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Background Considerations

  • definitions:
    • “numinous unease” – an anthropological term describing attitudes toward a god or God which, while happy with God’s best plans for the people, recognizes still that God is GOD and not a human, is powerful enough to do anything. In the biblical world this is best illustrated whenever people encounter an angel – stark terror! And, if God is responsible for the weather and what happens to crops on which you depend for survival and earthquakes and …, then one probably should be a bit wary. It was part and parcel of the way people in Bible times viewed God.
    • fear of God – probably elements of both reverence and terror in the original biblical context.
    • God and humans – although hopefully in some kind of close relationship, they are never the same and humans must keep this in mind.
    • transcendence and immanence – the classic tension between seeing God as majestic and mysterious, out there and powerful, on the one hand, and, on the other, experiencing God as a close friend and confidant.
    • reverence – respect for the otherness of God, for God’s holiness

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • Isaiah 6:1-8 – The “Call Vision” of Isaiah set in the temple where fiery angelic beings (only here in the Bible called seraphim = burning ones) stand in awe in God’s presence, chanting “Holy, holy, holy!” – this leads to Isaiah’s sense of total unworthiness and guilt, then forgiveness, then proclamation.
  • Deuteronomy 13:4 – The command to walk after God, fear God, keep God’s commands, obey his voice, serve him and cling to him. How does this work? How can at least some of these things be commanded?
  • Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – The end of the matter (and quite different from the matter presented in the rest of the book of Ecclesiastes!): fear God, keep his commands, remember the judgment to come.
  • 1 John 5:1-5 – Importance of love to God and obedience of his commands, which leads to victory over the world.

Contributions to the Study of Forgiveness

  • A sense of divine majesty and mystery elicits certain human responses of awe, wonder, fear. Why is this the case? What dynamics are at work here? Is this good news of not?

Lessons for Life

  • What are the connections between reverence for the holiness and majesty of God and forgiveness?

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