Coming before the throne of God in worship is a momentous experience, which should never be taken lightly. In Is. 6:1-5 we see Isaiah’s reaction to such an opportunity: In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 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, Jehovah of hosts.
In verse 5 of that passage we see Isaiah’s appropriate reaction. He recognized that he was unworthy to be standing before God, and said “Woe is me!” The word “woe” suggests great distress, trouble or difficulty. All is not right with the world, nor with our life. All of our imperfections, our weaknesses and our sins are suddenly magnified and brought to the fore. Standing before God, we see ourselves in contrast. How weak and insignificant we really are! How troubled and unworthy!
Have you ever had an appointment with a really, really important person? How did you feel as you waited for their arrival? Were you nervous as you spoke to them, suddenly realizing that you were taking up their valuable time? Did your concerns or reasons for the appointment suddenly seem less important than they did before? Maybe you thought, “Who am I to be bothering this important person?”
Woe is me! for I am undone! The worship experiences of Christians expose our arrogance and false sense of security. They remind us that we are “but dust” before God, (Ps. 103:14). We have no right to be here. All of the things which seem to make us important in the eyes of others, or give us status in this world, seem to fade away before the Creator of the universe! We are “undone” in that our sense of security is suddenly threatened, and all of the things which consume our attention suddenly seem insignificant.
We also see a great contrast between God in his purity and holiness, as opposed to our own ugly sinfulness. We stammer, and do not speak correctly, or even righteously. I am a man of unclean lips. We have failed to bridle our tongue, or tame it, (Jas. 3:8). In the presence of God we realize that He has heard every foolish thing we have ever said, every stupid remark, every unkind word, every lie or falsehood, and every idle word. We are reminded that the Lord said there is coming a time when we will give an account for these, (Mt. 12:36).
Another thing which dawns upon us is the stark contrast between the company God keeps, and that which surrounds us. God is surrounded in splendor. These magnificent seraphim are full of praise and holiness. Unlike our circle of friends, these are spotless, they are glorifying God, and they are all arrayed before us as a reminder that this universe does not revolve around us—it revolves around God! I recognize that I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. All of my friends, my family, and everyone with whom I spend my time is of weak and frail human imperfection. And here I am standing before God!
Can anyone withstand the power and awe of appearing before God? What a self-reducing and frightening thought that mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts! No man has seen God at any time, (Jn. 1:18; 1 Jn. 4:12), but in worship we see his dominion, his power, his majesty. We get a glimpse of what is truly important, and what life is all about.
If we can come to worship God, file into the auditorium, take our seat, and leave afterwards unaffected, we need to take a serious pause, because something is wrong. We need to recognize what we are doing, and how vastly important it really is. We need to prepare and participate eagerly and joyfully. We need to be sober and realistic. And we need to understand that this experience is going to affect us for the rest of our lives!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.