This short Bible verse contains three deep messages:
1. God’s people should keep the seventh-day Sabbath,
2. They should reverence God’s sanctuary, and
3. They must recognize that the Lord is the Creator of both the Sabbath and the sanctuary.
What is the meaning of “reverence”? The dictionary explains it as a feeling or attitude of deep respect, love, awe, and esteem, as for something sacred.
In the entire Bible, the actual word “reverence” is found only a few times, yet the concept of revering the holiness of God is emphasized throughout the scriptures.
The first instance of the word, “reverence” was used to introduce this article (). The second is a warning to Israel: “You shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell” ( , DBT). In the New Testament we find the other two scriptures: “Submit to one another out or reverence for Christ” ( , NIV). “But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord” ( , RSV).
From the Bible, we find many examples as people considered God’s presence.
When Moses was feeding the flocks of his father-in-law, his attention was attracted to a strange burning bush. The Bible says that “The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said: I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And He said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off they feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” ().
In this Scripture, we first find mention of “the angel of the Lord.” Who was the “angel of the Lord,” and “God”? It was Christ.
“It was He who, as the Angel of the covenant, had revealed Himself to the fathers in ages past. ‘And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.’
“Humility and reverence should characterize the deportment of all who come into the presence of God. In the name of Jesus, we may come before Him with confidence, but we must not approach Him with the boldness of presumption, as though He were on a level with ourselves. There are those who address the great and all-powerful and holy God, who dwelleth in light unapproachable, as they would address an equal, or even an inferior. There are those who conduct themselves in His house as they would not presume to do in the audience chamber of an earthly ruler. These should remember that they are in His sight whom seraphim adore, before whom angels veil their faces. God is greatly to be reverenced; all who truly realize His presence will bow in humility before Him, and, like Jacob beholding the vision of God, they will cry out, ‘How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’”1
After crossing the Jordan River before taking the city of Jericho, Joshua went to a secluded place to have a special time of prayer and meditation. He was surprised when he met a “man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” ().
Who was that “captain of the host of the Lord?” And why that place was holy? As Christ had appeared to Moses amid the burning bush, He appeared to Joshua. That place was holy because the Lord Jesus was there.
“It was Christ, the Exalted One, who stood before the leader of Israel. Awe-stricken, Joshua fell upon his face and worshiped, and heard the assurance, ‘I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor,’ and he received instruction for the capture of the city.”2
In the book of Judges, chapter 13, we find another encounter with Christ in the Old Testament.
Because of their apostasy, Israel was under the control of the Philistines. Then, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman [Manoah’s wife], and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not; but thou shalt conceive and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing; for, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (–5).
After this encounter, the woman called her husband, Manoah, and told him her experience. Answering the request of Manoah, the “angel of the Lord” came again and repeated all the instructions given to his wife.
When Manoah asked about his name, the “angel of the Lord” told him: “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” The Revised Standard Version renders this verse thus: “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”
InJesus is called the “Wonderful Counselor.”
When Manoah realized who the “angel of the Lord” actually was, he solemnly said: “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.” ().
In reality, our condition regarding the due reverence needs a great reform.
Actually, when the preacher, who has spent much time in prayer and in the preparation of the sermon, is presenting his message, some attendees might be whispering with one another and distracting others from hearing the message. The Holy Spirit is offended and the message loses its power. Other people are busy with their cellular phones watching something totally outside the holy environment and hindering others from hearing the message which was prepared for the purpose of saving people.
Sadly, this practice is becoming common in many places. No doubt about it, this kind of behavior is a sure cause of weak spirituality of the church. In fact, it is killing the spiritual life of many people and causing their eternal perdition. We firmly believe that we need a thorough reformation in this regard.
As we approach the coming General Conference delegation session and public meetings, we need a deep preparation for those meetings so that we can enjoy the messages that God’s servants will be inspired to present to our people.
“A precious grace that should be carefully cherished is reverence.
“The education and training of the youth should be of a character that would exalt sacred things, and encourage pure devotion for God in His house. Many who profess to be children of the heavenly King have no true appreciation of the sacredness of eternal things.
