Posts Tagged theophany
In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.
#3 – THE BIBLE AS REVELATION OF GOD’S MAJESTY
Christians often take the mind-blowing fact of God’s self-revelation for granted. Our faith stands or falls on the foundational belief that God has stooped to reveal himself to his creatures through the limited mode of human language and speech. The Scriptures are the very Word of the God who spoke and the entire cosmos came into being.
How can this stunning belief not continuously leave us with jaws dropped and hearts gripped? And the more we read what God has revealed in Holy Scripture, the more we realize that God does not desire to be hidden from his creatures. His majesty and glory are intended to be beheld by those who are “pure in heart.” His divine attributes are on display in lofty psalms of praise, vivid theophanies that shake the earth and strike people dead, poetic descriptions of God’s creative handiwork, God’s mighty power and mercy revealed in his salvation acts on behalf of his people.
When the reader encounters the Holy God at Sinai, coming down in thick cloud accompanied by fire and thunder, the reader should be struck with holy, paralyzing fear and awe. Likewise, when we read of Isaiah’s encounter with God in the temple (Isaiah 6) the appropriate response is to, like Isaiah himself, stand speechless and overwhelmed by our own sin in the presence of such a holy God. When Scripture paints a picture of God’s train filling the temple, high and lifted up, we ought to join the Angels in crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Read the rest of this entry »
God said to Moses, “Go to the people. For the next two days get these people ready (i.e., “consecrate them”) to meet the Holy God. Have them scrub their clothes so that on the third day they’ll be fully prepared, because on the third day God will come down on Mount Sinai and make his presence known to all the people. Post boundaries for the people all around, telling them, ‘Warning! Don’t climb the mountain. Don’t even touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain dies—a certain death. And no one is to touch that person, he’s to be stoned. That’s right—stoned. Or shot with arrows, shot to death. Animal or man, whichever—put to death.’ “A long blast from the horn will signal that it’s safe to climb the mountain.” Moses went down the mountain to the people and prepared them for the holy meeting. On the third day at daybreak, there were loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp shuddered in fear. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God” (Exodus 19 The Message).
Oh, how we need a reminder of the unapproachable, untouchable, absolutely unequalled holiness of the Living God! All Christians, pastors and preachers of every persuasion (myself included) tend toward one of two extremes when it comes to our perceptions of the character of God.
Some emphasize the sovereign, severe, holiness of God. My Reformed friends constantly remind me of these characteristics of God. They have not lost track of passages like this great and awesome theophany — the God whose presence is accompanied by “loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast.” When was the last sermon you heard that concluded with a warning to be careful or you may “be shot with arrows, shot to death”?
Yet, many of us today slide over to the other side of the spectrum and emphasize strictly the love, compassion and approachability of God most clearly displayed in the life and character of Jesus. We have a warm and fuzzy, “Jesus is my homeboy” or best friend kind of relationship with God. This picture of God seems incompatible with severe, holy God of the Sinai encounter.
Neither of these views are wrong (though both can go too far in their direction and distort God’s holiness or God’s love) but need to be in proper balance. Read the rest of this entry »