Chapter Two: Entering into the Holy of Holies
Standing Before Him with Fear and Trembling
In my final year of university, my schedule required me to take a class with one particular English professor. A particular professor that I spent the past five years of university avoiding his classes when possible (and it was always possible).
It’s not that I didn’t like him or anything. I didn’t know him. But what I did know was that he was known to be a hard marker and very smart. So smart that his intelligence intimidated or amazed most students. I was not immune to that perception, and so I didn’t want to take a course with him and be found wanting. I wanted him to read my essays or listen to the lecture I led and think I was worthy. Worthy of good grades, worthy of a recommendation for a master’s degree, and worthy of his respect.
While this example pales in comparison to Isaiah’s experience of standing before God, the fear, nerves, respect, and awe I felt standing before my university professor is all I have to draw on to relate to Isaiah.
However, unlike Isaiah, who assumed that he was going to die because he stood before God, we don’t need to fear rejection. As the passage in Hebrews 10 points out, we have been found worthy in Christ. He invites us into his presence. And while he is still someone who should command our respect and awe, who can create a sense of fear of inadequacy in us, we have the everlasting promise that we are not inadequate. We are covered by the blood of the true high priest. Therefore, we can boldly come before God and sit with him.
So what does it mean to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28)?
Unlike the Israelites, God did not give us a list of rules to follow when we worship Him. However, the books by the apostles give us insight into acceptable worship. In Romans 12:1 we’re instructed to be a living sacrifice, and the note in my Bible points out this means we worship God with our whole self: our hearts, our minds, and our wills. And in John 4:21-24, we’re told that true worship happens when we worship in the Holy Spirit and in the truth, and in John, the truth often represents Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
But how do we get to the point where we are worshiping with our whole selves, the Holy Spirit, and Christ?
We dwell with God. We sit with Him. We worship Him. We give him all glory and honour and praise. And, in doing so, He sits with us. He fills us with His Spirit. And His Son stands before us holding open the curtain into the Holy of Holies.
Stepping in Boldly and with Confidence
Last week we talked about entering into his presence with praise and thanksgiving even when things aren’t going the way we want or hope. We need to be honest and transparent before him. One way we can invite the Holy Spirit into our practice of worship is by practicing praise and thanksgiving.
I also think that, as we spoke about in the first week, the act of silence and making room to listen to God is essential. When we are so rushed and busy, we cannot hear God. And if we cannot hear God, we do not give him the full attention and respect he deserves.
Finally, I think it’s vital for us to open ourselves up before God and to his instruction. We need to pray, we need to study his word, and we need to fast. Because, while we no longer need to sacrifice animals or have our lips touched with coals from the altar to be cleansed, we do need to worship from a place of unrushed sincerity. These practices require us to slow down, accept the invitation into the throne room, and sit with the Spirit as we learn about God.