Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Awe Struck!

When my children were young, I was a fairly stern disciplinarian. Either one of them would likely admit that they were more "afraid" of me than their dad most of the time, because I was determined not to be a, "wait until your father gets home," mom. I am sure there were occasions where that may have happened, but I believe they were rare. I wanted them to have a healthy fear of me. At the same time, I wanted them to understand how much I loved them and to know that the only reason I was ever 'hard' on them was for their own good.

I was intentional about setting clear boundaries and the practice of consistency. When they reached the age to begin asking for friends to sleep over for instance, I established an "automatic no" rule. They knew there would be an automatic no if they asked to have an overnight guest without discussing it privately with me before mentioning it to their friend. My purpose was to avoid being put on the spot and having to say no in front of their hopeful pal. I never wanted one of their buddies to think he or she wasn't welcome but sometimes, I explained, parents have obligations that make inviting a guest into the home inconvenient. After I implemented the rule, I decided that when they honored my policy by asking privately first, I would only say no if it was absolutely necessary. My purpose was never to take away all of their fun, it was to avoid an undesirable situation or misunderstanding.

After God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, Chapters 19-21 of Exodus provides details of something that I find difficult to fathom. God's presence came down upon Mount Sinai and all of the Israelites heard the thunder of his voice. Before that, they'd only heard him through Moses, but now, they saw and heard a glorious demonstration of his might, power, and majesty for themselves. In this supernatural event, God revealed himself in a way that caused the people to tremble in his presence. He gave them specific rules in the form of ten commandments and he provided boundaries they were not to cross at the risk of death.

I believe that had I been there, I would have been at once amazed and terrified, and I fear that because we so accurately and so often confess that God is love, we are prone to forget sometimes that God is also justice and power and might. We have created atmospheres that celebrate all that is sweet about being in relationship with God, sometimes failing to remember that he is worthy of extreme reverence, awe, and respect--the kind that would render us prostrate before him if we fully grasped his glory. Our God is GREAT. He is "I AM". He is First and Last, Alpha and Omega. And that means that he deserves my awe and reverence of his Divine majesty.

I never expected awe from my children, but I did expect them to recognize my authority and to respect it. God demonstrated his magnificent glory on Mount Sinai so that his children would recognize his majesty and have reverence for him. Verses 21 and 22 of chapter 19 give us a glimpse of how this all went down:
Then the Lord told Moses, “Go back down and warn the people not to break through the boundaries to see the Lord, or they will die. Even the priests who regularly come near to the Lord must purify themselves so that the Lord does not break out and destroy them.”

How often do I consider God's greatness and magnificence before approaching him in prayer or worship? If I desired honor and respect from my children, how much more does our Creator and Lord desire and deserve it? And just as I never set boundaries or established rules for the sake of spoiling a good time, God's rules were given as a means of protection and for the setting apart of his children as HIS children!

I fear that I frequently forget to have healthy fear of my Father. Yes, he loves more extravagantly than we can imagine, but that does not diminish his justice or how deserving he is of our submissive reverence.

Lord, help me never forget this passage's stark reminder of the greatness of your glory, and may I always bow my knee to your holy majesty. You alone are worthy of my praise. Amen.

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