29 Apr The Friends of God, By John Bevere
“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him.” Psalm 89:7 (NKJV)
He offered them intimacy, but they by their own choice couldn’t have it.
As I write these opening chapters, such a hunger stirs within my own heart. Speaking of these things fans the flame and increases my desire to pursue the One who loves us so wonderfully. He has consistently pursued us as individuals in this romance of all ages. However, this One so worthy of our pursuit is not an “easy catch” per se. He is the holy and great King and as such is to be revered. Therefore you certainly cannot speak of “drawing near” without addressing the issue of “holy fear.”
THE PARTING OF WAYS
At this juncture “seeker friendly messages” and truth often part ways. These messages can be found in any denomination or circles; they speak of a God who desires men and longs to bless them, yet the messages err because they omit His holiness. Often this is done out of well-meaning intentions; some have seen or experienced the tragedy of legalism; while others simply desire to see people loved and nurtured. Then tragically some messages are preached intentionally incomplete to generate a greater following.
Those who’ve fled the grip of legalism and only preach a loving, understanding God who compensates for our lawlessness and worldliness, are reactionary in their motives and tactics. This counsel is not drawn by getting into the presence of God to hear for themselves His Word. If they did they would realize there is no other way to approach Him by the path bordered by both holy love and fear.
These messages preach an “easy Lord, “at the expense of the very goal it tries to accomplish. By leaving out the fear of the Lord, it in essence “shuts out His presence” from men.
HELD IN REVERENCE
There is an ever-existing, never-changing truth concerning an audience in His presence. It is summed up in this one Scripture:
“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him.” (Ps. 89:7)
Let’s read the second part of the verse again. “God is…to be held in reverence by all those around Him.” This is always true and ever remains: you’ll never find God manifesting His presence in an atmosphere where He is not revered. He will not come near or dwell in an environment where He is not held in the utmost honor, esteem, and respect. It doesn’t matter how good the singing or “worship” is, or how good the preaching or teaching is, nor how scriptural the prayer is; if He is not feared, He will not come near to reveal Himself. It is no different than with Eli and his sons.
Over the years as I’ve entered auditoriums where hundreds or thousands of believers were gathered, there have been countless times when sadly there was not a hint of God’s presence. The reason: there was a lack of holy fear among the people and sometimes even the leadership. The praise and worship teams can be excellent, with banners waving and dancers, and skilled musicians and singers. The services can be innovative and high tech with media announcements. The event can be creative and entertaining where the people are greeted with humor and topics of interest, but there is something missing. The atmosphere is void of God’s presence. The heartbreaking fact is the majority in attendance are unaware of how truly empty the atmosphere is. (At this point let me interject that innovative ways to communicate are fresh and in no way by themselves hinder the manifest presence of God. I’ve been in such cutting-edge places and enjoyed the richness of God’s presence. The presence of God has nothing to do with technology or the lack thereof, but it reflects the condition of the heart.)
In these situations, the Lord leads me to share on obedience and the fear of the Lord, and each time the call to repentance is given I’ve witnessed a majority respond, often including the leaders themselves. Almost without fail before a prayer is uttered, the presence of God manifests, and people begin to weep. Why does this happen? Because God is drawn to those who love, honor, and fear Him. For this reason James says,
“Draw near to God and He will draw hear to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”(James 4:8-9)
In an initial look at this verse you might think James is speaking to the unsaved, as we usually refer to the unregenerate as “sinners.” Yet fifteen times in his discourse James refers to his audience as brethren. He is talking to those who are born-again.
So let’s look at the word for sinner; it’s the Greek word hamartolos. Vine defines the word to mean literally, “one who misses the mark.” It is proper that this word can refer to an unsaved person, but it also is used in reference to a Christian. In this context it would refer to a believer who is off target in his thinking, which in turn creates repeated wrong actions or behavior. He continues, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded”; with this statement he goes to the root issue of why the believer is missing the target.
It is most important we understand that the fear of the Lord begins in the heart and manifests itself in our outward actions. God at one point said of His own—and note the words “draw near”:
“These people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.” (Isa. 29:13, author’s emphasis)
Drawing near to God always begins in a heart that fears and loves God more than anyone or anything else. It is not just toward actions, but the heart’s motive. Therefore, in initially defining the fear of the Lord we must first address the heart’s attitude.
Let’s begin: to fear God is to esteem, honor, and hold Him in highest regard; as well as to venerate, stand in awe, and reverence Him. It is to tremble with the greatest respect for Him, his presence, and His commands, as well as wishes. This is only the beginning.
COMING TO GOD WITH IRREVERNCE
Sometimes in order to understand what something is it helps to know what it is not. An excellent example of approaching God’s presence without holy fear is seen in the lives of Aaron’s two sons.
Prior to the completion of the tabernacle the Lord instructed Moses, “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar” (Ex. 28:1).
These men were set apart and trained to minister to the Lord and stand in the gap for the people. They were authorized to come near His presence. Their duties and parameters for worship were outlined by specific instructions passed on from God to Moses. Following their training they were consecrated, then God’s presence filled the tabernacle, and their ministry began.
But for the two it was short-lived; even after the glory of the Lord had been revealed in the tabernacle. A little while later:
“Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.” (Lev. 10:1, author’s emphasis)
Notice Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire in the presence of the Lord. One definition of profane in Webster’s Dictionary is: “showing disrespect or contempt for sacred things; irreverent.” It means to treat what God calls holy or sacred as if it were common. These two men grabbed the censers, set apart for the Lord’s worship, and filled them with the fire and incense of their own choosing, not the offering prescribed by God. They were careless with what was holy and it led to their disobedience.
They approached the presence of the Lord bearing an irreverent, unacceptable offering by treating what was holy as common. Look at what happens:
“So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” (Lev. 10:2)
These two men were instantly judged for their irreverence and met with immediate death. This irreverence took place in the very presence of God and though they were priests, they were not exempt from rendering God honor. They sinned by approaching a holy God as though He were common! They had become too familiar with His presence! Hear the words of Moses immediately following their judgment and note the words near Me:
And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’” So Aaron held his peace. (Lev. 10:3, author’s emphasis)
This is an eternal as well as universal decree. God says no one can draw near by holding Him in light esteem or regarding Him as common. He must be deemed holy and held in reverence by all in His presence.
The Lord had made it clear that irreverence could not survive in His presence, but Nadab and Abihu did not take heed. Today is no different; He is the same holy God. We cannot expect to be admitted into His presence with disrespectful attitudes!
There are no special exceptions because of family connections. These two priests were Moses’ nephews as well as Aaron’s sons. But both knew better than to question God’s judgment, for He alone is just. In fact, Moses warned Aaron and the two surviving sons not to even mourn their judgment lest they die as well. This would have further dishonored the Lord, so the bodies of Nadab and Abihu were carried outside the camp and buried.
These two young men took lightly God’s specific instructions. They came with irreverence and lacked the fear of God and lacked the fear of God and these heart conditions produced disobedient actions. We see the root of sin is the lack of the fear of the Lord.
Excerpt: Drawing Near, by John Bevere, Chapter 6