Holy and Reverend is His Name
24 Mar 2007, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
HOLY AND REVEREND IS HIS NAME
Today we live in a secular world that has often been called an Age of Irreverence. Nothing is sacred anymore. To be mocked, satirized, teased, and have things distorted well beyond what is real, seems to be the order of the day
What does the word reverence mean in our modern day language?
The oxford dictionary tells me it means to adore, to give devotion, to exalt, to idolise, honour or to praise and worship. In talking about the majesty and holiness of God, the Bible Illustrated Dictionary takes this a step further by suggesting it is 'A feeling of profound awe and respect'.
When the British pop group, 'The Beatles' were at the height of their popularity, John Lennon was to make the following statement to a London reporter suggesting that Christianity would not survive. He says, 'It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that'. 'I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now…' (Tan, 1979: 1148, 1149).
Time has shown that this form of reverence or adoration from people in general is only fleeting, whereas the reverence generated from Christianity's response to a Holy God has continued throughout this world's history. The John Lennon's of this world have come and gone making his words ring hollow. Christianity, on the other hand, has endured these secular attacks with a force that is difficult for non-believers to fully understand.
For the Christian world, reverence is usually seen as a response to those things that are Holy. We see it as man's response to a Holy God. A God that Isaiah 9: 6 says that '…His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'
As a consequence, reverence for God should be one of the premier manifestations of faith for all Christian believers. In other words, reverence should be an automatic human response to an awesome God.
Who is this God that demands our loyalty and affection?
What do we know about Him?
First of all the Scriptures make clear that there is only one God and while we cannot prove His existence there is abundant evidence for His presence in this world.
The belief in one God is what we call Monotheism
Deut 6: 4 tells us that 'The Lord our God is one God.'
Isaiah 44: 6-8 says 'I am the first and the last. Apart from me there is no God.
AND Exodus 20: 3, 'You shall have no other God's before me.'
In the time prior to the exodus the Israelite people had been exposed to the myriad of Gods worshiped in Egypt. As a consequence their belief in one God was to stand in stark contrast to what was around them.
This belief in one God is not unusual even amongst the world's main religions today.
Here in Sydney if we were to visit the large Hindu Temple at Westmead we would discover that the Hindu religion also has a belief in one God, but there are up to three thousand representations of Him. It is interesting to note that before entering the sanctuary, all visitors and participants are instructed to remove their shoes as a sign of respect and reverence.
If you visited the large Islamic Mosque at Auburn, you would also discover the belief in one God along with the idea that Mohammad was His prophet. Before female visitors or participants can enter this place of worship, they are required to cover their heads with scarves and wear other clothing to cover their arms and legs. All are instructed to leave their shoes at the entrance as a sign of reverence and, once inside, men and women were to be separated while they remained within the sanctuary.
A visit to the Great Jewish Synagogue in the city centre would see all males wearing the traditional skullcap called the KIPPAH or YARMULKE. This headpiece was worn as a symbol of respect and, once again, men and women were to be separated during the worship period. A belief in the one and only God is central to the Jewish faith. However, the concept of the deity was not to be included in this structure and Jesus was only seen as a common man.
It would seem that while monotheism is alive and well, it is found in many different forms and while the requirements of worship are diverse, respect and reverence was seen to remain important.
Deut 6: 4 reminds us again that The Lord our God is one god.
Now this brings us to a mystery.
The Scriptures further describe this one God as consisting of three divine beings. While the term 'Trinity' is not found in the sacred writings, the Bible, in Colossians 2: 9, calls this mystery the Deity or the Godhead. We are also told that these three beings, referred to as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are one in nature, one in character and one in purpose (Matt 28: 19, 20; White, 1958: 34).
This would tend to suggest that all three are vitally involved in the second great mystery of the Bible referred to as 'The Plan of Salvation' or the 'Plan of Redemption'. To understand this second great mystery we need to understand something of the first.
