When God Shows Up
Dr. Jim Denison
Karl Barth, the eminent theologian, claimed that “Christian worship is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life.”
All of creation worships its Creator: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of their hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, the words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). All we see worships the One we cannot see.
But we alone have a choice in the matter. We can worship our Creator or his creation. This fall, we will learn how to choose wisely. As we seek to put God first, to make him not just our Savior, but our King, we will focus each week on an attribute of our heavenly Father and ask what that characteristic means to our worship and our lives.
We begin this morning with the most foundational statement in all of Scripture regarding the King we have come to honor today. When we get this right, our Lord will show up in our worship and our lives. This is the promise of God.
Who is the God we worship?
Hebrew is a strange language to Americans. It reads right to left; the original had no vowels; their poetry never rhymed. And they made an adjective superlative by repeating it; we would say, “good, better, best”—they would say “good, good, good.”
Only once does Scripture say something three times about God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3). Quoting the “four living creatures” of heaven, Revelation says: “Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come'” (Revelation 4:8).
Over and over the Bible proclaims this fact about our King.
God calls himself holy: “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy” (Leveticus 11:44).
Scripture agrees: “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).
“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).
“Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20).
“The Lord our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9).
“You alone are holy” (Revelation 15:4).
What does it mean for God to be “holy”?
The Hebrew word is qadosh, to be clean, hallowed, pure, sacred, different from all else.
Such a being is the superlative of every good. Think of the universe, 13.7 billion light years across—this God measures it in the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:12). Think of the nanotechnologies now being developed, using particles which are no larger than one 75th of a millimeter. This God designed the atoms and molecules they use, and tracks each one. Think of the most loving, gracious, godly person you know—this God is such character to infinity.
The Jewish scribes, men who devoted their lives to copying the word of God, knew something of his holiness. They would not even speak his name, so that today we don’t know how it was originally pronounced. They would not write it, so that today it is common to see Jews write G-d so as not to spell his full name. Typically, when a scribe came to the name of God he would bathe, put on new clothes, grasp a new quill, write the name; then discard the quill and burn his clothes, bathe again, put on his old clothes, take up his old quill, and continue.
By contrast, think of the ways our culture takes his name in vain; of the ways we take his blessings, his grace, his forbearance, his worship for granted. Of the ways we come to worship when it suits us, pray when we need something, read Scripture when it’s convenient.
Why do we worship him?
What does our King expect us to do in response to his holiness?
Here is his command: “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9).
Our first response to our holy God is worship. The word in Hebrew is shachah, “to bow down, to do homage;” in Greek it is proskuneo, “to kiss toward,” to reverence. Why do we pay such homage to this King?
First, because he deserves our worship.
It was “the year that King Uzziah died” (v. 1a). Uzziah had been the greatest king the nation had known since Solomon. He had ruled for 52 years, modernizing their army, conquering the Philistines, extending commerce, bringing peace and prosperity such as the nation had not known since Solomon.
Now their great king lay in his grave. However, their greatest King was not: “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (v. 1b). In the ancient world, the higher a king’s throne, the greater his power. This King’s throne stands above Uzziah’s, or any other’s. The longer the train of his robe, the greater his royalty; this King’s robe filled the Holy of Holies, some 40,500 square feet, 30 by 30 by 45 feet high.
This is the creator of the universe, the ruler of all that is, the One who gives us life and life eternal. He deserves our worship.
Second, we honor our King because he demands our worship.
Isaiah said, “I saw the Lord.” “Lord” is Adonai, used over 300 times in the Bible. It means owner, ruler, one who reigns over all, the King. And the King expects the worship of his subjects.
King Uzziah died because he failed this very demand. He had entered the Temple himself, with a golden censer to burn incense, a job only the priest could perform. The priests cautioned him, and he flew into a fit of rage against them. Immediately he was smitten with leprosy, banished from the kingdom, and lived alone to the day he died.