Worship is at once a simple thing and a complex thing. There are aspects of worship that we may never fully comprehend here below, but we have eternity to explore. While worship includes aspects such as rejoicing, thanksgiving and proclamation of the goodness of God, I wonder if we are not missing an essential element in the church world today. What I am suggesting is not that there is anything wrong with those aspects of our worship, but that we have forgotten a key ingredient, which can only be cultivated through intimacy with Jesus Christ. That element is awe.

Awe has its roots in accurate knowledge of the character and attributes of God. It begins with a sense of reverence. But when it really comes to life is when we know God, not just a set of facts about Him. As in other things, data does not equal knowledge. Awe blossoms when we come to a realization of who God is and who we are. When we have God high and lifted up, and realize that the only reason we can worship Him at all is because of grace, we begin to experience “awe”. The Hebrew writer out it this way at the end of chapter 12:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Y et once more I will shake not only the earth , but also the heaven .” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:22-29 NASB)

When we bow before the immovable, unshakeable, consuming fire, who dwells in unapproachable light, our sense of awe will cause us to be broken and contrite before Him. We will be in awe of His supreme condescension in emptying Himself, taking the form of a servant, and coming to suffer for our sins while we were still His enemies. “The Message” renders it this way:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 MSG)

But let me call your attention to what was said in Hebrews 12. The Writer describes “acceptable worship” as having the key ingredients of reverence and awe. Back in Isaiah, God revealed that those are the only worshiped that get His attention. And keep in mind here, that He is specifically talking about worship.

Thus says the Lord , “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the L ord . “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:1, 2 NASB)

There is no shortcut to awe. Is not something that can be drummed up by a worship leader working the crowd and “pumping you up”. Oh, we can appear humble and broken, and even shed a tear. But let’s not confuse that with awe. Awe is what causes us to tremble at His Word. Awe is what fosters the fear of The Lord in our soul and spirit.

So lets make a concerted effort to focus on who our God is. As we meditate on this “consuming fire” lets realize that if it were not for His mercy, we would be consumed by that very fire instead of being welcomed by it.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23 KJV)

Here is something to meditate on for a day. Roll this one around in your head for awhile: “My God is a consuming fire.”

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