious, dearly-loved, only-begotten Son, in whom He was well-pleased.
It is a sacred thing to consider that God did not have to compromise His justice in order to display mercy to sinners. The cross preeminently displays to us the sacredness of God's holiness and justice. They are so sacred to Him that, rather than compromise them in order to forgive sinners, He instead satisfied His holiness and justice by punishing His own precious Son in our place.
Men despise the sacredness of Christ when they suggest that there might be other ways to be saved--by religions that deny Christ's deity, His redemptive death or His claim to being the only Savior of men. Men despise the sacredness of Christ's sacrificial death when they suggest that His work alone is insufficient to make us righteous, and that there are works of righteousness or sacramental rituals which we must perform to complete the work which Christ began.
The Reformation doctrine of Solus Christus (Christ Alone) is
nothing less than a statement of the profound and unique sacredness
of our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can save us from our sins, and
provide the justifying righteousness we need in order to stand uncondemned
before the holy Sovereign of the universe!
Sacredness and the Holy Spirit.
Why is it that only the Third Person of the Holy Trinity bears the word "Holy" as part of His name? We seldom refer to God the Father as "Holy Father", and almost never refer to the Lord Jesus as "Holy Jesus Christ", but the Spirit is often called "The Holy Spirit". Does this seem odd? Surely, we are not to suppose that the Holy Spirit is more holy than the Father or the Son, so why is it that He alone is called "Holy" as part of His name?
One obvious reason, of course, is that there are many spirits in the world, but only one of them is the infinitely holy, eternal God of the universe. Every angel is a spirit, but still only a creature of God's dominion. There are many unholy spirits, and there are many spirits who are holy in the lesser sense (i.e. they are God's elect angels, preserved by divine grace from sinning). But, of all the spirits, only the uncreated, eternal God who Himself is infinitely holy, deserves to be uniquely called "the Holy Spirit".
I suggest that there is another reason as well. The Holy Spirit is the divine Agent who communicates the life of Christ to those who have been chosen by the Father. It is He who makes the individual holy by taking away his old "stony heart" and creating within him a new "heart of flesh". More signicantly to our present discussion, it is He who gives us a true sense of the sacredness of God. The unregenerate man often treats God in a common or profane way, not giving Him the reverence and glory He deserves. When the Holy Spirit regenerates us, He awakens us to the incomprehensible sacredness of God.
In this sense, then, the Holy Spirit might be called "the Spirit of Holiness", or, at least, He might be said to impart a "spirit of sacredness" to those He regenerates. The wicked possess a "spirit of lawlessness", but God's people possess a "spirit of holiness".
Scripture sometimes describes a person's character or mood by saying that the person possesses a "spirit of wisdom" (Exodus 28:3; Deuteronomy 34:9), a "spirit of jealousy" (Numbers 5:14), a "spirit of understanding" (Job 20:3), a "spirit of distortion" (Isaiah 19:14), a "spirit of justice" (Isaiah 28:6), a "spirit of fainting" (Isaiah 61:3), a "spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1), a "spirit of partiality" (1 Timothy 5:21), a "spirit of timidity" (2 Timothy 1:7), and so forth. This phraseology is often used to express a person's demeanor, characteristic manner of life, the principles by which he lives, or the peculiar gifts and abilities he possesses. It is a way of expressing what his mind and heart is set upon, as well as his priorities and motivations...
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.One reason, therefore, that the Holy Spirit bears the adjective "Holy", is that He imparts to God's chosen people a "spirit of holiness", or a "spirit of sacredness", whereby holy conduct and a true sense of the sacredness of God are integral to their character and nature.
Colossians 3:2 - Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
Ephesians 5:18 - ... be filled with the Spirit,
When Scripture speaks of God giving the Holy Spirit to His people, or of various degrees of "filling" with the Holy Spirit, undoubtedly part of what is meant by this is that they acquire a greater sense of the grandeur and sacredness of God. As they acquire a greater sense of God's glory and holiness, they are thereby consecrated by God for greater acts of faithfulness and service.
Acts 4:31 - And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.Scripture speaks of many "mysteries", but there are two in particular that have special relevance to the present discussion--the "mystery of lawlessness" and the "mystery of godliness".
2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 - For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.There are many contrasting parallels that can be drawn between these two "mysteries", but first we need to identify who or what is meant by "the mystery of godliness" in 1 Timothy 3:16.
1 Timothy 3:15-16 - ... I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
It is suggested by some that the "mystery of godliness" refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, He was "revealed in the flesh", was "vindicated in the Spirit" (i.e. proven to be the Christ by the attending miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit), was "seen by angels" (although Scripture does not seem to say much about this in any other passages), was "proclaimed among the nations", was "believed on in the world", and was "taken up in glory".
However, I must side with the alternative view, which says that the "mystery of godliness" is speaking of Christ's church. There are several reasons for preferring this view over the former one...
