It is sincerely hoped that this timely exhortation by our esteemed brother may correct our individual behaviour, and may elevate our standards in regard to our congregational etiquette. Shame and confusion of face is ours because of the lack of sincere reverence among us as the professed people of God.
Scripture reading: Leviticus chapter 19.
The conception of reverence presented in the Holy Scriptures suggests the holding sacred or exalted that which one regards with deep affectionate respect. This is applied to God and also to His commandments.
The lack of reverence in these days is so noticeable that one feels the necessity of drawing the attention of God’s people to what the Scriptures teach regarding this now rare grace.
When the saints are gathered for worship or prayer, or when in any act of service, it is well to remember that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of His saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him” (Psa. 89:7).
Frequently, when we are gathered together, the quiet that should prevail is disturbed by undue noise that indicates a lack of respect for the presence of God. Surely, the promise of our blessed Lord to those who assemble in His precious name, “There am I in the midst of them,” ought to control our deportment in all our gatherings. Any, who by force of circumstances come in after others are in the attitude of worship, should take his place in the quietest possible manner. The moving of a chair or the stamping of the feet can easily mar the consciousness of the Lord’s presence, thereby hindering the silent meditation of the saints who worship.
It will be profitable to take note of the references in the Word of God to the importance of the subject.
Reverence for the Name of God
“Holy and reverend is His name” (Psa. 11:9). The holiness of His name demands that our approach to Him should be characterized by the utmost reverence. The hymn of praise sung by Mary when she was about to become the mother of the Messiah expresses her holy regard for the name: “He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name” (Luke 1:49). The grandeur, majesty, and might of His works inspire us to worship as we breathe His name.
Our blessed Lord is our example in this, for in addressing the Father in His high-priestly prayer, His words express a profound regard for the holiness of God’s name. He prayed, “Holy Father,” and “O righteous Father” (John 17:11 and 25). Thus our blessed Lord recognized the Father’s holiness and righteousness, both of which attributes reveal the true character of God. This true character should bow our hearts in reverence as we approach Him.
No mere human should add the word “reverend” as a title to his name. Such a use of the word occurs only once in the Bible where it is definitely applied to God, “Holy and reverend is His name” (Psa. 111:9). Let us speak the name of God with sincere reverence.
Reverence for the Sanctuary of God
“Ye shall reverence My sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30). In Exodus 25:8, to Moses the Lord communicates His gracious purpose of establishing a sanctuary, a holy dwelling place, in the midst of His redeemed people. In view of that, the Lord constantly reminds His people of His holiness in the recurring statement, “I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2). These words were addressed to the entire assembly of Israel; moreover, in this same chapter, we have a summary of what was to mark those who reverenced God’s sanctuary. This chapter should be read carefully, and particular attention paid to the demands of the Lord upon practical holiness. He insists upon reverence for the sabbath day (V. 3), reverence for father and mother (V. 3), and reverence for God Himself (V. 4). This reverence was to be shown in their offerings to the Lord, and also in their attitude the one to the other.
The Christian assembly is a dwelling place for God. The Lord Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). The sanctity enjoined upon His people Israel, similarly, should characterize every believer in the local assembly today. Stealing, defrauding, telling lies, and swearing falsely (Lev. 19:11-13) are all inconsistent with the holy character of a New Testament church. The things that were condemned in Israel are likewise rebuked in the churches of God (Eph. 4:28-31).
Reverence is actively manifest in the caring for the poor and the helpless (V. 14), in judging righteously (V. 15), and in the refraining from the sin of talebearing (V. 16). Those who reverence His sanctuary will avoid bearing a grudge, shewing hatred, or in avenging wrong (Vv. 17-18).
That this sanctity which God imposed upon His ancient people is lacking among His people today should cause each to search his heart and to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:24). The positive aspect of reverence may be summed up in the one word love for God and His commandments (V. 37), and love for one another (V. 34).
Since the assembly is the dwelling place of God today, may we ever remember the words of the Psalmist, “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, forever” (Psa. 93:5). If this were done it surely would mould our behaviour toward the Lord, and fashion our movements in our service for Him. The fruit of such reverence would be love and kindness toward our brethren. Furthermore, our worship would be marked by an attitude similar to that of Moses when he discovered that Jehovah dwelt in the bush. God’s presence made that place holy ground to Moses, and he bowed before God in reverence (Ex. 3:5).
Reverence for the Aged
“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). If the fear of God prevailed in our hearts, we would respect the aged in spite of the tendency in these last days to despise the presence and the advice of elderly persons. In the New Testament the exhoration is given, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder” (1 Pet. 5:5). Submission is the fruit of humility. Let us remember that God promises grace to the humble. Respect for elders is the basis of the statement, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father” (1 Tim. 5:1).
“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). Godliness makes the gray hairs of age beautiful, so that old people if they would be respected, must preserve their integrity. Andrew Bonar aptly wrote: “When you meet the aged in public places, or they come where you are, show them reverence. Infirmity and age have a claim upon us. Age even apart from its qualities has in it solemnity. We are reminded of the shadow of Eternity, for one cometh who is almost in Eternity.” No sight is so beautiful as the silver locks and the radiant features of godly and joyous old age.
Reverence for the Home
“Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father” (Lev. 19:3). Respect of parents on the part of their children is a divine principle that has a large place in the Holy Scriptures. The father and the mother in the home, living in the fear of God will exert a godly influence upon their little ones. The husband who loves his wife, and the wife who reverences her husband will command the respect of their children (Eph. 5:28-33). The children are exhorted to reverence those who have a care for them in childhood and youth. There is nothing more lovely than a Christian home in which the parents by their godly influence preserve the children from the corrupting influence of the world. Many a wayward boy and girl who have been brought through divine grace to the Lord Jesus, eventually have learned to value the immense privilege of a Christian home where reverence prevails.
A quotation from the Epistle to the Hebrews provides a very fitting conclusion to this message: “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29). May all of our service in the assembly, in the home, and in the world be characterized by a reverential fear of God. It is when we have a real sense of the majesty and the glory of the Lord, and a real consciousness of our own unworthiness that our lives become marked by a spirit of reverence.
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He never comes too late;
He knoweth what is best.
Vex not thyself in vain;
Until He cometh, rest!