A Frightening Holiness (Judges 13:22)

Judges 13:22 – And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

I almost wrote on this topic during the account of Gideon in Judges 6, but something else got my attention at that time. However, seeing it again, I want to comment on it. Notice how Manoah and his wife respond to seeing the Angel of the LORD. They fall to the ground, tremble, and fear that they will die for having been in the presence of God, actually seeing him.

One thing that I fear that we have lost in our churches today is an understanding of the frightening holiness of God. When Isaiah saw God, he cried out that he was undone, falling apart, for being in the presence of God. Peter, in the presence of Jesus, once cried out for Jesus to get away, because Peter knew himself to be sinful. Thus the truth of this pattern is that sinful men, when in the presence of holiness, tremble and fear their own destruction.

A right understanding of God’s holiness includes an understanding that he is very dangerous for us who are sinful. We have no right to march into his presence on our own. We dare not demand an audience. We should tremble at the thought of being in his presence, not flippantly sing of seeing his face. The face of the LORD is so beautiful, so holy, so deadly that we can only see it if under his protection. God is terrible (in the sense of terrifying) to behold.

When we finally have a grasp of the fact that we have no right in ourselves to gaze upon God without fear of death, of being consumed by his holiness, then we can marvel at the fact that God allows us into his presence. Ephesians 3:12 declares that in Christ, and through faith in him, we can approach God with freedom and confidence. That freedom is not something to take lightly. It is not something we earned. It is not at all based on our merits, but on those of Christ. And even with that freedom, we still do not approach foolishly. We do not act silly in the presence of the holy king of all the universe. We dare not be glib about meeting with the Holy One.

Let us learn both to tremble at the thought of seeing God and to rejoice over the grace he has given us to approach him. Let us approach him with freedom and confidence as well as with decorum and respect. Let us not think we will just bounce into God’s presence by our own righteousness. Let us remember that we enter his presence under the blood bought grace of Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate, for sure, but let that celebration include the reverence due one who is frighteningly perfect, pure, and holy.

Lord, I acknowledge that you are holy, perfect, and pure. You are worthy of the highest praise, the greatest reverence, and the most perfect fear. I ask that you will help me to remember your holiness, to worship you, and to reverence your glory. I thank you that I may approach you, but only through the blood bought grace of Jesus Christ. Thank you for allowing me into your presence by his righteousness. Help me never to dishonor your presence.

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