The contrast between the two is becoming increasingly apparent in our
own generation, as the world becomes increasingly hostile to God, madly
seeking only the elusive pleasures of this life. How fallen men are naturally
drawn to reject the Bible, to accept the lie that life on earth originated
by materialistic processes over long eons of time, and to adopt the notion
that justice consists in allowing every person to do whatever evil thing
his or her heart desires! If it were not for the mysterious, re-creative
work of the Holy Spirit who produces within His elect people a renewed
sense of the sacredness of God, there would be no vestige of true godliness
left on this earth.
The Sacredness of God's Word.
If God is sacred, then the words He has spoken are equally sacred. The apostle Paul tells us that all scripture is God-breathed and sufficient for all instruction and correction...
2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.Once we realize that every word of the Bible is God's very own words to us, then the fact that He is exceedingly sacred necessarily implies that His Word, the Holy Bible, is exceedingly sacred as well.
Sinful man is forever attacking the Bible, seeking to undermine its authority or engender distrust in its divine origin and sufficiency. These attacks take many forms...
If God's Word is genuinely sacred to us, we will hunger to know it, and will be careful in the way we study it. Careful Bible study involves the following...
Thus, the Bible is sacred, not only because it is God's Word, but because
it alone reveals to us a sacred God, explains to us the eternal issues
of sin, judgment, salvation and future glory, and is used by the Holy Spirit
to convert the lost and to sanctify the saints of God. The Reformation
doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is an affirmation of
the unique sacredness of the scriptures.
God's Sacredness Calls for Single-Hearted Devotion to Him.
To have a proper sense of God's sacredness is to recognize that our hearts should be focused upon Him; that He alone is the source of our existence and redemption; that He is the ultimate reality; and that He alone ultimately deserves our love and devotion. To sanctify God in our worship is to keep our hearts focused on Him, rather than allowing our thoughts to wander or to be distracted by other concerns. To sanctify God in our prayers is to see all of life in relation to Him and His purposes, and to see Him as the sole Source of all that is good and needful. To sanctify God in our study of His Word is to seek how each event and teaching of Scripture reveals and exalts His glory. To sanctify God in our preaching is to center each sermon on Him and His glory. To sanctify Him in our lives is to seek His glory in all that we think and do.
Romans 11:36 - For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.This singleness of heart is expressed in many ways in Scripture...
1 Corinthians 10:31 - Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.From the time we arise in the morning until we retire at night, we should think often of our sacred, glorious God and of His mighty works. We should be quick to pray when we are tempted or when difficulties arise, quick to confess when we fall into sin, quick to declare His glories before others, keeping our hearts filled with hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and constantly comforted by His faithful mercy and grace to us as expressed in the Cross of our Lord Jesus. We need to be people who are saturated with the knowledge of God, possessing a constant delight in Him and in all that He does. Having a sense of His sacredness will help us draw closer to this ideal.
Matthew 6:24 - No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 22:37-38 - And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment."
James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
God's Sacredness Calls for Great Solemnity and Earnestness.
The term "solemn" implies something that is of the utmost importance. Likewise, when something is vitally important to us, we speak and act with great earnestness about it.
If we have a proper sense of the sacredness of God's name, it will affect our lives, our worship and our ministry. One of the things that made the preaching of Whitefield, Edwards, Nettleton and Spurgeon so effective in their day was the earnestness of their preaching. These men did not preach merely to entertain their listeners, nor to impress them with their great learning and insights. Rather, these men possessed a profound sense of the reality and greatness of God, sin, judgment and salvation. They therefore impressed upon their hearers the reality of God and of His judgment, and the urgent necessity of coming to Christ. They spoke as Moses, who had seen God on the mountain. To them, God was not a mere philosophical concept to be proven or described, but a living Monarch to be feared and loved.
To be solemn is to reject all forms of frivolity and levity in our spiritual life. However, we should never confuse somlemnity with joylessness. Quite the contrary -- a heightened sense of the solemn sacredness of God enhances our joy immeasurably! The greater our sense of the reality of God, sin, judgment and salvation, the greater our joy will be. To comprehend the solemn sacredness of God is to understand the solemn heinousness of our sins, the solemn miracle of the sacrifice of the Son of God at Calvary, and the exceeding greatness of our salvation in Christ. As we come to take God, sin and judgment more seriously, we begin to see the wonder and glory of the Cross with new eyes. We have sinned greatly against a very great God, but He has provided an exceedingly great salvation to deliver us from the great punishment we so richly deserve. What great joy this should beget!
The more the reality of God, sin and judgment is impressed upon our hearts, the more real and precious Christ and His Cross will become to us. It will engender, not only a greater sensitivity to our own sin, but also a greater confidence and assurance in our salvation. Once we are faced with the reality of an eternal God who is angry enough with sinners to sentence them to everlasting hell, we can have the confidence that this same eternal God has the power to everlastingly save us from the judgment we so richly deserve. To His enemies, God is a powerful and terrifying Judge, but to His children, He is a tender and faithful Father who can overcome any enemy or obstacle that threatens their ultimate salvation.
Such seriousness gives new life and meaning to every aspect of life.
