|Meet Sam, the world's ugliest dog!|
And that's probably a good place to start... you see, dread is repulsive. No, I don't mean that it's ugly or hideously deformed; I mean that dread pushes away its subject from the object of his terror. The little boy has no desire to stay near the bully; quite the opposite. But if the President asks the boy to stay in the Oval Office for a while and see how he runs the country, wild horses couldn't pull him away. This perfectly explains the response of both believers and the lost to God: while the lost can get a taste of the dread of God, due to His holiness and hatred of sin/sinners, they flee away from Him in the vain hope of escaping His wrath (Isa 2:19-21). Believers have even a better grasp of the consequences of sin and the punishment of hell, but they are divinely granted the second type of fear as well (Jer 32:40) and are drawn to God as their only hope of rescue and relief. So we see that while all people can glimpse the recompense of sin, and dread God's punishment, only the elect are blessed with the proper sense of respect and humble adoration in view of God's Person, drawing them closer to this incredible Being.
To helpfully define veneration, Mr. Martin has a couple prerequisites:
- We must have correct concepts of God's character, particularly His immensity, His transcendence, His majesty and His holiness. We in America are crippled in this: we have no royalty, very little pomp and circumstance, and a dangerous lack of respect for our divinely appointed magistrates. Yes, I know we elect them, but they are God's ministers unto us for good (Rom 13:1-6) and we are commanded by the One who rules over all to "honor the king" (1 Pet 2:17). If we can't muster up some respect for the rulers we can see, it's evident how much we dishonor the God who is over all principalities and dominions. There are several passages in Scripture designed to instill and renew an appropriate sense of speechless wonder at the majesty of God: Ps 50 portrays God in matchless beauty, over all things and dependent on none for anything. Isa 40 asks numerous rhetorical questions to showcase how powerful, wise and immense He is. Ezk 1 helps us to understand how pitiful our powers of comprehension are... we can barely scratch the surface of Who and What He is. And Rev 19 reveals a triumphant Godman, splendid in might and terrible in judgment.
- We must have a pervasive sense of the presence of God. I know I personally struggle to remember God is omnipresent... when surrounded by family, coworkers, or even strangers, I instinctively present a Christian display, but when I am alone, I struggle not to be the man Paul describes in Rom 7, doing the things I don't want to do. So Pastor Martin counsels us to be saturated by an awareness that God is there; Ps 139:7-11 vividly tells us there's nowhere to get away from God, and one of my favorites is Amos 9:1-4. An ever present God, right there looking over your shoulder, must always be reckoned with.
- We must have a constraining awareness of our obligation to this God. We are not free and independent, as we are so often told in our society today. We are obliged to the One who has created us, who sustains us (putting every breath in our lungs!), and who can very easily end us. Martin puts this in perspective by laying out all our relationships to all other things: angels, demons, other men, inanimate objects, etc. Over and above all these is our relation to God: this is the bond that must define every other tie and supersede them. Jesus says that anyone who loved their father or mother or son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him (Matt 10:37). I love my wife for many reasons, but the best and most important reason I must love her is because God commands me to; this keeps the most important human bond I have subordinate to the supreme relation of all. So since we are, as His creatures, His slaves and His children, in a status of owing ultimate allegiance, consideration, fealty, and love to God, the person who fears God gives these to Him! And not grudgingly or solely out of duty, but with a rejoicing that can't be matched...
"Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day... Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!" (Ps 96:1-2, 8-9)Fear gets a bad rap these days; I think it's offensive to people who think they're in charge of it all, who are "empowered" and "liberated" and believe they have nothing to fear. The tragedy is that these folks will be afraid of God one day, the Day that they "see the one they pierced" (Zech 12:10) and He returns to judge us all.
Photo courtesy of spierzchala