“True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness and a realization of His presence. With this sense of the Unseen the heart of every child should be deeply impressed.
“‘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.’.
“Reverence should be shown also for the name of God. Never should that name be spoken lightly or thoughtlessly. Even in prayer its frequent or needless repetition should be avoided. ‘Holy and reverend is his name.’. Angels, as they speak it, veil their faces. With what reverence should we, who are fallen and sinful, take it upon our lips!
“We should reverence God’s Word. For the printed volume we should show respect, never putting it to common uses or handling it carelessly. And never should Scripture be quoted in a jest or paraphrased to point a witty saying. ‘Every word of God is pure’; ‘as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times’ (; ).
“Children should be taught to respect every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Parents are ever to magnify the precepts of the law of the Lord before their children, by showing obedience to that law, by themselves living under the control of God. If a sense of the sacredness of the law takes possession of the parents, it will surely transform the character by converting the soul.
“In every Christian home God should be honored by the morning and evening sacrifices of prayer and praise. Children should be taught to respect and reverence the hour of prayer.
“The hour and place of prayer and the services of public worship the child should be taught to regard as sacred because God is there. And as reverence is manifested in attitude and demeanor, the feeling that inspires it will be deepened. . . .
“Jacob, after beholding the vision of the angels, exclaimed, ‘The Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.... This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’, .
“ ‘The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.’.
“Many ... have no true appreciation of the sacredness of eternal things. Nearly all need to be taught how to conduct themselves in the house of God. Parents should not only teach, but command, their children to enter the sanctuary with sobriety and reverence.
“From the sacredness which was attached to the earthly sanctuary, Christians may learn how they should regard the place where the Lord meets with His people. There has been a great change, not for the better, but for the worse, in the habits and customs of the people in reference to religious worship. The precious, the sacred things which connect us with God are fast losing their hold upon our minds and hearts and are being brought down to the level of the common things. The reverence which the people had anciently for the sanctuary, where they met with God in sacred service, has largely passed away. Nevertheless, God Himself gave the order of His service, exalting it high above everything of a temporal nature.
“The house of God is often desecrated, and the Sabbath violated by Sabbath-believers’ children. In some cases, they are even allowed to run about the house, play, talk, and manifest their evil tempers in the very meetings where the saints should worship God in the beauty of holiness. And the place that should be holy, and where a holy stillness should reign, and where there should be perfect order, neatness, and humility, is made to be a perfect Babylon, ‘confusion.’ This is enough to bring God’s displeasure and shut His presence from our assemblies.
“It is too true that reverence for the house of God has become almost extinct. Sacred things and places are not discerned; the holy and exalted are not appreciated. Is there not a cause for the want of fervent piety in our families? Is it not because the high standard of religion is left to trail in the dust? God gave rules of order, perfect and exact, to His ancient people. Has His character changed? Is He not the great and mighty God who rules in the heaven of heavens? Would it not be well for us often to read the directions given by God Himself to the Hebrews, that we who have the light of the glorious truth shining upon us may imitate their reverence for the house of God? We have abundant reason ... even to be more thoughtful and reverential in our worship than had the Jews. But an enemy has been at work to destroy our faith in the sacredness of Christian worship.
“The house is the sanctuary for the family, and the closet or the grove the most retired place for individual worship; but the church is the sanctuary for the congregation. There should be rules regarding the time, the place, and the manner of worshiping.”3
In many or our churches, a good practice exists in order to set the tone to promote the keeping of reverence and, at the same time, prepare the mind of the worshippers to receive the word of God. At least 15 minutes before the Sabbath School meeting, a song service is held, when the worshipers suggest their favorite hymns. During this time of praise, talking to each other is avoided, and a very solemn atmosphere is felt. The same might be done in preparation for the Divine Service as well.
We recommend that this practice be introduced in all our churches around the world. For sure, our reverence in the house of God will increase. Result: The Holy Spirit will impress much more powerfully the minds of the worshipers and our spiritual life will progress, and God will be honored.