I have been working on this article for six days and it is still not what I want it to be. However, since I feel we need to think about this subject I am posting it anyway.
I don’t know how many times over the years I have heard a preacher say something like “I like it when God shows up,” or “God showed up at the meeting.” By this they mean that the people started shouting and getting excited.
Is that really what it is like when God shows up? Lets look at some passages in Scripture where God did show up:
When Abraham’s name was changed – Genesis 17:1-5 “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.”
You will notice that Abram did not jump for joy and shout amen because God made a covenant with him. Quite the contrary, he fell on his face before a holy God.
When Ezekiel saw God’s glory – Ezekiel 3:23 “Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.”
In the previous verses God had been speaking to Ezekiel, but here God was to “talk with” him (Ezekiel 3:22). When he saw the glory of the Lord standing there he fell on his face.
When the Father showed up at the transfiguration – Matthew 17:5-6 “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.”
You will notice that the appearance of God caused the disciples to fear. They fell on their faces.
When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up – Isaiah 6:1-5 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
This one is my favorite. Remember that this is in chapter six. The first five chapters we see God speaking to Isaiah. Then God allows Isaiah to see His glory. When he saw the glory of God it did not cause him to shout for joy, it caused him to see his own sinfulness.
When Peter realized the power of his Lord – Luke 5:8 “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
When Peter saw that Jesus was able to give them more than they could imagine, even after they had tried without success using all of their experience as fishermen, it cause him to realize who his Lord was. I know that Peter had declared Him to be the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 16:15-16) but here when he saw Him as the almighty God, he saw his own sinfulness and fell down at Jesus’ knees.
When John saw the Lord among the candlesticks (Churches) – Revelation 1:17 “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:”
John seems to have been the closest of all of the apostles to Jesus. Five times John uses the expression “whom Jesus loved” in his gospel. He leaned on Jesus’ bosom (John 13:23) as no one else did. No one was closer to Jesus while He was on this earth, yet when he saw the Lord in all His glory he fell at His feet as dead.
We see from the passages above that even those who were servants of God, who loved Him, who walked according to His precepts, were struck with the fear of God and fell on their faces before Him when He showed up.
I am not saying it is wrong to get excited when we think of all God has done for us. What I am saying is that this is not necessarily a sign that God has shown up. Study the revivals of old and see how people responded when God started moving among the people. You will see that they fell upon their faces with tears and the fear of God was evident. If there was a lot of noise, it was a crying out to God for mercy.
Rejoicing is commanded, but this is not what happens when God shows up. Rejoicing is a response to all that God has done for us. It can, at times, be very loud and external. At other times it can be very quite and internal.
1 Kings 1:40 “And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.”
2 Chronicles 23:21 “And all the people of the land rejoiced: and the city was quiet, after that they had slain Athaliah with the sword.”
Right now we need God to show up. We need to see our unworthiness and sinfulness when we are compared to His worthiness and holiness. I doubt that anything else will bring about the revival necessary to change our hearts, our churches, and our nation. The change will have to come in this order.
If the people of God get at vision of God it will change their lives. If the lives of Christians are changed our churches will be changed. If our churches are changed our nation will be changed.
As long as we mistake people shouting amen and praising God for the presence of God, we will assume that a noisy service means God has shown up. Men can, and do, manipulate the emotions of a crowd to get them excited. Emotionalism is far too often mistaken for the presence of God.
From the Scriptures we have seen that when God shows up people fall on their faces or something similar. We also see from Scripture that when we see all that God has done for us we rejoice, sometimes loudly and sometimes quietly.
The point of this article is to get us to discern between the presence of God in a service and emotionalism. It is not to say that rejoicing, saying amen, and the like are wrong. We just need to know that rejoicing shows our appreciation of what God has done and falling on our faces with broken hearts over our unworthiness shows that we have seen who He is.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved