By Mike Willis
The Psalmist praised Jehovah by saying, “Holy and reverend is his name” (Psa. 111:9). Indeed, the Lord is to be revered among men. His holiness of character demands our reverence and respect for Him; His almighty power awes us as it is contrasted with our weaknesses. Men ought to show reverence for the Lord as they come in His presence.
Respect For God As Shown From The Old Testament
There are numerous examples of men showing reverence for the Lord recorded in the Old Testament. We can see their attitude toward the Lord as displayed by these accounts.
1. Isaiah 6:5-8. The sixth chapter of Isaiah records the Lord’s call of Isaiah to make him a prophet. Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon His throne surrounded by seraphim which were crying one to another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3). When Isaiah saw this, he said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am-a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5). His attitude of reverence at being in the presence of the Lord is apparent to us.
2. Exodus 3:5. When the Lord called Moses to be His prophet and lawgiver to the children of Israel, He appeared to him in a burning bush. As Moses approached that burning bush, the voice of God spoke to him saying, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground . . . . I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Upon hearing these words, “Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” The attitude of reverence is seen in Moses even as it was seen in Isaiah.
3. Exodus 19. When the children of Israel departed from Egypt and journeyed to Mount Sinai where they were given the Law, they were instructed not to approach Mount Sinai during the time that God was giving the Law to them. The Lord commanded, “Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves; that ye go not up into the mount or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: there shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.” The passages certainly shows the reverence which is to be shown to the Lord. The people were to wash themselves in preparation for being in the presence of God; their clothes were to be washed. When the Lord came upon the mountain, no person or animal was allowed to come near it.
The Sanctified Priesthood
Another source for demonstrating the reverence which was demanded toward God under the Levitical priesthood is shown in the laws pertaining to the priests. When the priesthood was inaugurated, a special service was conducted to show that the priests were separated from the common lot of mankind and specially dedicated to the service of God (Lev. 8-9). They were washed, given special clothes to wear, and anointed.
Later, the record gives several laws for the priests. They could not drink wine when going to the tabernacle (Lev. 10:9) in order that they might learn to distinguish the holy from the common. The priests were not allowed to defile themselves with the dead (Lev. 21:1), except for those dead who were part of his immediate family. The priests were not allowed to defile themselves by shaving their heads bald, shaving the corners of their beard, or making any cuttings of their flesh (Lev. 21:6). The wife whom they married was required to be a virgin (Lev. 21:13); hence, a widow, divorced woman or immoral woman could not be his wife. Any man in the priestly family with a physical defect could not approach the Lord to serve as priest (Lev. 21:16-24).
Throughout, the Mosaical law demonstrated the reverence which is to be given to the Lord our God. The particular reverence due to God is commanded of mankind. “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab. 2:20). “Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation” (Zech. 2:13).
Men Should Show Reverence To God Today
Even as mankind was expected to show reverence to God in their worship during the period of Levitical worship, we are also expected to reverence the Lord in our worship today. That the Lord is to be reverenced, no one would deny. However, some of the things which I am calling to your attention in this article might be things with which you find yourself in disagreement. Indeed, some of them are judgment matters, except insomuch as they reflect a lack of reverence and respect toward Jehovah. If they show a lack of reverence toward God, they certainly are wrong for that reason.
1. The dress which we wear to worship. In recent years, I have noticed larger numbers of Christians attending worship services in casual attire. Some of the Christians among us attend worship in altogether sinful attire, wearing immodest clothing. In addition to being a direct violation of God’s word regarding modest apparel, this certainly show irreverence and disrespect toward God. I have witnessed women who attended services, purportedly to worship God, in skirts so short that they revealed far too much of their bodies, slacks so tight that one could not have put a piece of paper between the skin and the material without ripping the material, and other apparel unfit for those who claim to be Christians.
Added to this, one sees disrespect manifested in dress that is altogether too casual. I have witnessed many among the younger Christians who come to worship services dressed in blue jeans and some kind of casual shirt. I have seen older women attending worship services in pant suits. The problem which I have in dealing with these types of dress for worship is that I know that these same persons would not think of attending a wedding, funeral, or even Friday or Saturday night luncheon engagement dressed in the same attire. Why is this so? Apparently because more respect is shown for these occasions than the offering of worship of God!
I am not trying to legislate what a person must wear when he worships God. What I am calling attention to is one’s attitude toward that worship. I have been around a good many godly farmers who lacked the resources to afford a suit and tie for worship. Therefore, these men went to worship in a pair of overalls. Yet these men had a special Sunday-go-to-meeting pair of overalls set aside for that purpose. They tried to look their “Sunday best” when they assembled to worship God. Frankly, I appreciated their attitude of reverence for the occasion of worshiping God much more than I appreciate the casual disposition toward worship.
2. Conduct during the assembly. Even as I have seen disrespect for the worship of God shown in what is worn to the assembly, I have also seen disrespect for the worship of God shown in the conduct of those assembled for worship. I have witnessed good sisters clipping their nails in worship, teenagers passing notes during worship, and people of all ages sleeping during the worship. Practically any assembly of Christians will contain its share of daydreamers, if not just dreamers. In some congregations, the whispering and disrespectful conduct is so obnoxious that I have had trouble preaching.
Aside from the fact that such conduct is disrespectful to the person addressing the assembly, such conduct is thoroughly disgusting to God because of the disrespect which is shown to Him and His worship thereby.
Brethren, we Christians simply must manifest the respect for the worship which is offered to God which is due to Him. We should never forget that we are in the presence of the Lord and show the proper respect for that occasion. It is not something to be treated lightly or to be snuffed at.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 49, pp. 787-788
December 13, 1979