Worship the LORD in the splendor of [His] holiness;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
Western Christian culture has begun, in these last decades, to embrace the concepts of grace on a wider scale. There remains plenty of ground for improvement and growth in grasping the meaning and applications of the grace of God in Christ, but some significant progress has been made, to the glory and praise of God and the edification of the lives of Christians.
Yet, in spite of this progress, in many ways we languish in other areas of theology, especially in doctrines about the holiness of God. We cannot over emphasize the vision of a gracious and kind God – these concepts are central and essential to the Christian faith – but in the process we have often neglected the teachings related to His utter holiness. The two attributes – grace and holiness – are inseparable in God.
For hundreds of years God communicated to the Israelites, and through them gave witness to the world, that He is a holy God, separated from sin. The concepts of holiness and righteousness come from His very heart and originate in our presence from His eternal character. His holiness creates a splendor unequaled in the universe. The grand and majestic universe, as Solomon observed, even the highest heavens, cannot contain the glory of God. The response of the heart of the faithful to this truth is to be reverential humility, to be awed not only by the greatness of God but by the grand-ness of God, the utter holiness of God.
We hardly begin to understand what holiness is all about, for sin has turned us who were originally made in the image of God into unholy creatures. The very fact that God desires to reveal His holiness to us shows that He draws us to Himself. Christ humbled Himself momentarily that He might redeem and lift us up to His heart and to His home. In spite of our un-holiness, as we worship Him in His holiness, we discover our hearts being drawn to Him, and understand that we were created originally for holiness. What sin has marred the grace of God in Christ is restoring. Perhaps in this life, when the vision of His holiness comes, we may only tremble before Him in repentance and in awe. But we have the promise of scripture that, for believers, one day every tear shall be wiped clean from our eyes.
But when we tremble sincerely before His holiness we also share in the experience of Isaiah that the altar of God, the cross of Christ, holds the key to our forgiveness and in His grace He touches the unclean parts of our lives, as we confess them before Him. To tremble at the divine revelation of His holiness is not the same as to shudder at some frightening and distant thought. It is to be in awe at the sheer brilliance and beauty of a Friend, to feel unworthy of the friendship yet to embrace it all the same because it is pleasing to Him.
The biblical idea of the fear of God means that I hold Him in such respect and reverence that I am afraid not to believe Him when He says He loves me, forgives me, and accepts me in Christ.
Lord, reveal to us the splendor of Your holiness. Let us see You and not a worldly caricature that distorts some attributes and ignores others. Lift our hearts through the love and redemption of Christ to dwell in Your presence – today in our thoughts and values and ultimately in Your eternal home. Amen.