I was speaking with a friend recently on what it would take for the church to experience a revival. Without batting an eye he said, “Reverence.” It did not take long to see that one hallmark of followers of Christ that besmirches the faith is a lack of reverence for God. Reverence is profound respect, honour and veneration. God is worthy of it. As I read the scriptures I see that irreverence dulls and lulls the hearts of believers. When God is not given His due honour we become too familiar and we consequently lose intimacy with Him. The scriptures have examples of people who suffered loss because of irreverence.
Despising what comes from God
We show irreverence when we take lightly what God gives graciously. Esau, the eldest son of Isaac and Rebecca is a prime example. Hebrews 12:16 says See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. The term godless in that verse bespeaks his irreverent character. Being the first-born son meant carrying on the family legacy. However, one day when Esau was starving, he traded that honour for a meal (Genesis 25:31-32). It is interesting that the loss of his birthright was simply in the speaking of words.
Often, we as believers demonstrate irreverence in careless speech. And in doing so we often disqualify ourselves from God’s intimacy and His blessing. You’ve often been praying for something by faith and believing God for it. Yet in a moment of fleshly weakness, you despise it. You trust God for marriage and in an instant of carnality, you declare that you despise marriage. The scriptures indicate that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). We show deep irreverence when we return to the same prayer closet and request for what we spoke against. Hebrews 12:17 says Afterward, as you know, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. It is not our tears that will bring revival; it is our genuine repentance.
Making light of the worship of God
The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu lost their lives because of irreverently conducting their tabernacle duties. The Bible says in Leviticus 10:1 that they offered profane fire before Him. In the imagination of Nadab and Abihu, they most probably thought that fire was just fire. But the LORD was specific on the kind of fire He wanted. One kind of fire defiled the holy place. Nadab and Abihu were not unfamiliar with this. They were trained. However, you can imagine that they thought the Lord’s instructions were nothing more than rigmarole. “Who cares if we add incense to the fire?” Nadab must’ve said, “Just get the place lit up!” Abihu may have responded, “Yeah, I’m getting tired of this routine. Go ahead and light it up.” And lit it was. The fire of God consumed them.
Often as believers, we make light of true worship. We don’t see the gathering of believers (Hebrews 10:25) as a privilege. We make humour of the Holy Word of God. We use His name in vain when surprised and when in shock. We do not distinguish between the holy and the unholy (Leviticus 10:10). Like Nadab and Abihu we are so familiar with the worship of God that we approach it irreverently. And we often even fall into antinomianism by simply retorting, “There is grace.” It is not a guilty conscience that will stir revival; it is genuine repentance.
Assuming to help God
In 2 Samuel 6, David decided to transport the ark of God to Jerusalem. He used a pair of oxen for the job. The ark had been resting in the house of a man called Aminadab (see 1 Samuel 7:1). In the days of Eli, Israel had lost a battle and the Philistines had captured the ark. After the LORD punished the Philistines, they returned the ark to Israel. It stayed there in Aminadab’s house. This was even before Saul was King. So you can imagine how many years have passed by the time David is taking it to Jerusalem. Aminadab had been keeping the ark in his house. You can imagine how his sons, Uzzah and Ahio must have grown up seeing it. When the time came to transport the ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah and Ahio drove the cart. When the oxen stumbled and the ark moved, Uzzah casually placed his hand to steady it. It was a gross assumption. The ark was a holy object. The LORD struck Uzzah dead (2 Samuel 6:7). Uzzah’s presumption betrays his irreverence. Israel had heard of the stories of how the Philistines were killed and how they got plagues and tumours for handling the ark. They also learned of how some local Israelites peeked into the ark when the Philistines returned it and how they died for it (1 Samuel 6:19). Perhaps the familiarity that Uzzah developed came because he had grown up with the ark in the next room. Either way, irreverence induced him to casually touch it in a bid to help.
We often as believers embody the irreverence of Uzzah. I heard of a lady who was being advised by her single girlfriends (who claim to be born-again Christians), of how she should pack her bags and leave her husband because he lost his income during the Covid-19 pandemic. Imagine how something that God instituted such as holy matrimony can be tramped upon by the opinions of single girlfriends who are “woke.” Or imagine how the Methodist Church voted to allow same-sex weddings in their pursuit of being “inclusive and loving” Christians. What do you say to the one who created holy matrimony as that of one man and one woman when you face Him after the grave? The girlfriends and the Methodist church may deem themselves as innocents who are only trying to help. Help who? Most likely help God in their assumption. Like Uzzah, they touch what God has declared holy. Yet a holy God sees past what one would call innocence as nothing more than sinful irreverence. Changing political views won’t bring revival; God calls for genuine repentance.
The list of irreverence could be endless. We could speak of how Korah, Dathan and Abiram presumed to be “equally chosen” as Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16. The earth opened up and swallowed the rebellious families while the fire of God consumed the irreverent self-proclaimed priests. We could speak of how in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira irreverently lied to the Holy Spirit and died. Or we could speak of the irreverence of Miriam that resulted in disease and banishment when she dishonoured God and Moses by presuming herself to be spiritually better than Moses. God calls us to revere Him.
Perhaps what one would call the worst kind of irreverence is insulting the death of Jesus by sinning deliberately and despising His sacrifice. Hebrews 10:27-29 “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (NIV).
In what other ways have you seen professing believers lose reverence for God?