Seriousness in worship gives profound meaning and purpose
to our worship, and frees us from a cheap, superficial counterfeit that
leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled. Seriousness in prayer gives life
and energy to prayer, freeing us from vain repetitions or wandering
thoughts. Seriousness in preaching gives fire and importance
to the message, riveting the attention of the listeners, and focusing their
hearts on eternal matters. Seriousness in evangelism yields persistence
of effort and purity of content and motives. Seriousness in
daily living yields integrity and compassion in our dealings
God's Sacredness Calls for Sacredness in Worship.
If you have ever viewed a recording of the events surrounding the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England, then you understand the great pomp and pageantry that attends the coronation of a monarch. The ceremony itself, conducted at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, was an elaborate religious affair carried out by many of the religious and royal leaders of England, and was attended by various Church and governmental officials, by prime ministers and leading citizens of the Commonwealth, and representatives from other countries. Prayers were offered, hymns were sung, scripture was read, oaths were made, the Queen was anointed, and various rituals were performed involving such sacred objects as: the paten, the chalice, the spurs, the sword, the bracelets, the royal stole, the royal robe, the orb with cross, the ring, the glove, the scepter, the rod of mercy, the crown and the throne. Anthems were sung by choirs, and others by the assembled multitude, who also paid their homage to their newly anointed queen. The crown used was the "St. Edwards Crown", made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II. The throne, called "King Edward's chair", was built in 1300 and has been used by every British sovereign since 1626.
Now, imagine that a new king is to be crowned, and that you are the person to whom has been entrusted the responsibility of organizing and planning the coronation activities. And... suppose you decided that you would hold the ceremonies in an athletic stadium, that you would advertise the event by tacking small flyers on utility poles inviting people to "come as your are", that you would call a taxicab to transport the king to the stadium, that you would have a saxophonist play "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" as the king walked to the front of the stadium to receive his crown, that you would get a circus clown to place a cardboard crown on the king's head, after which the attendees would be entertained by a "pro" wrestling match, as they were served root beer and pork rinds. ... Do you think that would show proper respect for the king?
Yet, this is the sort of disrespect which our own generation of churches often demonstrates in their worship services, demeaning the splendor of our glorious God by offering Him superficial sermons, cheap music and shallow prayers. The sacredness of one's worship is a good indicator of his concept of the majesty of God. Shallow worship betrays a debased opinion of God.
Certainly, our worship services are not to be characterized by the elaborate, ornate, costly ceremonialism which typifies a regal coronation. Neither, at the other extreme, should they be a cold, unemotional routine of merely "going through the motions" of worship. Rather, worship should:
Leviticus 10:1-3 - Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.He likewise took the life of Uzzah when he reached out to steady the ark which was being carried on an oxcart rather than by God's appointed way...
2 Samuel 6:6-7 - But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.In the New Testament, He visited illness upon Christians who partook of the communion elements unworthily...
1 Corinthians 11:27-31 - Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.Note that these were not simply non-Christians who had taken communion. Rather, these were believers, for God disciplined them so that they would not "be condemned along with the world." How we worship our sacred God is something which matters a great deal to Him. Let us ensure that we maintain the sacredness of worship that befits a God who is infinitely sacred!
God is the Only One who Can Truly Hallow His Name.
Perhaps this article has awakened a sense of God's sacredness, or better, a hunger for sensing more of God's sacredness. Where do we go from here? How do we gain and maintain and grow a genuine sense of the sacredness of God?
Our Lord gives us the answer in the model prayer... we must ask God to hallow His name.
Matthew 6:9 - Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ...'Like anything else of spiritual value, this is something which we cannot accomplish of ourselves. We must seek the grace of God in bringing about the miracle of renewed hearts which see Him each day with new eyes filled with a sense of wonder and sacredness.
Of course, this does not mean that we simply sit around doing nothing while we wait for Him to sancitfy His name in our hearts. Rather, He expects us to make full use of all the means of grace He has given us: meeting regularly with the saints for worship, listening to the the Word of God soundly preached, regular personal study of His Word, faithfulness in prayer, witness and godly living; reading sound, Biblical, God-honoring books and articles, meditating upon His excellencies, etc. There is a sense in which we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts as we trust Him to give us the grace to do this in a genuine and lasting way.
1 Peter 3:15 - but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;If we earnestly desire to grow in sanctification and godliness, to be more greatly used of God in His service, learning to overcome sin and temptation, energized by a sense of excitement and delight in all that God is and does, we must begin with hearts which have a true sense of God's sacredness. We must never be satisfied with whatever level of understanding we have already attained, but must continually seek to grow deeper in a practical knowledge of the glories of our wondrous God, and to continually review what we have alreadly learned, lest we grow forgetful. This is a monumental task, and cannot be accomplished by our fleshly resources alone. Instead, it requires a daily renewal of the powerful, life-giving grace of our sacred, awesome God!
This, then, should be our fervent, unceasing prayer, that God would
hallow His name in our hearts, our families, our churches and in the world.