Are You Awed By God?
James C. Denison
It was my first day on the faculty of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth. I parked my pickup truck outside our church in Mansfield before driving to school. The only parking spot I could find was adjacent to President Russell Dilday’s car.
I happened to see Dr. Dilday come and go two or three times during the day; once it seemed that he looked in the back of my truck, but I thought nothing of it. When I came out at the end of the day, I saw what he might have seen: the empty 12-pack beer carton someone had thrown in the back of my truck when it was parked outside the church that morning. Not the best way to start a new career.
Most of us have been awed by someone we respect or fear. Your first meeting with the president of your college, or the CEO of your new company, or the famous athlete you happen to meet. The first president I ever met was Jimmy Carter. I would see him for five minutes one day at the Carter Center in Atlanta. I worried all week that I would do something to embarrass myself for the rest of my life.
When last were you awed by God? This summer we explored the church, the people of God. Now let’s meet the God of the church. Recent movies have brought us Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty–now we’ll meet God Almighty. Each week we’ll be introduced by a person who met God and was never the same.
We start with a man who was awed by God. He is ready to show us that we have not experienced all God can do in and through our lives until the same thing happens to us. Where do you need divine power and presence today? What you need even more is to be awed by God.
Let me show you why.
Being awed by God
One of the most pivotal events in human history occurred in one of the most mundane settings imaginable. The region was known as “Horeb,” a Hebrew word meaning “desolation” or “desert.” The traditional site is called Gebel Musa, “Moses’ mountain,” an elevation of 7,467 feet. Here Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law when he heard the voice of God.
From within a burning bush, God called Moses by name (v. 4). It is an astounding thing to realize that the Lord of the universe knows your name and mine. He is watching as you listen to these words. He knows your thoughts and heart. And he loves and accepts you anyway.
He called Moses to venerate his holiness by removing his sandals. Slaves were typically barefoot; here Moses humbled himself to the lowest level of social importance. He bowed before this holy God in the reverence which is his due. And God revealed himself in greater detail than any human had yet known him. But it all started when Moses was awed by God.
Are you awed by God?
“Fear not” is the phrase God says to humans more often than any other in the Bible. He said it to Abram when he first called him: “Fear not, Abram–I am your shield and very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). He said it to Hagar in the desert (Genesis 21:17). He said it to Isaac: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Genesis 26:24). He said it to Jacob: “Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there” (Genesis 46:3).
He said it to Moses when he was afraid of his enemy (Numbers 21:34). Gabriel said it to Zacharias in announcing the coming of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13); he said it to Mary in announcing the coming of the Messiah (Luke 1:30); the angels said it to the shepherds in announcing the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:10).
Jesus said it to his disciples when he called them to fish for men (Luke 5:10). God said it to Paul before his shipwreck (Acts 27:24). The exalted Christ said it to John on Patmos: “Fear not” (Revelation 1:17).
All through the Old Testament we see the same pattern.
When Isaiah saw the Lord he cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined!” (Isaiah 6:5). When Jeremiah heard his call he responded, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! I do not know how to speak–I am only a child” (Jeremiah 1:6).
When Ezekiel saw the Lord he fell facedown (Ezekiel 1:28). When Daniel received the vision of God, he says that his face “turned pale” (Daniel 7:28). When Hosea heard the word of the Lord he called the people to repent (Hosea 14:1-2).
Joel called the sinful nation to mourn and grieve in a solemn assembly before Almighty God (Joel 1:13-14). When God spoke to Amos, the prophet recorded, “The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers” (Amos 1:2). Every prophet had the same message: repent before the God of the universe.
The Old Testament closes with these words from Malachi 4: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (vs. 5-6).
But this is the God of the Old Testament, a God of law and legalism and judgment, we often hear. The New Testament God of grace is different, some people say. Those people are wrong.
When Jesus first demonstrated his miraculous power to Peter, the burly fisherman pled with him, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). At the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus revealed his heavenly glory to them, his disciples “did not know what to say, they were so frightened” (Mark 9:6).