Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12: 28-29)
Touching the holiness of God is a desire most of us long for, if we’re honest. It is a desire rooted in the need to move beyond our sinful selves to a deeper and richer knowledge of God, to experience the transforming power of relationship with Him and live lives that impact the world. By itself, this is a common and acceptable desire.
There is a trend among churches, however, to ‘reach for the Shekinah glory of God’, but do all Christians fully understand the implications of this? It sounds wonderful, and we all long to experience His glory and see His holiness, but have we considered the cost inherent in such an awesome revelation? It’s not ‘wrong’ to seek after the glory of God – we’re told in the Bible to seek His glory in all things. But the key is His glory. To seek His glory means to seek that He may be glorified in everything. It does not mean that we seek a manifestation of His glory so that we may feel good, feel encouraged, feel validated…the root of the trend lies, sadly, in the desire of God’s people to experience the glory for reasons of self-gratification.
This sounds harsh and condemnatory, but we would be wise to consider the full meaning of His Shekinah glory and what it would really mean for us were this to manifest as we desire. Simply put, the Shekinah glory of God is his complete manifest presence, i.e. a manifestation in the physical of the total, intrinsic essence of who and what God actually is. Sounds wonderful? It is. Until we grasp that the very nature of God is, in fact, holiness. This is the defining attribute of God. In Revelation and Isaiah, for example, the word that emerges to describe God on His throne is ‘holy, holy, holy.’ Not love, not mercy, and not gracious, although He is all these things as well.
Today’s verse captures the essence of God’s holiness: Our God is a consuming fire. This is because His very nature is holiness, and holiness cannot exist in the same space as unholiness. Anything that is not holy that encounters His holiness must be destroyed. His holiness is, in essence, the source of His judgement. Intrinsic holiness, by its very existence, is judgement against anything that is not holy.
Were we to encounter the full Shekinah glory of God, the manifestation of His holiness, anything in us that is not holy would automatically be destroyed. This manifestation should be a sovereign move of God, for only He knows when and how He may accomplish this without destroying his people. It is God’s grace and mercy that protects us through the covering blood of Christ. It’s important to understand that grace and mercy have no relevance without judgement. They would not exist without there first being a reason for them. That reason is His holiness, the seat of judgment, against which we cannot stand.
So what, then, does ‘touching’ the holiness of God really mean? It is to ‘have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and holy fear.’ Just as He protected Moses, by being merciful, from looking on His face (which no man can do and live) so he protects us by revealing Himself through His Son. Having holy fear means to understand the nature of His holiness. It means ‘taking off our shoes’ and coming in reverence, knowing our limitations. It means allowing him, through a gradual revelation of His nature, His character and His presence, to burn away those things in us that would be our destruction in the full revelation of his holy, Shekinah glory.
It means seeing His holiness in surrender, in allowing him to transform us daily, bringing us finally to the place where we will spend eternity touching the holiness of God without being consumed, because will will finally be a part of it.
Lord, help me to understand your holiness, and to walk in reverence and fear, to desire more of you but to allow you to reveal yourself day be day, and to remove from me those things that are unholy.