Yesterday, I briefly posted a quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which said “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.” Calvin wrote this after reflecting upon the godly men in scriptures: “Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.” Let us look at a few passages that show the response of men when they are duly confronted with the presence of the Almighty:
- Isaiah was likely the most holy man of his day, and he was reduced to speechlessness when he was in the presence of the Lord: ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
- Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). He was convinced that if he could gain an audience with God he would be able to “argue with him, and [I] would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:7 ESV). God ultimately answers Job’s plea in chapter 38 as He begins to unfold for Job (and us) his might, sovereignty and infinite-ness for the next 5 chapters. Job attempts to stop God in chapter 40 by saying, ““behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further”” (Job 40:4–5 ESV), but God continues unpacking His sovereign infinite-ness. Once Job had experienced being the presence of God, he rightly reckons himself to be finite, limited in perspective and insignificant: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”” (Job 42:5–6 ESV).
- Even the Israelites, who had experienced first hand the miraculous delivery at the hand of God from Egyptian slavery, were fearful of being in the presence of God. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19 ESV)
It is unfortunate that much of what we are taught and consume in the modern evangelical church is man centered and attempts to build us up; it is Christianized self esteem. This is not the historical understanding that holy men from the past had, nor is it the picture that we see in the scriptures. What we need most is to be racked with the infinite might and majesty of the eternal, sovereign Creator so as to be put in our place. He is sovereign, infinite and eternal, we are limited, finite and tiny. When we are confronted with the majesty of God, we are rendered speechless and understand our right position in the universe. And when we understand that the universe and scriptures are not about us, but God, there is great joy and freedom. And ultimately profound worship emerges as we marinate on the fact that the eternal, mighty, holy God would be mindful of us, insignificant worms. Instead of digesting a steady stream of how to texts (be a better husband, be a better father, break free from pornography, etc), try spending time mining out the majesty of God and many of your struggles will begin to loose influence in your life.