Isaiah 6 v 1-8, Luke 5 v 1-11, Psalm 2,
These days we have no shortage of information. We can ‘Google’ just about anything on our mobile phones. It’s like carrying an encyclopaedia in your pocket!
Plenty of information, but not much understanding or wisdom. Despite campaigns for justice and human rights and the rulings of governments and high courts, human beings seem more selfish and abusive than ever. The so-called ‘liberal’ culture founded on Darwinian atheism and human pride is bringing about a society plagued with corruption, violence and rape. Professing ourselves to be wise and knowledgeable, we are in fact becoming immoral ‘fools’!
By contrast, the Bible has always maintained that the starting point of true wisdom is a humble reverence for our Creator. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111v10)
People didn’t like it when ministers used to preach about hell and damnation. Some stopped coming to church. Some ministers stopped speaking about God’s holiness, about sin and judgement and spoke exclusively about God’s love and acceptance instead. Have those people come back to church? Of course not! Church is widely regarded as an irrelevance, an anachronism beneath contempt and God’s name is blasphemed everywhere.
But for those who have ‘ears to hear’ God’s Word, the ‘fear’ of the Lord is still the beginning, the foundation, the birth of wisdom and understanding, and the path to life and blessing.
Old Testament preacher Isaiah was granted a privileged glimpse of God enthroned in heaven, worshipped by mighty angels. God’s presence, power, majesty, glory and in particular holiness overwhelmed Isaiah and he cried out in fearful confession. Similarly when Simon Peter sensed the presence of Almighty God in his fishing boat in Galilee he too was overcome with fear and a deep sense of unworthiness. ‘Go away from me Lord. I’m a sinful man.’ ‘Turn your eyes away from me Lord. I’m not all I should be, I’m not worthy to be in your presence, I’m not worthy of your company’.
And yet in each case their humble confessions resulted in an assurance of atonement, an invitation to fellowship and a commission to service. The God Who reveals Himself in the Bible is truly awesome yet also gracious.
We can’t just lament that people outside don’t come to church to worship God anymore. Some of us church members have to share the responsibility for decline by having presented a ‘God’ who isn’t worth worshipping!
Let me read you a little from the Westminster Confession of Faith which the Presbyterian Church in Ireland uses as a summary of Biblical teaching:
‘There is only one living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a completely pure spirit … eternal, unsearchable, almighty, completely wise, completely holy … He works everything according to the purpose of His own unchangeable and completely righteous will … He is the only source of all being, by Whom, through Whom and to Whom everything exists. He has completely sovereign dominion over all things … His knowledge is infinite, infallible and does not depend on any created being …
He hates all sin and will not acquit the guilty … He is completely loving, gracious, merciful and patient … He forgives wickedness … and rewards those who diligently seek Him…
In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, having one substance, power and eternity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit’.
Wow! After all this world’s disappointing idols, finally, a God worthy of the title! Perhaps we can see why Isaiah and Simon Peter felt as they did, on the one hand overcome with fear but on the other captivated with wonder and drawn to commit their lives in willing service.
Do we ever sense our need to look up to something or someone, this innate human desire to know One worthy of worship and adoration? Look no further! He is revealed here in scripture.
Are we thinking of sinning? Are we thinking of breaking the rules or replacing creation order with one of our own? Ps 2 cautions us to consider carefully Whose laws we are breaking. Think before we act – consider the One to Whom we shall one day have to give account!
Are we crying out for light and comfort in this often cruel world? Do we need strength and inspiration from beyond ourselves? Like Isaiah and Peter are we convicted about our need for forgiveness and assurance of salvation? Why would we pursue a powerless idol or boast in our own finite, limited abilities when we can trust in One Whose love and grace are infinite and unending?
Now if we don’t want to believe in God and accept His commandments we have a problem. A serious problem with eternal consequences. The hell and damnation that ministers used to preach about, and that Jesus frequently speaks of in the Gospels are real and to be avoided at all costs!
But for those who do believe, who take God at His Word and embrace Christ in penitent faith it just gets better and better! Without apology, God reveals His nature in what became known as ‘The Trinity’ or the ‘Godhead’. One true God, three distinct ‘persons’. Our little minds can’t compute that but it’s not a problem to the one Being Who is without limits.
It’s a divine mystery, but a mystery that works beautifully in the experience of believers.
God is the Almighty Creator, Ruler and Judge yet Jesus encourages us to pray to Him as ‘Our Father in heaven’, One Who delights to provide ‘good gifts’ for His children.
Jesus Christ, God the Son is the ultimate hero, taking on flesh, becoming one of us to save us. Good Shepherd, Saviour, Lord, Teacher, Healer, Friend and Advocate, Prophet, Priest and King, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door, Light of the World and Bread of Life. Do you know Him?
And finally God the Holy Spirit, the mighty Helper Jesus sends to live in us and among us to raise us up in practise to so much more than we could ever be on our own.
Be wise, writes the Psalmist, be warned. Be careful and show reverence to the Holy One Who could end our lives in a moment. But let Christians also be joyful and give all praise and thanks to our Saviour for this same Psalm ends with this promise:
‘Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.’