Lord Most High
In his books What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord and Rejoice and Tremble, author Michael Reeves talks about godly fear, and how appropriate it is to our relationship with the Lord, and for our worship. He spends a good deal of time sorting out what the wrong kind of fear is, and what is right and good in our fear of God.
One of the things Reeves emphasizes is how godly fear is really the intensity of our love and awe at how magnificent our God is. We are stunned by the love He has displayed in saving us, and how much of Himself He poured into our redemption. We sense the weight of our sin, yet also the thrill that we have been freely and totally forgiven by this loving, gracious Father.
We are awed by Him as Creator and Sovereign, and the reality that we are so small and powerless in His presence, and in comparison to the vast universe He has made. If we grasp this at all it makes us tremble a bit, and justly so. Yet, as we respond to His promises of love and acceptance, and respond to His overtures of love with our own growing love in return, our trembling becomes the type of great anticipation instead of anxiety. It becomes “a thrill of hope” as we approach the Lord Most High.
Reeves says, “That trembling fear is the right reaction to the Creator. For the holiness of the Creator is not a quiet, anemic thing to be received with stained-glass voices and simpers. The holiness of the sovereign Lord is tremendous, vivid, and dazzling. Not to fear Him would be blind foolishness. In the splendor of the Creator’s majesty, we should be abased. In the brightness of His purity, we should be ashamed.”
But, lest this leaves us with a cold terror that is not God-honoring, Reeves reminds us, “Our wonder at the Creator’s magnificence increases when we know it as the magnificence of the kindest Savior” (emphasis mine). Spurgeon also casts this awe and fear of God’s magnificence in personal terms when he says he views these wonders from the perspective of: “his Father’s wealth, his Father’s wisdom, his Father’s power.” We have an awesome and fearsome God, who is also our loving Father, so our justifiable fear will be mingled with love, if we know Him rightly, and trust in His great love for us.
Reeves goes on to say, “Those who do not know God as a merciful Redeemer and compassionate Father can never have the delight of a truly filial fear. At best, they can only tremble at His transcendent awesomeness as Creator. At worst, they can only shudder at the thought that there is a righteous Judge in heaven and hate Him in their hearts.”
Jesus, who dearly loved His Father and was dearly loved by His Father in return, had a deep filial fear of His Father, but rather than dread His Father, He delighted in that fear (Is. 11:3). “This filial fear is part of the Son’s pleasurable adoration of His Father; indeed, it is the very emotional extremity of that wonder. It is not the dread of sinners before a holy Judge. It is not the awe of creatures before their tremendous Creator. It is the overwhelmed devotion of children marveling at the kindness and glory and complete magnificence of their Father,” says Reeves.
If our experiences of God are devoid of such feelings of fear and joy and love mingled, then perhaps we have yet to truly know who He is and what He has done. Perhaps our view of God is too small, or our knowledge of Him has been confined too much to our heads and has not yet reached deep into our hearts. It could well be that we need to spend more time meditating on Scriptures which describe His magnificence, and wait upon Him with our hearts wide open, allowing Him to reveal Himself to us in new and deeper ways.
Thus, songs like this one take us up and beyond our everyday concerns, beyond the distractions of this passing world, beyond the trivial and even the important of this world, to the vital, the transcendent, the ultimate—to look at God Himself, and remember how worthy He is of our worship, our love, and our godly fear. As we know Him more, we exalt Him from both our understanding and the depths of our hearts. We remember that He existed from ages unnumbered; He is without beginning or end. We might be able to fathom the “without end” part, but that no beginning part boggles our time-bound minds. We need to allow our minds to be boggled by Him, to experience the discomfort of contemplating a God beyond our ken.
Not only are His ways, His power, and His wisdom beyond finding out, so is His love. It surpasses all our capabilities to fathom it, yet He invites us to experience it. If we haven’t yet been overwhelmed by the reality of His love for us, and blown away to the point that we can do nothing but return it with joy, here too we need to seek Him for a fresh encounter with the love He so freely offers us, yet cost Him so great a price. Then our praises will rise unbidden and unrelenting—throughout those endless ages to the Lord Most High.