Standing in awe of the living God

Standing in awe of the living God

We need our hearts to be stirred with an awe and wonder at God’s holiness, explains Jamie Lavery (pictured, inset, in the photo above).

During the coronation of King Charles III in May, we saw a magnificent display of pomp and ceremony. Golden coaches. Bejewelled crowns. Beautiful robes. It was a spectacle to convey the majesty of royalty. And a spectacle we only glimpse once in a while.

In the Old Testament, King Uzziah reigned for 52 years. He was a king who sought God, did what was right, and God gave him success. You can read about him in 2 Chronicles 26. But his death was a stark reminder that all human magnificence, all royal glory fades. It is temporary.

However, upon King Uzziah’s death the prophet Isaiah was given a vision. Seeing beyond the temporal throne, he had a vision of the very dwelling place of God in heaven. The Lord in heaven on his throne with his robe filling his temple, which is the intersection between heaven and earth.

Isaiah sees behind the temple curtain. He sees what the angels see, the display of God’s holiness and glory. He sees God’s royal sovereignty over the whole of creation. Over every living creature in heaven, on earth and under the earth.

What Isaiah observes is the angels in God’s presence covering their faces and covering their feet. These created servants of God, who have no sin, cover their faces and feet in the presence of God’s holiness and glory. And as they do, they cry out a phrase describing God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies; his glory fills the whole earth,” (Isaiah 6:3, CSB).

In the presence of God, these sinless beings proclaim his holiness and glory while covering their eyes because even they cannot look upon such holiness, and concealing their feet because even they cannot stand on such holy ground.

There is a majestic awe in the holiness of God. A wonder that the angels display. A reverence that Isaiah feels. And a marvel that the church needs. For God’s holiness is all too often reduced to a list of regulations that leads to legalism, causing us to miss his exquisite beauty.

His holiness is beautiful

‘Holy’ is the word in our finite language to describe the very nature of who God is. God’s holiness is his complete otherness from anything else in all creation. It is his absolute beauty. His perfection. His majesty. His goodness. His worth. He is the source of everything, everywhere, for all time. It is the totality of everything he is. That is why even sinless angels cover their faces and feet. ‘Holy’ describes what only God is. And his holiness is beautiful.

And God’s glory is his holiness being made public. The angels proclaim that the whole earth is filled, not with his holiness, but with his glory.

His glory is his holiness being displayed publicly for all to see. It is the revealing of his beauty.

This revealing of God’s glory isn’t limited to heaven. The whole earth is filled with his glory.

The temple was to be a place revealing the glory of God. It was filled with gold, silver, precious stones, and vibrant colours, to help worshippers glimpse his glory.

The earth, God’s created cosmic temple, reveals his glory. Creation, in all its beauty, stimulates our senses ‒ sight, smell, sound, taste and touch – and reveals God’s glory to us. In creation, we see the beauty of God.

Here am I. Send me

As Isaiah sees and hears the holiness and glory of God. he becomes painfully aware of his own sinfulness. He cannot proclaim in the earth what the angels proclaim in heaven, because he has unclean lips. The awe of the holiness and glory of God comes with an equal awareness of one’s own sinfulness.

On the surface, that may sound negative. But this is what we need. Because it is here that we, like Isaiah, can repent and receive the forgiveness and cleansing of God in our lives.

Isaiah is not left in despair; an angel touches his lips with a hot coal from the altar, and he is made clean. And neither are we left in despair. In this place, we receive afresh from the altar of the cross the cleansing blood of Jesus that purifies us and covers our sins.

Isaiah hears God ask, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) and his response is “Here am I. Send me.” Who will proclaim the glory of God on earth as the angels do in heaven? The one who has just witnessed God’s holiness and glory. He will go and proclaim. He will announce the beauty, the worth, the majesty, the perfections and the cleansing salvation of God to this world.

And this commission to proclaim and reveal the glory of God has been passed to the church of Christ in the world. We are called to announce and display his beauty. To tell of his perfections and majesty. To proclaim his atonement and salvation through the cross.
We are called to display his beauty through our bodies – these tem- ples of the Holy Spirit.

To do this, each one of us needs a vision of the holiness and glory of God. We need our hearts to be stirred with an awe and wonder at God’s holiness. We, too, need to look up and see the Lord high and lifted up; to look up and see our Lord on the cross atoning for our sins, to look up and see the Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father and pouring out the Spirit on the church.

I am struck that the description used of the church after Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out from on high. We are told: “Everyone was filled with awe” (Acts 2:43 CSB).

May we remember Jesus our Saviour, and have a fresh vision of the royal beauty of our King. May we be touched by his holiness and glory. May we be filled with awe at who he is. May we display his beauty, proclaiming his perfections, announcing his salvation to the world, so that the whole earth is indeed filled with his glory.

• Jamie Lavery is husband to Sophie, Dad to Lily and Judah and Pastor of Elim Crawley.

From Direction Magazine

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