Continuing my series going through RC Sproul’s, “The Holiness of God.”
Chapter four, The Trauma of Holiness
“Hence that dread and amazement with which, as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God…. Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”
That is the preface to this chapter, it comes from John Calvin in his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” I.i.3. That is a particular work I would highly recommend to your personal reading. It is something I am currently working through and will, once it is completed, go through it again and again and again.
Back to the chapter. It is something I’ve considered many times before, how I would react to beholding the majesty of God Himself. A daunting thing to be sure. I think of the great men in Scripture who have done so; Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, John. These men do have something in common with their experiences, they understood their unworthiness in the matter. Moses relates this experience with contemplative requests that underscore God’s uniqueness. Elijah covers his face when brought face to face with The Almighty, no doubt reminiscent of Moses’ time in the cleft of the rock. Isaiah declares his lips unclean, among being of a multitude of people with unclean lips. Ezekiel and John are dumbfounded to the point of prostrating themselves, in John’s case, even from an angel simply relaying a message from God. Again, how would I react in such scenarios? Well, with this chapter Dr. Sproul gives some insight in how to parse that scenario and how we should consider what would be happening to us. He relates the story of Jesus’ calming of the storm. How after the disciples cower in fear to the storm, they are then absolutely afraid of Jesus simply calming it in a simple phrase, “Be still.” Then in Peter’s reaction to Jesus proclaiming to him when and how to put his fishing nets after a long day of failure. He tells Jesus to go away from him, he is absolutely unworthy to be in His presence, for he is a “great sinner.” I’d love to think that would be my response, “Please Lord, depart from me. I am unworthy to be in the presence of such a magnificence, in that, I am undone. Words escape my mouth, please hear my thoughts with regard to this experience. I, I am afraid of you.” Surely by His grace He would withstand the stench of my ineptitude. Though, befittingly it is only by Christ’s atoning sacrifice and the Holy Spirit within my soul that warrants even an opportunity to be in such a position. For without those two things, it is a strict impossibility. For just as the utensils in the tabernacle of old must be sanctified by God’s command to be used by Him, so must I be sanctified by the command of His Spirit within me to even perchance confront Him with words of adulation that would befit Him or even come to His ear.
Onto the questions…
- Is you view of God’s holiness like Peter’s? Do you want to run from it? At first glimpse I do want to run. But, at the second my foot turns to scatter in the opposite direction I think of what I have. I have the atoning work of Christ and the Spirit of the living God within me testifying that I can come near the throne of the thrice Holy. By God’s grace I want to run with terrible dread, and with that same grace I am blessed to be brought near to His feet. Oh how magnificent is Yahweh!
- Have you ever experienced the trauma of God’s Holiness? In my won life I would say in a sense I had. For the better part of a decade I ran from the realization of identifying myself with Christ. In life and in word. In so doing, I was running from the world recognizing God’s holiness in me. I was afraid of people identifying me with what they are inherently terrified of themselves, and unaware of. I am aware of these facts now, and can diagnose the symptoms and conclusions of a life of what Scripture calls, a prodigal. Thanks be to God.
- Describe a time when you were confronted by God’s holiness. I’m not sure I’ve had a real experience of being confronted by God’s holiness. Perhaps when I see the night sky over the darkness of Utah, I see a glimpse of His holiness. When I survey the book of Revelation, or study through the Gospel of John, surely then I see the majesty. I know one definitive moment I saw God’s holiness. When I read through John 1:1–18 in Greek and understood it. There is something about reading the NT in it’s original Greek that everything just jumps out of the page and strikes you. I read it and when it comes to the part of Him tabernacling with us, I wept. The Word; the one in the bosom of the Father from the beginning; the one through whom and for whom all creation was made; the unique God who is at the Father’s side; the one who explains to us what God is like; He became human. Utterly incomprehensible. Amen and amen.
- Of what aspect of God’s holiness were you most aware this past week? I don’t think I can answer that right now.