Blogging the Institutes–1.1.3–Encounters with God Leave People Humbled

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

Encounters with God Leave People Humbled

Because God is so pure and we are not, it is not surprising the picture Scripture presents us of when people encounter God. They are struck down and overwhelmed by the presence of God!  They were once so firm in faith, but when they encountered God, look at what happens: they shook in terror; they dropped as if they were dead; and they were—in a sense—swallowed up and annihilated. Therefore, we’ll never see how small we are until we see how majestic and big God is.

There are examples of this in both the book of Judges and writings of the Prophets (Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1:28; 3:14; Job 9:4; see also, Genesis 18:27; 1 Kings 19:13). There are so many examples of this happening that a slogan arose in Israel, “We will die, because we have seen the Lord.” Moreover, the book of Job aims to humble people by convicting them of their foolishness, weakness, and corruption. It does so by comparing puny little people with the descriptions of God’s wisdom, virtue, and purity. Moreover, Abraham repented with dust and ashes when he approached to see the glory of the Lord. Elijah too is unable to look directly at the glory of the Lord because it is so awe-inspiring and dreadful. Therefore, what can a such small, piddly people do when even the Cherubim (angels!) have to hide their faces in terror?

When God reveals His glory, even the brightest objects in the universe like the sun will appear to dim, just like Isaiah says, “Then the glory of the moon will wane, and the brightness of the sun will fade, for the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will rule on Mount Zion” (Isaiah 24:23).

Now, although the knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves are tied together, the arrangement of this book requires that we treat knowledge of God first, and then look at knowledge of ourselves.

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