“The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
We work very hard to make the Lord relatable for people. We talk about Jesus and how God wants to be our friend. We delight in His coming near and giving us the gift of His presence. All of this is right and good and true.
But, we cannot forget along the way that God is also holy. He is mighty. He is powerful beyond our imagination. He is glorious, and not in the loudly-singing-angels kind of way. He is glorious in the shine-you-out-of-existence kind of way. His glory is fearsome and terrible. Were we to behold it we would come to an end.
I’ve been reading through the fantasy series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, with my boys. It imagines a world in which all the various Greek gods and goddesses are real. From a theological standpoint it’s obviously a mess. But it does get something right, if in the wrong way. When one of the gods reveals his full glory, any human looking on will be destroyed. The sight is too much for us to handle. The brightness will burn out our eyes and fry our brains.
This is a reasonably accurate picture of the glory of God. And if this doesn’t sound like a very warm and fuzzy picture, that’s because it’s not supposed to be. It is intended to be frightening even to the point of terrifying. The thought of crossing this God should leave us quaking in our boots and doing whatever we possibly can to avoid it at all costs. This is part of what it means to fear the Lord.
It is when we have this image of God–which, far from being some image made up to scare us into obedience, is 100% true and as you read the Scriptures you find evidence of it all over the place–firmly fixed in our minds that we are able to appreciate the wonder of His ongoing love for us. It allows us to fall down in humble gratitude before the idea that He sent His Son while we were still sinners. We were openly rebelling against this glorious and powerful God and rather than coming with the full force of His power to put a stop to it, He came with the gentlest of whispers to woo us back through the love and example of His Son, Jesus.
What kind of a God does that? How could this kind of glorious God do that? Because He is not simply as powerful as the psalmist described here, He’s powerful enough to control it with absolute precision and accuracy. This kind of power is worthy of our fullest devotion. Let us give Him the worship and obedience He is due.