“We are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement at His unspeakable love.” – John Own
What do we think about when we hear that term? What images come to mind? Are there any verses quickly being voiced regarding worship?
There is one that is central to worship that many Christians ascribe to what worship is…
Psalm 29:2 – Honor the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
But, what does it mean to worship the Lord in the splendor or beauty of his holiness?
While countless books, sermons, and articles have touched this verse, I would like to share what God is teaching me about this phrase being tossed around.
I remember sitting in many Bible classes and ministry classes discussing Psalm 29:2. We discussed what it meant to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Many times we think about the style of music, the setting of the church, the dress code, the lyrics, how church is conducted, and many, many other things.
We hear holiness, and we immediately think it means God is without sin. He cannot stand to be in the sight of sin. We see ourselves unable to approach God without being perfect.
Jesus is the only one who can make us perfect in order to come to God. However, when it comes to our worship, we try to show God how “sacred” our worship is. We only use “sacred music.” We must be in a building that looks the part. We must dress the part. Everything must look the part. In all honesty, we come to God unsure of our standing before him.
We all believe God fully accepts us because of Christ, right? Then why make sure we “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” A.K.A our attempts at being holy?
We make his holiness about being so separated from the world, that we regress to Old Testament thinking. We build our tabernacles, we sing our hymns, we do our rituals. But in reality, we have accepted a shadow for the real thing (Colossians 2:17).
I sat through classes scared of approaching God in the wrong way and end up being swallowed up by the earth or burned alive (Leviticus 10:1-2).
We have twisted his holiness. We keep God’s holiness in the Old Covenant. We do not worship in the beauty of holiness. We worship in the fear of his holiness.
From Top to Bottom
We need to see worshipping in the beauty of his holiness from the New Covenant. Jesus sealed a new way of relating to God with his own blood. He hung on that cross till he cried out, “It is finished.”
We all agree that his death and resurrection forgives us of sin and gives us eternal life. But, how does it relate to our worship?
In the Old Testament, people feared approaching God unless they accomplished certain tasks. (Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?) The dress had to be right. The approach just right. The rituals done in a certain way. They did everything to make sure God wasn’t offended.
Praise God that mindset and life is gone! See, in the temple, there was a gigantic curtain separating people from the presence of God. In order to go behind that curtain, things had to be done a certain way by certain people. Even then, people were frightened if God would smite that individual down.
Mark 15:38 boldly declares that when Christ died the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. No more separation. No more rituals, certain individuals, or works. All and anyone could come to the presence of God.
Christ died so we could stand in the holy presence of God without fear.
A Vision and Perfume
In the first passage, we see Isaiah and his vision standing before God. He sees the holiness of God, and he is broken. He says he is an unclean man, and he is undone.
In the second passage, we see a strange scene. A sinful woman comes before Jesus. She breaks open a bottle of perfume. The scented oil pours over the feet of Jesus. This woman washes the oil off with her hair. She is undone. She is broken before Jesus – God incarnate.
Yet, how does each passage end? The kiss of holiness and vulnerability births forgiveness. Each one was forgiven by a holy God.
So often we come to his holiness out of fear; hoping for a pardon. But, the holiness of God brings out our vulnerability in order for him to heal our deepest wounds and sins.
A Change of Heart
Recently, I was at our church’s revival service. As I stood there singing and praying, I heard the Spirit speak to me. He said, “Stephen, take off your leg braces for where you stand is holy ground.”
Right there, I took them off. As we continued to sing, I realized I could not stand. My strength was giving out. I plopped down on my seat and cried. I felt weak, vulnerable, unable to participate. I felt unworthy to be there, because I could not worship like the others could.
Then, God spoke to me one word – Mephibosheth
The crippled man who David brought into his house and sat at his table (2 Samuel 9). This man, who could not do anything, was accepted and brought close.
That night, I felt like Mephibosheth. I was undone. I could not stand and worship. Then, our pastor came to me and asked if I needed prayer. Her words spoke what God was saying to me. She prayed for the spirit of an orphan to break and that I would feel the Spirit of Sonship (which is the Holy Spirit).
My heart changed. I was no longer supported by my braces, supported by my words, my actions, my rituals to enter the holiness and presence of God. My vulnerability was kissed by the beauty of God’s holiness.
Worship in His Beauty
It is our vulnerability we find the ability to worship in the beauty of his holiness. Holiness isn’t something that will wipe us out, because we have Christ.
David was so vulnerable in the Psalms, and he worshipped God in the beauty of holiness.
We cannot experience that beauty unless we bring our vulnerability. Throw out the “sacred music,” throw out the dress code, throw out the building. Scrap it all.
Just bring your vulnerability to the Creator of the world who tore the curtain from top to bottom in order for you to encounter his presence.
We will be undone. We will break into tears. But, thank God it will not be for how we’ve failed. It will because we see the beauty of his holiness touching our soul through healing our many wounds inflicted by the curse of sin.
That is what it means to worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness. The fear of holiness leads to condemnation. The beauty of holiness leads to our acceptance through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is in our vulnerability we worship in the beauty of holiness. No more trying to play a part, fit an image, or fulfill a law. That is all done away with. The curtain is torn.
We are invited by the nail-pierced hands to break open our jar of perfume and worship. As we do, we will hear what we all have longed to hear…
“Son, Daughter… “
Suggested Song – You Are Holy by Gabriel Allred