We discover in the Scriptures that while all the members of the Godhead were vitally involved in this remarkable plan prepared before the creation of the world, their roles were seen to be different, but complimentary (Gen 1: 2, 26; Hebrews 1: 1, 2).
We see God the Father setting out the detail of the plan in regard to sin and salvation.
We see God the Son accomplishing the plan by His death and becoming our representative.
In keeping with the plan, we see God the Holy Spirit converting and transforming the hearts and lives of men and women.
While the depths of this special relationship still remain a mystery, we are told it has existed from eternity. The closeness between all three is emphasised by the identification of the Spirit in Rom 8: 9 as both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (1 Cor 3: 16). Also the connection found between the Father and Son is not seen as biological, but it is believed God chose those terms so that they would be more meaningful to us (Jemison, 1959: 88).
Dear friends, it would seem that the greater our knowledge of all three members and the work they do, the greater will be our understanding of the plan of redemption.
Another mystery shared by the Scriptures in Psalms 102: 11,12 is that we serve an eternal God, an infinite God. David says: 'My days are like the evening shadow - I wither away like grass, but you O Lord are enthroned for ever.'
In Rev 21: 6 we find the God of Heaven referred to as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is also referred to as the great 'I am'.
We serve a God of the fourth dimension.
He is a God that is outside of time.
The past, present and future are all alike to Him.
To Him, 1000 years are but a day and a day is like a thousand years.
Fourthly, we serve a universal God, an all-encompassing God.
What does this mean?
In Matt 10: 29, 30 Jesus says: 'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny. Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. So don't be afraid you are worth more than many sparrows.'
These verses tell us that people everywhere are the objects of His saving grace. God is no respecter of persons. Everyone is treated the same. In this sense, He is an all-encompassing and universal God.
Fifthly, in contrast to the inert or lifeless Gods served in the pagan world, we serve a living God. The apostle Peter in Matt 16: 16 says of Jesus: 'You are the son of the living God'. This God can do more for you than Pagan idols of wood and stone. He can care, He can love and watch over you and ultimately, He can give life.
We need to be thankful for having a living God in whom we can place our trust.
Sixthly, we serve a God who is the supreme ruler of both heaven and earth. David, in speaking to God in 1 Chron. 29: 11, says 'For everything in heaven and earth is yours.'
God is sovereign in that He alone has the right to rule. As distinct from earthly kings who, throughout history, had assumed the concept of the 'divine right' to sit on their temporal thrones, God, alone has the right to rule all.
We are also told that we serve a Creator God whereby nothing is excluded. The apostle Paul says in Col 1: 16,17 that 'For by Him all things were created…' and '…all things were created by Him and for Him.'
We serve an all-powerful God - all seeing, everywhere present, perfect in knowledge, able to accomplish His purposes, unchangeable. Hebrews 13: 8 tells us that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
We need to recognise that only a God who has all the above characteristics could be the true judge of the universe. Who else could be fair and just?
We also serve a sacrificial God. We know that at the right time God was to send His Son (Gal 4: 4, 5).
We serve a forgiving and loving God. This was to be a love that would transcend all that is evil in the world. The prophet Isaiah in Is. 1: 18 says: 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest tangible manifestations of the love of God and this was to be made possible through the Cross. God loves the unlovable. As noted by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3: 9, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance. He also wants our wholehearted allegiance and loyalty. As Ex 20: 3 reminds us, we are to have no other Gods before Him.
What a wonderful picture this gives us of our Heavenly Father
In summary, the prophet Jeremiah says in Jer 9: 23, 24 (NKJV) to 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.'
Dear friends, we are talking here about a Holy God that demands our respect and reverence. A God of majesty and power.
Let me suggest to you this morning that without a proper knowledge of the holiness of God and an awareness of His love, His forgiveness and His care for you and I, it becomes impossible to offer Him our wholehearted service.
In other words, it is only when we confront the holiness of God that we can give the loyalty and obedience required to fully serve Him.
