The Holiness of God is a dreadful thing to ponder as a sinner. In fact, I believe it takes a great working of the spirit for us to even begin to grasp and compare God's Holiness to our unrighteousness. Our minds are limited and our hearts are often times to hardened to realize the true extent of God's Holiness. However, once we begin to grasp it (even just a little), we can feel the dread of His holiness that draws us to worship.
10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” - Genesis 28:10-17
Upon reading this story there are two things I want to note about Jacob's encounter with God. The first is God's message to Jacob. We can see that God is here telling Jacob of the future of his offspring and that He would be alongside Jacob to fulfill the promises he was making. What is your reaction to this? If you were in Jacob's position and received the words the Lord had said in Verses 12-15, how do you think you would react? With joy, happiness, praise, or fear?
That brings us the second thing, Jacob's reaction. If we really look into Jacob's reaction and ponder it we can really confuse ourselves if we don't have the whole story of who God is. Why was Jacob afraid? The Lord had promised him great things! I mean, how could that bring about any fear? It's because the fear of God that Jacob felt, didn't come from God's words, but from His presence. Jacob, a sinful man, was in the presence of a Holy God. That is why He was afraid. The distinction between wickedness and holiness became so excruciatingly clear to Jacob, after encountering God. And this encounter is much like another. In Isaiah 6, we see Isaiah broken because he had witnessed the Holiness of our God and it crushed him. This is where we see the presence of the Lord bringing forth dread in the hearts of sinful men.
We see in scripture that God's holiness produces a fear and dread in our hearts because of His holiness. Now how are we to live our lives in light of this truth and to foster a Godly view of this dread so that it draws us closer to Him? The first is understanding how Jacob and Isaiah felt in those moments. Take a moment in your life where you were utterly convicted of your sin. Remember how terrible and guilty you felt in that moment. Now multiply those emotions and feelings of dread by 7000? 8000? Infinity. When you are confronted with true, perfect, holiness you can't stand. Our sinfulness makes us think we are better than we actually are. I'm telling you, that if you stood in the presence of the Lord right now, you would be crushed. Begging for mercy, asking for death. And it's this dread, and the understanding of God's distinguished position above His creation, that we use to orient our dread into praise. When we see and fear the Lord's holiness, we should come to the throne with praise because that perfectly Holy God has saved us. And one day, we will stand in His presence, fully taking in His holiness, and we will not feel dread, but joy. We should remember his mercy upon us, and praise Him for letting us vile and wicked creatures live in this world. We should praise Him for His holiness, because it shows us how sinful we are, and how much we truly need Christ.
I would like to recommend John Bunyan's book, The Fear of God. It has been great getting to slowly work my way through that and understand more about the great, dreadful, and life giving fear of God! Amen!
Thanks for reading :)
"For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" 1 Thessalonians 4:7