Blessed Be The Name of the Lord

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I remember when “cool” was a temperature, then it became a word of affirmation. Sometimes it’s used to describe someone that is aloof – but it also describes someone who is fascinating. Then again, the weatherman said a cool front is passing through this week. And don’t forget about Paul Newman’s movie “Cool Hand Luke.” I think I’ve confused myself here. But consider how important words are. Words we used in the past are now banished because they are deemed demeaning and offensive. On many college campuses, some words are forbidden because they might “trigger” an emotional response of fear or anger. Yet today, words that were once spoken in reverence are spat out like curses.

Consider how our culture uses the words “Lord,” “God,” “Jesus,” and “Holy.”  Yet they identify the Righteous Creator and Sovereign King of the universe. Tradition says that in the medieval days when monks were transcribing the words of the Bible and they came to the Name, they would leave their table, wash themselves, get a new quill, write the Name then break the quill. This was to ensure that they did not approach the Name of God in an unclean state and that the pen that wrote the Holy Name would never be used to write something profane. That may be a bit over the top, but oh, that we still venerated the name of God!

One of the ten commandments says: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name” (Exodus 20:7). When we speak these designations of God as mere words in anything less than reverence we are misusing God’s name and identification. When we say “Good Lord” it should only be to praise Him, not register frustration. “Oh my God!” should be spoken as a prayer, not an exclamation of surprise or excitement or – worse – disgust. “Jesus Christ” is the name of the Son of God and our Savior, and is not to be spat out like a curse. And “Holy” is the highest description of the Lord God, and should never be joined to farm animals, bodily functions, and sexual slang.

Yes, our words carry meaning. Beloved, let’s consider carefully the words we say and use our mouths to speak of our God and Savior in the reverence due them.

Awe

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“Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

A few years ago there was a three-year research project done on awe at U Cal Berkley, their report included such awesome findings as “Awe binds us together,” “Awe helps us see things in new ways,” and “Awe makes us nicer – and happier.” It also touted “the healing potential of awe.”  Suggestions for finding awe included observing nature, listening to music, and one I heartily agree with – putting down the ever-present cell-phone and simply looking up. [1]

I don’t dispute any of their findings or suggestions, but the article failed to ask and answer some very important questions, such as “Why do we feel awe?” and “What makes something awe-inspiring?” 

We feel awe because we were created for worship – and worship is at its purest and truest when it is accompanied by awe.  The article says “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things.” (Dacher Keltner)[2]  Is there anything more vast or farther beyond our human understanding than the God of the Universe?  David declared “You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary” (Psalm 68:35)!

What makes something awe-inspiring is when we, in our smallness, stand in the presence of greatness.  I’ve seen the Grand Canyon, and it is awesome because it is huge and beautiful. Deuteronomy 7:21 says “The Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God.”  When we sense the presence of God we have no other response but to stand in awe.  Actually, when we truly sense the awesome presence of God we cannot stand at all.

But I think the most important question is, “What happened to our sense of awe?”  Sin happened. Pride happened.  The sin of Adam and Eve, at its root, is the sin of pride.  Where pride reigns, we lose the necessary humility to be awed.  Beloved, if you ponder the fact that the holy, sovereign God of heaven and earth has singled you out for salvation and relationship and eternal life you should be humbled and awed.  Nothing is more incredible, more grand and glorious, and more awe-inspiring than that.

[1] Paula Spencer Scott, “Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness,” Parade, Sunday, October 9, 2016, 6-8.

[2] Dacher Keltner is a psychologist who heads the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab, and helped create the new Facebook response button emojis.

Boldness and Awe

“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me Your glory.’” Exodus 33:18

 The way in which we see God influences our relationship with Him.  To some He is a combination of Grandpa and Santa Claus, out of touch with reality, but still sweet and giving.  To others He is “Big Brother” with a huge club, watching us for any opportunity to smack us for messing up.  A God who is benevolent, but powerless is no help to us in our time of need.  A God who is powerful and unfeeling breeds fear that drives us away from Him.  We would have no God if He were either of the two scenarios. It is vastly important to see God as He really is, as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

The truth is, God is both benevolent and powerful, which is why we can approach Him with our needs and know that He is both able and willing to help us.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us to come before the Throne of Grace with “parresia” which means boldness, confidence, frankness, openness of speech; bringing everything about the matter to God.  Paul says that “In [Christ] and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.  This confidence stems from our trust in God – which literally means “to be persuaded or convinced,” terms that carry legal weight.  We can come before Him boldly because we are confident that He will receive us, we are convinced of His love for us, and we are persuaded that He can and will come to our aid.  We come before Him with boldness because He has opened the way for us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

But in addition to boldness, we must also come before God with awe and reverence. Solomon, the great king of wisdom, said “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:2)  While we are welcome into God’s presence as His dearly loved children, we must never forget Who we have come before.  We are approaching the Lord who is Holy (Isaiah 6:3); Righteous (Psalm 119:137); and Sovereign (Daniel 4:25).  Hebrews 12:28-29 reminds us that we are to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Rather than seeing Him with terror, we should regard Him with holy reverence and thank Him for His love and mercy to us.

To see God only as harsh and uncaring is to turn Him into a mean-spirited ogre. To see God as Father, but not as holy is to make Him into a one-dimensional entity.  God is all loving, and He is all holy.  Not in perfect balance, but in perfect fullness.  Peter made a wonderful observation in 1 Peter 1:17 – “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”   Peter recognizes the love relationship we have with our Heavenly Father, and reminds us that He is also the Sovereign and Holy God Almighty who judges in righteousness.  He is our Father, and He is our Lord-overflowing compassion and overwhelming holiness.

He is the one who holds our lives in the palm of His hand.

Oh what a glorious place to be – cradled in the hands of One who is so mighty and awesome, and who loves us with an everlasting and consuming love.

Lord – Jesus called You “Holy Father” – the perfect Name for the One who is both awesome in holiness and perfect in love.  May my heart always belong to You.  Amen