Reverence & Trembling in Psalm 2
Psalm 2:11 - Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling.
In many modern churches, the overarching disposition has moved away from the awe and reverence of a holy, powerful Sovereign God, to embracing the kindness and love of a gracious, merciful Father. Many contemporary worship communities have done a wonderful job at helping us grasp the immanence, or nearness, of God, but in doing so have lost the transcendence, the Holy otherness, of God.
Our new buildings often look more like theaters than cathedrals. Comfort is paramount.
It is seen in all parts of the worship service and is even visible in the architecture of many churches. Middle age and Renaissance Cathedrals were designed not just to inspire and awe but, in a very real way to remind people how very small they are in comparison to a Holy God.
Huge Romanesque or Corinthian Capitals and compound columns reaching to the vaulted ceilings pointing to heaven, beautiful stained glass, transforming windows into illuminated stories representing light of God coming through the word, the cross shaped sanctuary that draws our eyes to the crucifix, the beauty of sculpture, sacred works of art, even the giant reverberated sounds.
All were intended to remind us that God is the all-powerful Creator, above us mere creatures.
But our new buildings (probably more out of a need for good financial stewardship and modern practicality than a theological stance) often look more like theaters than cathedrals. Comfort is paramount. Theater style seats with coffee holders (I like both BTW).
Having great media, lights and sound that help ‘lead us into the presence of God’ trump architecture that was designed to cause us to want to sit in quiet, contemplative, awe-filled reverence of a Holy, transcendent God.
Modern churches are often designed with the hope that congregants will clap and sing in worship as we experience the immanence of our Loving, Gracious Father, and sit in comfort during a funny, well-crafted and hopefully practical message that we take with us through the week.
Like a powerful general bouncing his little children on his knee, we should enjoy our heavenly Father
Obviously, those are good and positive things for the most part. But have we lost something in the process?
Perhaps we need to take a step back and remember the good in recognizing a God Who is transcendent; beholding Him with fear and reverence. He certainly is our Abba Father, the lover of our souls, but He is also the Lord of Hosts, Alpha and Omega, Judge of the Living and the Dead of whom the ancients would not even pronounce His name for dread of it passing through corrupted, human lips.
God is a God of nearness. He is, as in the parable of the prodigal son, the Forgiving Father, lifting his robes and running to us with open arms because of His great love and despite our great sin.
But, He is also the God who flooded the Earth, the one Who led the Israelites through the desert as a pillar of fire, the destroyer of the Egyptian army and their firstborn, and the one Who in the end will cast all who don’t call on His name for salvation into utter darkness away from His presence eternally.
Let’s never let go of the idea of our Abba, our loving Daddy in heaven. But we should never forget that He is the God of Angel Armies. Like a powerful general bouncing his little children on his knee, we should enjoy our heavenly Father, but never forget that He is the one Who will one day judge us all.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” - Hebrews 12:28-29
Questions for thought:
- Have you ever experienced God with fear or trembling?
- In our own lives, how can we worship God with reverence and experience God’s transcendence?
- What does it mean to you personally to worship God in His immanence, and His transcendence?