One of the best illustrations of this effect on a person's life can be seen in the historical records that detail the work and spirit on one of England's most well known humanitarians.
London was a dark place in the 1780s. Poor children worked as many as eighteen hours a day in the cotton mills and coalmines while many of their parents drank themselves into oblivion and into the grave (Brown, 2000: 137). The rich gave little thought to the hungry and the homeless that crowded into the city streets. Most of their time was to be spent in gambling, drinking, in extra marital affairs and in watching their growing wealth accumulate on the back of the African slave trade. The trade in human flesh made the good life possible for many a British citizen lending this period to be called 'The best of times and the worst of times' (Galli, 1997: 11).
It was on August 24, 1759 that a little boy by the name of William was born to Robert and Elizabeth Wilberforce. Because their home was to be one of affluence and wealth, William, throughout his life, had access to an 'unlimited command of money' (Hancock, 1997: 14).
After the death of his father when he was nine, William was sent to live with an Aunt and Uncle who were great friends of the great preacher George Whitefield. Exposed at an early age to Methodism and the evangelical preaching of the ex-slave trader John Newton, his interest was aroused in spiritual things. As a child he says that even though the experience was short lived, he held Newton in reverential awe.
After spending three years at Cambridge University from 1776-1779, he was later to enter the British Parliament as the Member for Yorkshire in 1784. This was one of the most coveted seats in the British House of Commons at the time. He was only 21 years of age. During this period he made many powerful friends, one of whom was William Pitt who was later to become Prime Minister and a staunch political ally (Ibid).
It was during this early period of his political career that Wilberforce came to confront the holiness of God. It was through his reading of the Scriptures and other religious material that he was to develop an implicit trust in God and, as a result came to recognise how empty his life had been. He was encouraged during this difficult period of his life by an aging John Newton who made the comment that 'It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation' (Ibid: 15). It would seem that Newton recognised God's hand of providence working through the life of this young man.
To cut a long story short, Wilberforce, who had suffered throughout his life from poor eyesight, digestive problems and a weak spine, and was now under attack from his political enemies because of his religious beliefs, eventually saw the passing of a law that brought about the abolition of the slave trade. Because of his faith and persistence, one of the most malignant evils of the British Empire was to cease. When he started this campaign there were only two other committed Christians in Parliament. By the end of his life there were more than one hundred in each house. As a result of his wholehearted service to God, Wilberforce's prayers and perseverance had changed the heart of a nation (Brown, 2000: 138).
Just like William Wilberforce, we all need to be confronted with the holiness of God.
A further illustration of this experience was to be found in the life of the prophet Isaiah not long after being called by God to that special office. While worshipping in the temple one day, he was given a vision of the heavenly sanctuary and there he saw God, high and lifted up, sitting on His throne. The place was filled with His glory and His presence. Isaiah's response was to recoil in shame as he was confronted with his own uncleanliness and sinfulness.
Isaiah 6: 5 was to record his desperate cry: 'Woe to me, [I cried], I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'
It was then that an angel took a live coal off the Alter of Incense and laid it on his lips saying in Is 6: 7 that 'Your Iniquity is taken away and your sins cleansed'.
We need to understand that God revealed Himself to Isaiah, not to devastate him, but to bring about humility and most of all, healing.
Dear friends, the problem with the world today is that people no longer stand in awe of the God of heaven.
In these turbulent times, both the World and the Church need to experience a fresh revelation of the majesty of the God of heaven, the God of the Universe. The need for this revelation is just as important for you and I.
As our relationship with God grows and our knowledge and understanding of what He has done for us increases, it should be natural for our love and loyalty to Him to become a greater part of our lives. This growth should then lead to a reverence for holy things and a reverence toward God himself.
Reverence could therefore be seen as being reciprocal to our relationship with God. This level of reverence could also be seen as a reality check in a world that considers nothing to be sacred.
