When God Becomes a Show-Stopper

What would it be like for the glory of God to fill our churches on a Sunday morning to such an extent that we would not be able to continue the service?

Exactly that scenario happened thousands of years ago when King Solomon dedicated the new temple.  His father, King David, had spent years preparing the plans and provisions for building the temple before Solomon became king.  After Solomon became king it still took him over four years to finish preparing to build the temple, after which it took another seven years to actually build the temple.

Once the temple was finally built the Ark of the Covenant was brought from the Tent of Meeting, which had been in use since it was constructed in the wilderness under the guidance of God and Moses, to the new temple on Mount Moriah.  On the way King Solomon sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they lost count!  Then the Ark was placed under the tall, gold-plated cherubim in the temple’s Most Holy Place and the priests came back out to do their duties.

At that time all of the musicians along with 120 trumpeters led worship singing

“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

At that moment

“the house [of the Lord] was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”  2 Chronicles 5:13b-14 ESV

Wow.  I have heard of people pastors and other people stopping a service because God told them to.  I have been present when services were stopped because of technical snaffoos.  I have even been present when services were stopped because of fire alarms.

But I have never been present in a service when God stopped the service himself by just moving in and making it physically impossible to lead in worship.

What would that be like?

The Contemporary English Version says “The light from [God’s glory] was so bright the priests could not stay inside to do their work.”  2 Chronicles 5:14

After Solomon prayed fire fell from heaven and burned up the sacrifices.

The people fell down and worshipped.  There was probably such a sense of awe from God’s show of power that the people could not help but bow down and worship.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people were even terrified.  Imagine if God showed up on the platform at church and said to the pastor, “Move over, buddy.  I’ve got something to say.”  I think we all would be awestruck and terrified.

Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord in Isaiah 6 and he is immediately aware of his sinfulness.  I imagine some of the people became painfully aware of the sin in their life when the holy God of the universe showed up.

I expect that kind of encounter with God would be very emotional, the kind of thing that would make the your hair stand on end.  Any time you get 120 trumpeters and a large number of other singers and instrumentalists together in the same worship service you are going to get an emotional response simply because of the sheer volume.

Fortunately it was outside, but that barely lessens the sound.  Imagine the soundtrack for the yearly 4th of July fireworks display.  That’s probably the right category for this thunderous worship service.  In his book Worship on Earth as It Is in Heaven Rory Noland makes the comment that many of us may be surprised when we get to heaven by the volume of the worship.  It will not be quiet.  Millions of people singing and playing instruments at the same time makes for decibel-meter-breaking volume.

Shock can probably be expected.  People showed up that day expecting to see a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a lot of bloody sacrifices, and a lot of pomp and circumstance.  Imagine the local butcher putting the sign in the door, “Back in 1 hour,” and thinking the whole time of all the work that needs to be done, the carcasses hanging back at the shop waiting to be cut up and sold.

Then God shows up.

When God tears the fabric of time and space and physically appears, shock follows.  That kind of reality is a shock to the system.  Suddenly the work at the office isn’t that important.  Suddenly the argument with your friend or spouse seems trivial.  Suddenly your craving for the latest iThing seems really silly.

Then God.

I am thinking right now that my commitment to God can probably be measured by the size of the shock I would experience if God appeared before me.  If I am just doing my own thing then God’s presence would be greatly disturbing.  If, on the other hand, I am living a life that is, to use the words of Philippians 4, true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise, I really do not have anything to worry about.

Caveat: if you have not placed your faith in Christ for salvation, no amount of good living will prepare you for the presence of God.  Nothing you do can win you a place in heaven.  Good living just gets you a place at the back of the line.  God’s gift of salvation received by faith alone is all that guarantees a relationship with God and home in heaven.

So how about you?

How would you react if God appeared in your worship service and took over?

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3 thoughts on “When God Becomes a Show-Stopper

  1. I love this article. Thanks for writing it. There are a few times when I felt like I had a palpable encounter with God. One was totally exhausting, as I was wrestling with God in prayer, and dealing with anger towards Him. The other was when He showed me how He saved me from dying in a physical attack. Both times, I was ‘put in my place’ so to speak. We can argue with God, but when we allow Him to change us from the inside, we can truly be at peace with the events of our lives. God showed me His love, compassion, power, redemption, and his protective nature. I know that even though He is awesome, He is still in love with his children. He’s in love with me!

    I wrote a song called ‘We Bow Down’ in which I tried to capture the awesomeness of God and the reverence we should feel. Especially at the end of the song. I would love it if you would take a listen, and let me know your thoughts. It is number 3 on the list, and you can hear it for free at the link below.

    Here’s the Chorus:
    Lord, we fall at your throne
    Lord, we praise you alone,
    Yes, we bow down to worship
    You are Holy and true
    We give honor to you
    and we bow down to worship
    We bow down
    We bow down

    • Hi Patty,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experience and music. I like the accessibility and simplicity of the chorus. I can imagine a congregation learning it fairly quickly. The range is also high enough to make someone “feel good” while singing.

      If I was to make a suggestion it would be to have the music mimic the words; i.e., for the text “We bow down” to be accompanied by a descending musical gesture. As it is the melody goes up. The verse also is a bit low in the vocal register. These are just thoughts, though.

      I appreciate the opportunity to give you some feedback. I hope it was helpful.

      Maurice

  2. Maurice –
    Thank you for your thoughtful note on worship, and your wonderful re-telling of this story from scripture. Though I have read it several times, I never saw the magnificence of the moment until now. Wow. How great would it be for our worship services here on earth to even scratch the surface of such an amazing offering of glory to our Lord.

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