The practical awe of God
When deciding what to write during Lent I forgot about the panic of seeing an empty page. On 1st January this year, I said I wanted to regain my awe of God. Then thinking about Lent I wanted to build on the idea that God’s gifts are practical, The Holy Spirit equips us to minister in whatever way we minister.
I ended up with six steps, no not really steps as they are not consecutive, six questions about how your life relates to God, to other people and how I can relate God to other people. To look at all aspects of life, there is no barrier between spiritual and physical. I got these questions from an internet search and I do not know who came up with them. If they are yours please reply so that I can give credit where it is due.
Can God move through your culture?
Don’t set up a sacred stone to honor another god. The Lord your God hates Asherah poles and sacred stones.Deuteronomy 16:22
Suppose an ox or sheep has anything at all wrong with it. Then don’t sacrifice it to the Lord your God. He hates it.Deuteronomy 17:1
If you don’t pay attention to my instruction,Proverbs 28:9
even your prayers are hated.
These are only a few of many verses that talk about what God hates. In a society where many are, quite rightly, focusing on the love of God, it is easy to dismiss those passages in the Bible that talk about what God hates. But these passages are here for our learning and must be taken seriously or we might lose what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord, and I have been calling getting my awe of God back.
Not too long ago members of Westboro Baptist Church would picket the funerals of American soldiers saying that the sin of the USA was down to acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people using the slogan God Hates Fags. I disagree with them. In her TED talk of 2017, former Westboro member Megan Phelps-Roper claimed it wasn’t just Gay people the Westboro congregations hated, but anyone who was not like them.
I believe that Jesus loves everyone and accepts all who come to him, regardless of anything, including their sexual orientation.
In February this year, not long before Lent started, there was a list of the six things that the Lord hates and seven that are detestable to him with the question, Which of these things does God not hate but he still finds detestable?
16 There are six things the Lord hates,Proverbs 6:16-19
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
The easy thing to say is that God hates the sin but loves the sinner, but the list from Proverbs includes people in the list, false witnesses and those who stir up trouble in the community. Yet God offers forgiveness to those who repent of being detestable to him and grace to those he accepts. I still do not realise why it is good that God hates things without explaining them away, but I am working on it.
What this passage introduces to the idea of love and hate is community. We are supposed to live as a community and those who stir up conflict in the community are among the things God hates. Is it possible that a church, possibly Westboro Baptist, could come under that description? Or your own church?
Does our community whether it is the culture of our church or the culture of society, stop us from hearing what God is saying? I can do. Psychologists say that people tend to accept things which agree with what they personally believe, even when they know it is a lie, and accept what they already believe, even when they know it is the truth. It is a very hard thing to change people’s inner bias, merely speaking the truth is not enough, we must speak the truth out of love.
So far I have looked at five other things which can destroy our awe of God or fear of the Lord:
- The state of my discipleship. Am I disciplined enough to obey the teachings of Jesus?
- Do I accept the same people that Jesus accepts?
- How do I bless those who curse me?
- I need to move on from talking about God’s mercy to God’s mercy and grace.
- Waiting for God’s discernment is not an excuse for my lack of decision-making.
As you can see
The other thing is that we do not read the Bible alone, but we read it as a community. There is a culture shock in realising that the people that the Bible was written to are not people like us, and many times were not like each other either. But we read it in our own communities. What the Bible meant to those diverse people it was written to is very useful as a guide to what it means in our situation.
Pentecost was an important day for the church not just for the Holy Spirit being poured out on believers but because there were Jews from many nations, within and outside the Roman Empire present at that time. People from many cultures became believers in Jesus. Each of these would have interpreted the Bible in its own culture.
To see different communities using the same words to mean different things was evident even in the time the Bible was being written. The term ‘Jesus is Lord’ would have been interpreted by Jews with their history of the Old Testament as meaning Jesus was the God of the universe who created them as God’s people but to a Gentile, the word Lord meant the Caesars, so ‘Jesus is Lord’ meant Jesus was the true Lord or Caesar.
We have a lot to learn, not by contradicting but by listening to people of other cultures if we let God move through culture.
Isaiah had plenty to sat about God hating things, including this:
Stop bringing offerings that do not mean anything to me!Isaiah 1:13-14 NIRV
I hate your incense.
I can’t stand your worthless gatherings.
I can’t stand the way you celebrate your New Moon feasts,
Sabbath days and special services.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your other appointed feasts
I hate with my whole being.
They have become a heavy load to me.
I am tired of carrying it.
Offerings were things that God said should be brought to him. So was incense.
God’s law said people had to gather at the new moon and on the Sabbath. Yet God says through Isaiah that he hates these things with his whole being because people were not being treated fairly. There is no separate gospel of redemption and salvation and social gospel. I can not understand how people can separate the two.
35 I was hungry. And you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger. And you invited me in. 36 I needed clothes. And you gave them to me. I was sick. And you took care of me. I was in prison. And you came to visit me.’ … 40 “The King will reply, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:35-36, 40
If we fail to help the poor, the underprivileged, the powerless and the minorities we fail God. God hates that.
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