Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The God We Love to Fear

"Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name" (Matthew 6:9).

In the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God’s name be regarded as holy. What exactly does the Bible mean by the word “holy”? We tend to use “holy” as a synonym for moral righteousness or purity. This is not wrong, but it can be misleading. In the Bible, there are primary and secondary meanings for holiness. The secondary meaning of the word “holy” refers to moral righteousness, but the primary meaning is “separate.”

If something is “holy” then it is “other than” or “different from” something else. When the Bible speaks of God’s holiness, it refers preeminently to His transcendence. God is superior to anything in the created realm.

All religions have holy places and holy times, specific locations and periods set apart from the normal course of life for religious purposes. But why is it that human beings are drawn to set certain things apart? It is because they have a special significance for us, not because of their intrinsic value. What makes something special is the belief that it has come in contact with the divine. In biblical religion, that which is holy is that which has the touch of God upon it. When God touches us, we become holy.

Xenophobia is the fear of strangers or of people with strange customs that differ from our own. The supreme form of xenophobia is the fear of God, the Holy One, the Supreme Other. Rudolph Otto, in his book The Idea of the Holy, said that the holy is the mysterium tremendum, the awe-full mystery. By this, he meant that the experience we have of the holy is mysterious, but it is also powerful. This awesome, mysterious power provokes fear in us.

We have conflicting feelings about the holy. There is something about the holiness of God that attracts us, but there is also something about it that frightens us. It fascinates us, but also terrifies us. As we become aware of what God’s holiness truly means, however, our beliefs will be strengthened, our behavior changed, and our gratitude to the Savior unending. When we see even a small glimpse of God’s holiness, we will bow in worship.

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer brings us face to face with the need to learn the holiness of God’s name. Ask God today to make you more aware of His holiness, that you may love and fear Him more than ever before.