We’ve been focusing on various aspects of God’s holiness the last few weeks in Sunday School. Yesterday we looked at several verses where someone encountered God’s holiness nearly full force and what effect it had on them. People responded to the physical appearance of angels in the Bible with fear and trembling and sometimes spontaneous worship (which the angels had to correct and stop): how much more fearful would be the presence of God Himself?
One that always particularly strikes me is John, who had been the closest disciple to Jesus during the Lord’s time on Earth. Yet when John saw Jesus in all His glory in Revelation 1:17, he didn’t shake his hand, slap him on the back, cry out, “So good to see you again!” He “fell at his feet as dead,” overwhelmed.
That’s perfectly understandable, yet I’ve always had a hard time reconciling that realization of God, both Father and Son, with concepts like being held by God and calling Him Abba (an affectionate name for Father, something like “Daddy.”) One seems so close, loving, intimate; the other so distant, troubling, unapproachable.
Though this is an imperfect analogy, it has helped me to think of it something like this.
Imagine a child interacting with his father in all the ways a child would: playing on the floor, being held in his lap and rocked to sleep, being read to, being comforted when hurt or afraid, etc. The child might know his father is something called a king, but he doesn’t quite understand what that is or what his father does.
But one day, an affair of state comes up which requires his father to wear his full royal regalia. As the child stands with his mother and siblings off to the side, the king’s entrance is announced and accompanied by a trumpet fanfare. When the king comes in, the child hardly recognizes the man as his father. He looks so different in his crown and royal robe, standing so erect, receiving the applause of the audience, speaking in such authoritative and measured tones, followed by his entourage. He has been told he must not run to him in this moment, but he wouldn’t be inclined to, anyway. He’s a little afraid of him and unsure of him. But as his father finishes speaking and turns to go back to the family part of the castle, he searches for his son, and smiles. And then the child recognizes the love in his eyes and knows that he was indeed, the same daddy who had comforted him and played with him so often before.
As I said, it’s an imperfect analogy, and it wouldn’t carry over in every single point. But the gist of it helps me to reconcile how the Lord whose full holiness will overwhelm me is the same Abba Father who comforts and cares for me now.