by Pastor Ralph J. Mineo
When Isaiah was a young prophet, he had vision of God in the Temple. This mystical experience included God’s robe filling the Temple, six-winged angels, and the song “Holy, holy, holy! The Lord Almighty is holy! The Lord’s glory fills the world!” The Temple shook. There was a lot of smoke (a common biblical image for the presence of God).
This would have been a totally awesome experience for Isaiah, but it was also very frightening. His verbal response was: “I’m doomed! I’m sinful! The people are doomed and sinful, too!” Isaiah experienced awe and fear at the same time.
A family visited the Grand Canyon. A 2-year old was on top of his father’s shoulders. This young child was in total awe. His eyes opened wide, and he shouted, “BIG HOLE!” That’s AWE.
Many years ago, my wife Jo and I were at the Grand Canyon. It was indeed awesome. At one point, I wanted to get closer to the edge. Now, mind you, I wasn’t being dangerous in any way, but Jo refused to get that close. She was afraid. She was NOT going to get that close! This was a combination of AWE and FEAR! I do NOT share this story, in any way, to degrade my wife’s fear. My point is that her reaction was appropriate for her, and it’s similar to what Isaiah was experiencing in the Temple.
God is BIG! This is awesome! Reactions of fear, feeling sinful, feeling doomed, are very human. Even the angels were covering themselves up! God is HOLY!
For many reasons, in today’s modern world, we’ve lost the feeling of awe and fear of the Lord. I think there are two basic reasons for this.
(1) The awesomeness of our world has become too common with all the inventions, innovations, and information. People express more awesomeness about a cat playing the piano on YouTube than they are about the International Space Station (who even remembers it’s the size of a football field, has been occupied by humans since November of 2000, and orbits the earth every 90 minutes!) What is truly awesome is seen as common.
(2) Many have the impression that God can be “explained.” Truth is, it’s totally impossible for human beings to explain or understand God. Our feeble minds simply can’t grasp the God’s enormity. Science shouldn’t even be TRYING! It can’t happen. Instead of trying to prove the existence of God, we should be saying, “We CAN’T prove God.” We believe in God, but there is no proof of God’s existence. (Disclaimer: this is my personal belief, not shared by all Christians. But I write this because I personally believe we do more harm than good when we try to prove God’s existence to unbelievers.)
Without a doubt, there are a lot of people in today’s world who simply say God doesn’t exist, or who live as if God doesn’t exist or matter. When we try to “prove” God, we fall short. Still I have a witness: I’ve EXPERIENCED the holy presence of God, both the awe and the fear. I’ve not had a mystical experience as ornate as Isaiah’s, but I’ve been in the presence of God! I cannot help but believe! I hold on tightly to some wonderful experiences of God’s presence! Even if my mind were to go blank one day, I believe that my soul will never “forget” those moments of awe and fear. These are God’s eternal gifts of peace, joy, wonder, and love.
Finally, I not only believe in God, I LOVE God, who loves me first.