Juxtaposition of Joy and Terror
The Holy Juxtaposition of Joy and Terror
Scripture: “In awe before the glory, in awe before God’s visible power. God thunders across the waters, Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—God, across the flood waters. God’s thunder tympanic, God’s thunder symphonic. God’s thunder smashes cedars,God topples the northern cedars. The mountain ranges skip like spring colts, The high ridges jump like wild kid goats. God’s thunder spits fire. God thunders, the wilderness quakes; He makes the desert of Kadesh shake. God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches. We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!” Above the floodwaters is God’s throne from which his power flows, from which he rules the world. God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace.” (MSG)
Observation: In this passage the angels stand before God amazed and in absolute awe at the presence and glory of God. You can feel this tension between extreme joy and excitement at his presence and absolute terror of his majesty. The idea of awe is the juxtaposition between joy and fear. In this passage there is dancing and leaping and then breaking and shaking. How can these ideas coexist? I remember when I saw my childhood hero, Michael Jordan. I saw him play against the then Seattle Supersonics when I was a 10 year-old boy. Before the game, I had the opportunity to go down near the locker rooms and I remember how I felt as he walked by to give autographs. He was huge (6′ 6″) and very impressive. I was so excited and so absolutely terrified at the same time. I was both nervous and excited and just a twisted ball of emotions. I feel like that can’t even be compared to the juxtaposed emotions one has at the sight of God Almighty; joy mixed with terror at the sheer awesome presence of God. I feel like we can lose that picture of God in our “buddy-buddy” relationships with him. We see God as our sugar-daddy genie in the sky who is approachable only on my terms and at my convenience. I think if we had the view of God as the angels do we would be so overly conscious of our own inadequacy in light of his holiness that our lives and values would be utterly transformed.
Application: When God appears in all of his splendor and majesty and the light of his holiness shines on us, all of our filth is exposed. I wonder how much filth is really there that I cannot see for my lack of knowing God? God says, “Be Holy as I am Holy” (Leviticus 20:23). That is a call to transformation based on who he is, and our right view of him would compel us to live like him. I know that if we saw God in all of his majesty we would be utterly ashamed and surprised at our un-holiness. If God would shine his light on my soul and if I were to really see him for who he was would my life look the same?
Would I be filled with joy at his presence because my life reflects him or would I be so ashamed because my life was tarnished and muddied with worldly things? To see God in his majesty would mean:
- I would change my language
- I would change what I consume as “entertainment”
- I would change what I value in movies, games, music, activities.
- I would change how I lived my life and treated others.
I think our problem is that we get small glimpses of God in worship and prayer on Sunday mornings, and it affects us in the moment. However, when the moment is over we go back Monday to our default lifestyle and forget God. We play games, we watch movies, we listen to music that is degenerate and perverted from what God values and it tarnishes our soul. What we need is a vision of God in our lives that fills us with both joy and terror and which compels us to acknowledge him 24/7 and not just in moments of worship. The last verse says, “God makes his people strong, God gives his people peace.” His people don’t need to be afraid if they reflect God because they know what it means to see God with both joy and terror.
Prayer: Lord, I want to experience the peace that comes from a life lived for you and according to your values. May I see you so clearly so as to worship you not only with my mouth but my thoughts, my values, my conduct and my whole life. Lord fill me with a vision of you that compels me to live according to you. May my worship be out of holy reverence for you that affects my whole life and not just my words or on what I do on a Sunday morning. Amen.