Friday, August 15, 2014

Reverence and Solemnity: Essential Aspects of Biblical Worship, part 1 of 8

I. Where Does Scripture Speak of Reverence?

            The relevant texts on reverence[1] in the Authorized Version are:
Lev. 19:30 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Lev. 26:2 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. 
Psa. 89:7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
Psa. 111:9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.
Matt. 21:37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
Mark 12:6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
Luke 20:13 Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.
Eph. 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Heb. 12:9 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?
Heb. 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
These texts demonstrate that God[2] is reverend—and consequently His worship, which is to reflect His character, is to be characterized by reverence.  Hebrews 12:28 commands that God’s service involves reverence, and service is one of the standard Greek words for worship.[3]  The assemblies, services, or worship of the Lord’s church must be characterized by reverence and godly fear if they are to be acceptable or well pleasing[4] to the Lord.  In “the assembly of the saints . . . God is greatly to be feared . . . and to be had in reverence” (Ps 89:7).  His “sanctuary,”[5] His holy place where His holy worship takes place, the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament, is to be a place of “reverence” (Lev 19:30; 26:2).  Reverence is contrasted with idolatry (Lev 26:1-2).  Reverence is not optional—it is essential if worship is to please the infinitely holy God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

II. What is Reverence?

            The Authorized Version renders a number of Hebrew and Greek words as reverence.  In Leviticus 19:30;[6] 26:2[7] & Ps 89:7 reverence is the standard Hebrew word for fear.[8]  God’s name is holy and reverend because He is to be feared on account of His glorious redemption and covenant (Ps 111:9), His majestic creation (Ps 139:14), and His terrible judgments (Ps 145:6).  He is separate from and infinitely superior to all false gods, as One who is “glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders” (Ex 15:11).  “[G]reat is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chr 16:25).  The “LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible” (Deut 10:17; 7:21).  “For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth” (Ps 47:2).  Jehovah thy God is a “glorious and fearful name” (Deut 28:58), and “with God is terrible majesty” (Job 37:22);  “I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Mal 1:14).  The people of God ought consequently to address Him as:  “LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments” (Neh 1:5; 9:32; Dan 9:4).  “Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy” (Ps 99:3). The Lord and His Messiah (Ps 45:4) do “great and terrible things” and “terrible things in righteousness” for the redemption and salvation of their people (Deut 10:21; Ps 65:5; 2 Sam 7:23; Neh 4:14; Ps 106:22; Is 64:3).  The Lord’s redemption makes Him “a name of greatness and terribleness” (1 Chr 17:21).  [T]here is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Ps 130:4).  He likewise executes fearful judgments on the wicked in the “great and terrible day of the LORD” (Joel 2:11, 31; Zeph 2:11; Mal 4:5).  He is to be adored and worshipped because of His reverend and holy terribleness and fearfulness (Ps 66:3, 5; 68:35; 76:7, 12; 96:4).  The saint’s reverence for Jehovah and His Messiah is a sacred fear of Him flowing from the glory and majesty of the Holy One’s awe-inspiring redemption of His blood-bought people and righteous and retributive wrath upon the unholy.
Indeed, Psalm 89:7 connects “reverence” with “greatly fearing” God, employing a verb for trembling with fear or awe.[9]  The word is rendered elsewhere as “terrified” (Deut 20:3) and “shake terribly” (Is 2:21).  The persistent warnings in the Pentateuch that any improper approach into the presence of God could lead to instant death (Ex 28:35, 43; 30:20, 21; Lev 15:31; 16:2, 13; Num 4:15-20, etc.)—warnings that were not mere idle threats, but were actually carried out (Lev 10:1-2)—illuminate the sort of reverential fear and awe that befits worship that enters into the presence of Jehovah, Sovereign of heaven and earth.  Sanctifying or setting apart God as holy is connected with this reverent fear:  “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Is 8:13).  “[S]anctify the Holy One of Jacob, and . . . fear the God of Israel” (Is 29:23).  Biblical worship sets apart and exalts God as the high, holy, and sanctified One by approaching His awful majesty with reverence.  On the other hand, irreverence is an idolatrous perversion of the character of God.  He will not tolerate irreverence, but will punish those who profane or make common His holy name with awful temporal and eternal punishments.


This entire study can be accessed here.

[1]           In the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 9:6; 1 Ki 1:31 & Esth 3:2, 5 also contain the English word reverence, in each case containing a form of the verb hÎwSjA;tVvIh, meaning “to worship” God or “to bow down” with reference to men, a sign of respect given especially those in authority such as kings.
[2]           Pastors and other mere mortals should not have “rev.” by their name, for God’s Name is reverend, while the name of Parson Jones, Bishop John, or Pastor Jim is not.
[3]           latreu/w, “to perform religious rites as a part of worship — ‘to perform religious rites, to worship, to venerate, worship’” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Louw, Johannes P. Louw & Albert Nida.  New York, NY:  United Bible Societies, 1996 [Louw-Nida]).  The complete list of NT texts is: Matt 4:10; Luke 1:74; 2:37; 4:8; Acts 7:7, 42; 24:14; 26:7; 27:23; Rom 1:9, 25; Phil 3:3; 2 Tim 1:3; Heb 8:5; 9:9, 14; 10:2; 12:28; 13:10; Rev 7:15; 22:3.
[4]           eujare÷stwß, “in a manner well-pleasing to one, acceptably” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Henry Thayer.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1978 (reprint ed.); [Thayer]), an adverb related to euja¿restoß, “pleasing, acceptable” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (BDAG).  Walter Bauer, Frederick W. Danker & William Arndt.  Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 2000); see Rom 12:1–2; 14:18; 2 Cor 5:9; Eph 5:10; Phil 4:18; Col 3:20; Titus 2:9; Heb 13:21) and the verb eujareste÷w, “1. to do someth[ing] or act in a manner that is pleasing or satisfactory, please, be pleasing . . . 2. to experience pleasure, be pleased, take delight” (BDAG; see Heb 11:5–6; 13:16). Compare eujare÷sthsiß, “the experience of being pleased because of what another does, being pleased” (BDAG).  Note the significant frequency of the eujareste÷w word group in connection to worship.
[5]           v∂;dVqIm, from, våd∂q, hence “holy place.”
[6]           :h`DOwh◊y y™InSa …waó∂ryI;t y™Iv∂;dVqIm…w …wr$OmVvI;t y∞AtOtV;bAv_tRa
[7]           Leviticus 19:30 and 26:2 are identical in Hebrew.
[8]           aérÎy, “to fear God . . . to tremble for, to honor” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Francis Brown, Samuel R. Driver, & Augustus Charles.  Oxford:  Clarendon, 1906. [BDB]).  The Niphal, found in Psalm 89:7, means “to be feared, be honoured (God) . . . dreaded . . . awesome, terrible” (BDB).  The rest of the paragraph in the text above lists the other instances of the Niphal of the Hebrew verb Psalm 89:7 renders as reverend;  it is usually translated with some form of fear, terror, or dread.
[9]           XårDo, “cause to tremble, tremble (in terror, or awe)” (BDB).  The verb is found in:  Deut 1:29; 7:21; 20:3; 31:6; Josh 1:9; Is 2:19, 21; 8:12–13; 29:23; 47:12; Ps 10:18; 89:8; Job 13:25; 31:34.

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