We begin today with an introductory monologue by Dr. Michael Horton which was recently aired on the radio program The White Horse Inn. I would encourage to pay particular attention to the third paragraph. In his message on the subject of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, Dr. Horton states,
“We’re a very “how to” society. That has served us very well in all kinds of ways. It’s helped us during the pioneering days. Even today we have people who are always thinking about the next big thing. The next thing to do out there. And this is what we were created for. We were created for a purpose. We’re created for a plan. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. But the “fall” happened and we heard a surprising announcement. An announcement we’re not wired for. An announcement that surprises us and shocks us. And because of the “fall” we’re naturally turned into ourselves so we don’t naturally hear that message. We don’t naturally believe that message. We are turned in on ourselves, and it’s very hard for us to look outside of ourselves. To look up in faith toward God and to look out in love toward our neighbor. What we need is not more good advice but good news.”
“This is what we see in Genesis 15. Abram is definitely turned in on himself and he’s expecting God to help him fulfill his life purpose, or to make God the supporting actor in his (Abram’s) life’s story. He (Abram) has all of his plans, all of his purposes and he wants God to be a kind of genie to make it all happen for him. To help him (Abram) rule his own life. But God makes him (Abram) a supporting character in His story.”
“God begins by saying “fear not.” Isn’t it interesting the first time God appears to people, and many times thereafter, their first response is fear. Always be suspicious of people who say they have had an encounter with God and they were just yacking it up with Him. In the Bible, when people have an encounter with the LORD, they say “woe to me for I am undone” or “depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Fear is the first response. What does the angel say to Mary when he first appears to her: “fear not Mary.” Jesus says in Luke 12:32, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
The first indication that an individual has encountered the holy God of the Bible is reverential and debilitating fear and trembling. As we have previously seen, this was true in the Old Testament. It was also true for those who encountered the LORD in the New Testament. While several examples good be cited as evidence, the following excerpts are submitted.
First, the angelic announcement to Mary (Luke 1:26-37) and the angel’s statement, upon seeing her troubled countenance, to not be afraid (1:29-30). A similar statement is made as the shepherds were abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night announcing the birth of the Christ in Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-14).
The text says, “9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
As was the case with Mary, the shepherds’ reaction upon encountering the angel’s reflected holiness and glory of God was to be in great fear. The angel’s response was to tell them to “fear not.”
Second, there was the Apostle Peter’s reaction to the presence and work of Jesus at the miracle of the great catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11). Luke 5:1-7 gives us the narrative concerning the miracle.
“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”
While the account of the catch of fish is a familiar one, Peter’s response may not be. Luke 5:8 says, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
In the strongest possible terms, Peter prostrates and falls down at Jesus knees and commands the Lord to leave him and go away. Why? It is due to the fact that Peter realizes not only who Jesus is, but also what he himself is: a sinner given to sinful behavior. What is Jesus’ response to Simon? “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Once again, the reaction by the unholy upon encountering the holy is fear.
We may summarize the trauma of holiness thus far as an evidence for the truth of the Scripture concerning the person and nature of God. The God of the Bible is not the type of god sinful mankind would, or could, invent. He is the exact opposite of what sinners want, but He is exactly what sinners need.
Soli deo Gloria!