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When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. – Genesis 17:1-2
You’ve been given a precious gift. What is the proper response? You’ve been highly honored before your peers. What is the appropriate posture? You’ve encountered something gravely fearful, but utterly good. What do you do? Abraham, Isaiah, Peter, and even the crowd who came to arrest Jesus all did the same thing. They showed utter humility. Either falling to the ground, or in the case of Peter, saying, “Depart from me. I am a sinful man.” Would that we would learn that attitude.
I believe it’s true: We have forgotten what it means to fear, love, and trust in God. We have a friend in Jesus. He is kind and compassionate. He is merciful and full of lovingkindness. These all make possible loving and trusting God. But Abraham falls on his face when God speaks a word of promise to him again. Isaiah says, “Woe is me. I am ruined” (Isaiah 6:6). Job finally has to repent in sackcloth and ashes when he encounters God fully.
Perhaps we have not encountered God in quite that way. Maybe we read words on the pages of scripture and learn truth apart from actually encountering God. In fact, however, not every revelation of God is identical for each person. I didn’t see Jesus walk on water. I haven’t had a vision of God with the train of his robe filling a smoke-filled throne room. God has not fluffed up a cloud for a God to man talk with me.
But I have looked over the chasm of sin and death, and realized that were it not for God’s grace, I would have no hope at all. I have had to repent in tears for things I’ve done that I would never want others to know of. I have had to speak the words of the confession, “I a poor miserable sinner confess unto you all my sins and iniquities…” Not because they’re in the order of worship. But because I felt it deeply.
There will come a time when Abraham bargains with God over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. There has already come a time when Abram reminded God that he had no son, even though God had promised that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars of the heavens. Peter will leave his own sin at the cross and go on to a bold witness for the crucified and risen Savior. Isaiah says, “Here am I, send me!” Job had his fortunes restored.
The place of utter humility on our face before God is not meant to be a permanent place. We need to go there to the extent that God convicts us of our sins. But we need, also to hear God’s call to walk with him faithfully, and live to his honor. And trust his promises. He will not fail you. Or me. Or anyone who puts her faith in him.
In the end, our posture will be hands raised in joy and praise to God for his glorious grace. That will be quite a day!