By Dusty Owens
There is a saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Sometimes, the best of friends will become enemies because they spend so much time together. They begin to take one another for granted. Often, we grow weary of eating at the same restaurant, playing the same game, or wearing the same clothes. Whatever we do, we should never tire of serving God.
There is a danger in letting our relationship with God become commonplace. The Bible teaches, yea God commands, that we reverence Him. But, what does this mean?
There are two basic ideas in the word “reverence”: respect and fear. Our reverence for God should go beyond our respect for and our fear of any man. Yet, I see people showing more reverence for men than for God. We would expect this in the world, but when it happens in the church it is a disgrace!
We do not have the space to give consideration to all aspects of our lives relative to reverencing God, but we will keep our thoughts only on our behavior during the assembly. We can show disrespect for God’s things in the short while we are together.
Reverence In Our Service
Paul spoke of our receiving a kingdom “…whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29). No doubt this relates to the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Law (Exod. 20:18-21; Heb. 12:18-21), but it is applied to the church reverencing God.
When we come together we should do everything possible to maintain a reverent attitude. We should realize that God is in our presence. When people whisper about non-essentials, make unnecessary noises, throw spit balls, or get up and walk around (or go to the bathroom) during services, they are showing disrespect for God. Parents should teach this lesson to their children early in life. They should see to it that their children visit the bathroom and obtain a drink before services begin. Then, they should see to it that they remain reverent during the service.
When Moses came into the presence of God at Mount Sinai, He spoke from the bush: “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off they feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exod. 3:5). The account goes on to say that “Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” The Israelites were commanded “to reverence my sanctuary: I am Jehovah” (Lev. 19:30).
Reverence During Prayer
Certainly, at the very time we are talking to God we should give Him our undivided attention. I know that the Bible doesn’t tell us that we must put our body in any particular position when we pray, but I do read that Jesus “kneeled down and prayed” (Lk. 22:41) and “fell on his face and prayed” (Matt. 26:39). The Israelites often stood while praying to God. All of these position show a great reverence for God. The mode that shows the least amount of respect is the sitting position. Even in a court of law, we show respect by standing when the judge enters the room.
Reverence While Singing
In these passages, Paul commanded us to sing: “. . . singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19); “. . . singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16). It is obvious that our hearts are to be in tune to the thoughts we are expressing in song. “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15). We cannot be singing respectably to God, and at the same time be thinking about something that has nothing to do with the sentiments of the song.
Reverence While Preaching
The respect or disrespect that we show during the preaching is not so much toward the one who is doing the preaching as it is toward God and His word. The Israelites often stood during the reading of the Law, out of respect for it. “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people . . . and when he opened it, all the people stood up” (Neh. 8:5). Contrast that attitude with many today who pay very little attention to the reading and preaching of the word. I marvel at how many literally go to sleep every time the word is preached. “For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep” (1 Cor. 11:31). “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11).
Reverence During The Lord’s Supper
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10: 16) When the saints partake of the Lord’s Supper, they are to be in “communion” with the Lord. He is in our presence. “I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, unto that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). Is it not the height of disrespect to be thinking or doing something else while pretending to be in communion with the Lord? “Wherefore whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord . . . . For he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment (damnation – kjv) unto himself, if he discern not the body” (1 Cor. 11:27,29).
Finally, there are things related to the assembly that need mentioning. We should make it a habit to be on time for every service. To be late continuously shows irreverence. We should not become loud and boisterous before or after the service. Sometimes the one who is to get us started on time must wait patiently while others are standing around laughing, joking and patting one another on the back. We should make sure that our children are not turning the church grounds into a circus world. Some like to play “hide and go seek,” even inside the building! Such should not be permitted.
It is dangerous to become too palsy with God, or to show disrespect in the manner stated above. Let us reverence our God, realizing how great He is. “For who in the skies can be compared unto Jehovah? Who among the sons of the mighty is like unto Jehovah, A God very terrible in the council of the holy ones, And to be feared above all them that are around about him?” (Psa. 86:6-7)
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 23, pp. 705, 729
December 6, 1984