Hebrews 12: 28-29 says, 'Therefore, let us be thankful that we are part of a kingdom that can't be shaken. Let's worship God acceptably with hearts full of reverence and awe. Our God is not only gracious and forgiving, but His presence is a consuming fire.'
Nothing could be more acceptable to God than our gratitude for the gracious provisions of the Plan of Salvation, for gratitude will inevitably lead us to loyal service and obedience.
I believe there is no better way to show honour and reverence to God than through the spirit and exemplary lives of those within the Church community - those who are continually inspired by a sense of God's infinite greatness and a realization of His presence.
When we come into the presence of the King of the Universe we need to approach Him in humility and reverence. The Scriptures make it clear that there is a difference between that which is hallowed or holy and that which is common and we ignore those differences at great peril or risk to ourselves.
We are reminded by the Psalmist in Psalm 11: 9 that 'Holy and Reverend is His name.'
Among modern orthodox Jews today, Yahweh, the name for God, is considered so sacred, they will not even pronounce it (Tan, 1991:1149). We are told that even the angels when they speak God's name veil their faces (White, 1943: 49).
The importance of God's name is revealed in His command in Ex. 20: 7 that 'You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.'
I am not sure what you think of when you hear God's name, but you may think of His sovereignty, His authority, His character, His eternal nature, His love and forgiveness or His life giving power.
Names are of great importance. Your name stands for everything that is you. When people hear your name, many things come to mind:
It may be your personality, your reputation, your character, your heritage or your very being
All of these are wrapped up in your name and most would like our names treated with some semblance of respect.
People may get upset or hurt if names are misspelled, mispronounced, misrepresented or blackened.
All through history important members of society have expected their names be treated with some respect. If this is the case then it ought to be more so with God.
The name of God, Jehovah, the Ancient of Days, stands for who He is'.
As the creator of this world, He wrote a signature on time by the institution of the Sabbath. To remember the Sabbath, the sign of the Creator's authority is to remember and reverence the Creator.
Therefore, the fact that we are worshipping here today on the Sabbath is another way of showing reverence to God.
When God said to Moses in Exodus 3: 1-6 ' Don't come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.
What made it Holy?
It was the presence of God.
Wherever God is and whatever is dedicated to the Lord would seem to become holy or set apart. If all nature trembles at His presence, then how much more should sinful human beings enter His presence with Holy fear?
Dear friends, how we reverence God depends on how well we know Him. (Repeat) Your relationship with God is of first importance.
We need to understand what God has accomplished for us at the Cross
We need to be confronted with the holiness of God, just like Isaiah, to see our own sinfulness and then we need to seek a remedy.
Our understanding of God's love and forgiveness should not only lead us to give allegiance and loyalty, but also to give reverence and obedience. William Barclay, the noted New Testament commentator once said: It is a grim truth: If a man is true to God he gains everything, and if he is untrue to God he loses everything. In time and eternity nothing really matters save loyalty to God.
We honour and reverence God by the way we live our lives.
We reverence God by worshipping Him on His holy day
True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness and a realisation of His presence.
Men and Women can never begin to be wise until they fear or reverence God.
We reverence His name by acknowledging His holiness of character and by permitting Him to reproduce that character in us.
My challenge to you this morning is that you will be confronted by the holiness of God today and that as you reflect on His awesome majesty and glory you will be able to say, as did the Psalmist 'Holy and Reverend is His Name'.
Brown, J. V. (2000) Courageous Christians: Devotional Stories for Family Reading. Chicago: Moody Press.
Hancock, C. D. (1997) 'The Shrimp who stopped Slavery. In Galli, M. Christian History Issue 53 Vol XVI, USA: Christianity Today.
Galli, M. (Ed) (1997) Christian History: William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the slave trade. USA: Christianity Today
Tan, P. L. (1991) Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations. Hong Kong: Nordica International, Ltd.
White, E. G. (1943) Prophets and Kings. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
White, E. G. (1958) Patriarchs and Prophets. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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