My Dad just celebrated his 89th birthday. I love to hear his stories, particularly the ones about World War 2 and his part in the Dutch underground and about his childhood in the Netherlands. One of my favourites is his story about visiting the Queen of Holland. He had been a part of a boys club and a select few had the opportunity to have tea with the Queen. When they were serving tea, the sugar was in the form of cubes (you don't see sugar cubes very often any more). The cubes were to be picked up with a set of small tongs. My dad always had sugar in his tea, but he had it black that day. He didn't want to use the tongs so that no one could see how bad his hands were shaking. He was keenly aware of the fact that he was in the presence of royalty.
I am often reminded of this story when I am thinking about God. He is the ultimate royalty. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I am aware of God's great love for me. He loved me and you so much that he gave His only Son to die for us. His love is infinite, the apostle Paul challenges believers to plumb the depths of God's love, to see how high, wide, deep and long is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18). He explains that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from His love. (Romans 8) He also tells us that His love is a compelling force to do His will. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) But there is another half to this truth, God must also be feared. We are to have a deep sense of reverence and awe. the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, because our God is a consuming fire.”
I remember the first time I saw what would be a consuming fire. I was working in Jasper, Alberta at the Tramway for the summer and a small forest fire developed about 40 km outside of the town. It was contained, but still a sight to behold, trees would burn like torches. I was laying on a grassy hill on the edge of town and as I watched the destruction I thought to myself, “I am glad I am looking at this from a distance.”
Sometimes I think we make God too manageable, too easy going, and too safe. Maybe there should be like in my dad's story, a little bit more of the “shaking of the hand”.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis describes the first time the children hear about Aslan:
“is – is he a man?” asked Lucy
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan. “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn't safe?” said Lucy
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you.” 1
Like Aslan, God is definitely not safe. He is to be feared with reverence and awe. To not have a little bit of trembling of the knees is foolhardy. He is not safe, but God is very, very good. Donald McCullough in his book The Trivialization of God says this about a God who is a consuming fire, “The blaze of holiness admits no disrespect; its,boundaries cannot be trespassed. But this very distinctness is the fire that thaws our frozen hearts, the fire that draws us into a relationship with God and one another, the fire that cleanses even as it purges” 2
“Fear God and give Him glory” Revelation 14:7.
And that is just the beginning…
1 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (London: Puffin 1950), p.75
2 Donald McCullough, The Trivialization of God (Colorado Springs: Nav Press 1995), p.87