The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him –
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;(Ps. 18:7-19 NIV)
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
The description of the appearance of the LORD uses the language of theophany (a physical manifestation of God). The appearance of God caused the earth to tremble and quake to the very foundations of the mountains. The Lord is awesome in his holiness, He appears in His anger. God’s appearance can only be described using natural phenomena. Smoke and fire billowed from His mouth and nose. As God leaves heaven the skies part and He descends with dark clouds under His feet and riding on cherubim. He rode on the wings of the wind. He was cloaked in a shroud of darkness, yet out of the brightness of His presence came thunder and lightning. It is no surprise that the prophet Malachi says:
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness(Mal. 3:2-3 NIV)
The Psalmist says of the Lord’s enemies in Psalm 2
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.’
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;(Ps.2:1-4 NIV)
the Lord scoffs at them.
This picture of the Lord is truly dreadful, but it is worthwhile remembering that the Lord here is coming to the aid of His people. This is the Lord who is on our side. The scene here is like something from the book of Revelation. The voice of the Lord will thunder from heaven and every mouth will be stilled. Philosophers will no longer speculate, atheists will believe, but not to their salvation; every tongue that has spoken out will be muted. The demonstration of the power will leave no unbelievers in its wake.
It is important for us to read these apocalyptic descriptions of God so that we can recover the awesome power and holiness of our God. Think what it means in the light of this description for us to approach God and address Him as ‘Abba Father’. A theme that runs through the Scriptures is to see the covenant LORD as the warrior God. Think of the warrior God upon the cross, defeating Satan, sin and death and with tenderness speaking to John His disciple commending Mary into his care. It is to this mighty God that we come when we pray.
As the Psalmist is engulfed, surrounded, entangled and dragged inexorably towards death and the grave, the Lord reaches down from on high and draws him out of the deep waters. God delivers him from his enemies. The Lord delivers His people because He delights in them.
Lord God forgive us that we have taken for granted coming into your presence, whether that is to pray or to worship with your people. We easily lose sight of the dreadful holiness and the awesome reverence that is required of us. Yet in mercy you bid us come and we are careful to claim the name and worth of Christ as we come. Enabled by Your Holy Spirit, we call You Abba Father. As we come, we recognise that the way of worship is by way of sacrifice and confession of sin. Lord we are privileged to be allowed an audience in Your presence. Receive our thanks and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.