“God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore, let your words be few.”
“YHWH is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.”
When Moses approached the burning bush, God said to him, “Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” The presence of God demands reverence: fear, holy fear, is not too light a word. This reverence, this holy fear – joyful and wonderful only because, in Christ Jesus, we know God as our Father, but not the less holy, or the less fear, or even the less terrible, for in Jesus Christ, God, in all His magnificent holiness, is our tender and loving Father: Jesus’ death and resurrection did not change God, it changed us and our relationship to God – this reverence and holy fear must be present when we approach God, when we are in His presence. We may be at rest – in Jesus, we must be at rest; outside of Him, we cannot be at rest – in His presence and His love, but we will “kiss the Son with trembling.” If there is no holy fear, if there is no reverence, it means that we have no knowledge of the presence of God. If we are beginning to begin to glimpse the holiness of God – that is, to see God – then we will have a kind of terror of His goodness. If we are not covered in Christ, cleansed by His blood, righteous in Him, then we will be simply terrified, and we will know that there is nothing possible that could be more terrifying, more deadly, to us than Goodness. All fear of man, and of anything hitherto conceived of as “hell,” will drop out of our minds, and we will fear simply God: not anything He might do to us, but simply the fact of God: the fact that God is Good. If we are in Christ, members of His body, then we will take great comfort in His Goodness, we will love His Goodness, we will trust Him and desire no other refuge than Him, being satisfied in Him, and we will never lose our reverence, our holy fear: we will fear to offend Him in the slightest way not because of any fear of anything He might do to us, but simply because He is God. When His Name is upheld with less than high reverence, or when His Honor is trampled in the dust, we will half-expect to see fire from heaven, even if we do not quite realize that this is the expectation, the feeling, of our hearts. We will fear to say profane things about Him: when we say that God died, we will almost tremble, we will almost feel that it is blasphemy, except that we know it is the holy truth – for, if it were not true, it is blasphemy.
If you have never shrunk from the statement that Christ died, if you have never been overcome by it, so that you felt you could not believe it was true, so that you almost felt that it was blasphemous, then you have no understanding of who Christ is, and there is nothing to prevent you from blaspheming without being able to notice that is what you are doing. The statement that men – and sinners, at that – live because of the death of God is, perhaps, the most shocking statement that ever passed human lips: it is the scandal, the humiliation of the cross: it is a rock to strike against and a stone to be dashed upon, but also the Rock of Refuge in whom, whoever is blessed who is not scandalized: if you have never thought it unbelievable, there is a great deal of reason to think that you have never believed it. If you can take Communion without trembling a little – at least in your heart – without the thought, “Dare I?” it is possible that you do not believe that God’s body was broken for you or that His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins. If you have never felt almost horrified – gladly, beautifully, gratefully horrified, but something for which I can find no other word than horrified – at what God has done for you, perhaps you have never even heard that there is a God.
There is a danger in too much talking (I hope I have not gone too far, but I fear that, in places, I may have said more than I should). If we even began to understand what it means that God is in heaven or that YHWH is in His holy temple, then there would be no need to say more about the Cross than that Christ died for sinners. That alone would stop us dead in our tracks. We would not need to listen to countless expositions on “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, so that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by His stripes we are healed.” Our minds would draw back and say nothing on the subject. Trembling, in silence, overcome with horrible joy and terrible thanksgiving, hardly daring to believe, hardly daring to believe that we believe, afraid with a fear that forever forbids all other fears, our hearts would go forward, stricken with awe, into the presence of the Mystery of Mysteries.
The reason, I think, why so much has to be said, why sermons must be preached on, “God made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” is because there is little knowledge of the meaning even of the word God. When you glimpse the holiness of God, you fall silent. It is possible, also, to damage and lose knowledge by saying more than should be said (this something I have against Seminaries and Theological Colleges: if you go to one – assuming, always, that my impression is correct – you have to take classes, you have to study and write, and have opinions – and probably the ‘correct’ opinions to the people running the Seminaries – before God speaks to you about a given subject: there is space only for talking, whereas God teaches us through life, through prayer and through obedience, and not everyone at the same rate or in the same way; thus, people are taught things they should wait to learn from God – this may be the cause of much of the false theology in the world; having to think a passage has a certain meaning before God reveals the meaning to you, so you end up making up a wrong meaning, or interpreting a right one wrongly – and much is said that never should be said: none of us on earth will ever know everything).
Moses had to talk off his sandals before the burning bush of God’s presence. In the presence of the Holy Mysteries of God, in the presence of God, we must strip off much thinking and even more speaking. It is irreverent – it is to violate the sanctuary – to think that which is meant only for the heart, or to think when we should be silent, or to speak that which is not meant to be spoken or when it is not meant to be spoken.
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale