Reasons for Reverence
“Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” Hebrews 12:9 (KJV)
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Hebrews 12:28 (NKJV)
The two passages quoted above and the entire twelfth chapter of Hebrews give us much inspired instruction as to why we should show reverence in our approach to God. In one of our adult Bible classes we are currently studying our worship. This chapter gives us, I believe, three great reasons for reverence as we approach God. We present to God our lives and our worship. What we are is to reflect our reverence for God and with an attitude of reverence we are to approach God in worship. The one time the term “reverend” is used in the Bible is in reference to God: “Holy and reverend is His name” Psalm 111.9 (KJV). He is to be revered as we come before Him. Three great reasons are given in Hebrews 12 for our reverence toward God.
Verses one and two tell us of great spiritual examples who have gone before us: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1, 2 The great “cloud of witnesses” are the men and women listed in Chapter 11 who endured every conceivable hardship yet continued to be faithful. Reading about and reflecting on their triumphant faith should fill our hearts with awe/reverence for such lives dedicated to God. Looking backward in time to their example, and looking forward to meeting the “author and finisher” of our faith who was able to endure the cross should make us reverent. Such contemplation should enable us to share in His joy of going back to His Father after His death! Both thoughts—the cross and the crown—should provoke us to reverence.
Hebrews 12, verses 3 through 11, reveals much about our worship. We come to realize that God now deals with us as children whom He loves and carefully disciplines. Since we have had earthly fathers who loved us and disciplined us to make us better children, should we not love and show reverence to our heavenly Father who does the same? Every person who loves/reverences his or her earthly parents should get the point made here by the Hebrews writer. The Hebrew Christians were being taught a lesson that should enable them to endure persecutions (chastening) and yet reverence the chastiser. In addition to the parallel, the writer points out that the “Father of spirits” is indeed able to fit our chastisement to our unique needs. Our sufferings are therefore to be viewed as commensurate to our spiritual needs. While the suffering is very difficult, the “peaceable fruit” of righteousness awaits those who endure with reverence.
By far the most involved argument made for reverence in Hebrews 12 is contained in verses 12 through the end of the chapter. We are to be filled with reverence when we contemplate being a part of an immoveable kingdom. Feelings of patriotism, a kind of awe and reverence, fill my heart when I am part of an audience singing our national anthem, or singing the song “America” and I think of how blessed I am to be a citizen of this country! How much more the heavenly kingdom!
Verses 12-17 contain a strong admonition for the Hebrew Christians (and us) to renew our spiritual vitality. They were commanded to be strong and to clarify their goals (“strengthen the hands that are weak”… Make straight paths for your feet”) and to pursue peace and holiness. They were to keep their hearts free of bitterness, and especially any attitude that would devalue spiritual things in their minds. Esau is cited as an example of such thinking. He was profane; that is, he did not count his God-given birthright very important and traded it for a single meal! Esau’s attitude is the opposite of reverence, and his too-late repentance is very sad.
Verses 18-21 in Hebrews 12 develop the thought of reverence in the circumstances surrounding the giving of the Old Testament ten commandments. Moses’ reverence at the sights and sounds is reflected in the quotation from him in Verse 21: “And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’”
The reverence recorded is then reflected in the reasons we Christians are to have great reverence. A list of our present blessings in Christ and His kingdom is given. We have come to: “Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels…to the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect…to Jesus…and to the blood…” (Verses 22-24).
Because of what God has done, we are to listen to God. If the consequences of disobedience were severe under the old covenant, how much more the consequences of ignoring God’s final plan to bless us and bring us to Himself by the blood of Jesus. What a privilege to be a part of His plan!
The ultimate reason for our reverence is the nature of our God. Notice how we may acceptably serve Him: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28, 29
Many songs we sing encourage our reverence for God. Benjamin Beddome, in his song “God is the Fountain Whence” has written:
“God is the fountain whence
Ten thousand blessings flow;
To Him my life, my health, my friends,
And every good I owe.”