Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Terrible Beauty

Past ages often thought of God as too removed, too unreachable. Our age suffers from the opposite affliction; we see God as too close, too familiar. We call God "Father," but we think of Him more like a grandfather — someone who hands out gum, hugs, and forgiveness with equal ease.

The Bible has medicine for both ills, and we need to look at its prescription for us.

Psalm 97 describes God in a way that is meant to inspire the awe that we lack:
The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
It makes me think of an approaching thunderstorm: a giant, dark mass flashing with lightning that shakes the very earth. It has a terrible beauty that befits a wielder of both life and destruction.

We should respond to God with the same mixture of enchantment and fear. We must be protected from a glory that would kill us. He reigns in righteousness and justice, while among us there is none righteous, not even one. If even the mountains cannot stand before the LORD, what hope do we have?

The sane man, finding himself in the presence of God Almighty, says, "Woe is me! for I am undone."

It's only when we grasp the terrible beauty of our God that we can truly appreciate the grace given to us that we may enter into His presence boldly, not fearfully, as sons, not slaves, and approach the King of Glory and call Him "Daddy."

To borrow from one of the greats, "'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."