“Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men.” ~Psalm 9:19-20 (NIV)
We all love those “God is my strength/comfort/song/refuge” verses. The ones that make it easy to picture God as a big, strong, comforting and protective grandfather. Those verses are true about God, but so are the ones like this one. God’s judgment and wrath is as real as his comfort and strength.
Yet, God is really the only one with a right to any kind of real anger. All wrongs done, are done to him. It is God alone who is without any wrongdoing.
We see King David beseech God to “strike terror” into the hearts of the nations. Is God a terrorist? Striking terror at will, just to make us do what he wants?
We forget that, not only is God eternally loving, but that he is utterly good. There is no mark or blemish on his character. He is the only being capable of true justice, and true mercy.
We compare ourselves to other people, thinking, “I’m not as bad as she is. I’m a pretty good person.” We forget that it is not other people who are the standard, but God. By his standard, which is utter goodness, we all fall short. All of us. (Romans 3:21-24)
What strikes terror into the hearts of people is standing before that terrible goodness (to borrow from Narnia terminology). That complete and utter perfection that is so beyond our comprehension, it causes us to tremble in fear, and fall on our faces in worship. As we should. Only before God is it right to do so.
This is what it means to fear God: To see ourselves as we truly are, in the light of his glory and righteousness.
God is not a terrorist. He doesn’t have to “do” anything to strike terror into the hearts of nations. He just has to be. To reveal himself as he truly is. If God is real, literally real, we can only fear him. And that fear will drive us to do one of two things: 1) To run away, try to hide, and continue in deliberate ignorance of him so we can live in our sin or 2) To fall on our knees in humility and fear, acknowledging our sinfulness, and asking him for mercy and forgiveness.
When we choose to do the latter, an amazing thing happens. God lifts our faces to his, and makes us like him, able to look in his eyes and love him, because he loves us so terribly much. We humble ourselves, he lifts us up out of the mire of our sin, and places our feet on the Rock – Jesus Christ and him crucified. (Psalm 40:1-3; James 4:10; Romans 10:10-18)
So, I don’t mind praying this verse as a prayer. Come, Lord! Strike terror in the hearts of men! Reveal yourself to them, holy and pure, and call them to yourself by your great love! Whatever it takes for my loved ones who don’t know you to find you, and find salvation in you, do it!
When I believe that eternity is literally at stake for each individual, it emboldens me to stop hiding the fact that there is a Judge we all have to face one day. I’m not that judge, but I know him well. I know his great and terrible love. And I want everyone I love to know him too. The terror of God lessens quite a bit when he has lifted your face to his, and all you see in his eyes is Love.
From then on, life is lived to honor that love, not to earn it.
It’s only when we see God as he truly is, that we will see ourselves for what we truly are, and can reconcile our prideful selves to allowing him to take our lives and make them what they were always intended to be: holy, pure, and love-filled. (Psalm 111:10)
May you find your peace with God this day.
Grace & Peace,