The Bible presents a uniform pattern of how people respond to the holy presence of God: fear and trembling. Today, R.C. Sproul characterizes this solemn reaction to the transcendent majesty of our Creator.
God has been defanged. He’s been tamed. He has become innocuous. In the early chapters of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, written by John Calvin, Calvin makes a statement that goes something like this: “Hence that dread and terror by which holy men of old trembled before God, as Scripture uniformly relates.” What Calvin was saying is this: that there is a pattern to human responses to the presence of God in the Scripture. And it seems that the more righteous the person is described, the more he trembles when he enters the immediate presence of God. There is nothing cavalier or casual about the response of Habakkuk when he meets the holy God. Do you remember Habakkuk’s complaint where he saw all of the degradation and injustices that were sweeping across the landscape in his homeland? And he was so offended by this that he went up into his watchtower and he complained against God and he said: “God, You are so holy that You can’t even behold iniquity. How can You stand by and let all of these things come to pass?” He said, “I’m going to sit up here and I’m going to wait until God answers my question.” Do you remember what happened? When God appeared to Habakkuk, he said, “My lips quivered, my belly trembled, and rottenness entered into my bones.” What happened to Job when he waited for the voice of God? When God showed Himself to Job, Job said: “I abhor myself. I repent in dust and ashes. I have spoken once; I’ll speak no more. I will take my hand and put it upon my mouth.” As Calvin said, the uniform report of sacred Scripture is that every human being, whoever is exposed to the holiness of God, trembles in His presence.