A king passes by, and all his subjects bow and honor him because he is just, right, honest, and true. He has earned their love; earned their respect; earned their honor and praise. He has fought wars for them. Conquered his own desires for them, and for this: they bow.
I want to start this off by giving you a piece of imagery that I often assume lots of people find themselves dwelling on:
In my mind’s eye, there I bow before a massive throne in a blindingly white void with golden, radiating light illuminating from the One sitting on it staring down on me in all His glory and majesty. I feel small. I feel awe, and find myself bowing down in complete submission at the power that I feel emanating just a few dozen pure-white steps above me.
In every single variant of this vision I am also in 3rd person; outside looking down at what I associate as myself. I get the full image of the magnitude of the situation from this view. I see just a simple man, humbled and terrified, and the fullness of the incomprehensible glory reducing Himself to an image, for my own benefit, so that I can truly take in all of this scene.
This may sound glorious and awe-inspiring, but every single time I had this vision in my mind’s eye, before very recently, I always landed in a sour spot. How can this be heaven? How can this be how I want to spend an eternity? If I am simply to kneel and beg, bow and be cast down before His glory, how is that “heaven”?
I truly believe so many of us, as Christians and maybe non-believers as well, have this moment in their mind picturing the God of the Universe and are turned off. I’m not really sure why this image is so prevalent for me, specifically, but I can tell you I believe I finally understand why it’s recurring, why it’s an image He gave us in scripture, and why I believe it’s used by the enemy. The other night it hit me like a lightning bolt after reading Jeremiah 27. (NASB 1995; not relevant directly, but if you want to retrace my steps a bit, I wanted that made available to you)
I think, so often, we lose sight of the fact that scripture is a totality. It’s not isolated passages that should be used to drive full philosophical, theological, and character definitions of God. We are to take all passages, and test and reconcile them with the rest of His revelation. If we slack on this or lose sight of the process which is necessary for understanding, we can easily stumble into very dangerous misrepresentative states of His character, persona, attitude, and view towards us. So, let’s start with the first: Why do I believe this image is given to us?
Besides the obvious that He is simply deserving of the highest seat, praise, honor, and all glory given to Him only, I believe it’s meant to challenge the heart. This may seem obvious, but let’s be real…how many of us truly think about heaven being sort of “hellish” when we look at the concept of bowing, praising, singing, and glorifying Him for every second of eternity? Probably most or all of us. However, does He say that’s what we are to do or be with Him? I don’t really know why we have a propensity to allow our minds to wander this way, but let’s take the simplest step back to understand who we are to Him. It’s astounding we forget, but it’s in the first 3 chapters of the first book of the Bible/Torah.
8 Now they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
What do we see in this? Firstly, we see the design that God had in mind with mankind in His original intentions: direct and present fellowship. That’s incredibly powerful to this whole topic, I think. Adam and Eve weren’t bowing and worshipping, though maybe they did at times when He was near, they were in tangible, present, and spiritual communion with their Creator. He was walking and talking among them. I’m not trying to assert that the new heaven will be identical to this format, but it does seem likely that there is a very distinct reason this direct statement seems to have been made about Adam and Eve’s relational ability with the Father.
Okay, so we know that they had a direct, present relationship with Him, but what of it? How does that answer the throne? Well…it obviously doesn’t, but it definitely changes the perspective and adds a significant amount of character to the God of the Universe, I’d say. Just because God can, does, will, and deserves (most importantly) to sit on the throne in all His glory, doesn’t mean He always will. What it does do, is challenge our desires and our heart. If God wants to be worshipped, He should be worshipped. If He wants us to bow, we should bow. If He wants to be praised, we should praise.
If we only look at Him on His throne, of course this sounds terrifying, but I, for one, will bow, praise, worship, and honor Him if that’s what He wishes. I can’t say it doesn’t sound difficult from my current perspective, but if the Father of the Universe wants that, so be it. However, I personally believe that He intentionally gives us the fullness of the picture so that we don’t have to get hung up on single passages, even though we still do for some reason. He is a God of communion, of fellowship, of relationship, of love. On top of that, if you believe in Christ, then you already know what kind of love He’s willing to show us: self-sacrificial, serving, relational love.
I truly don’t know how we forget this.
If all He wanted was pure worship and to be honored and praised from His throne, I don’t believe He would have ever lowered Himself to our level, suffered on our behalf, and taken His own wrath upon Himself. He seeks for our hearts, and yes, also our worship, praise, love, adoration, and glorification to Him. Why would we, for a second, even doubt that He should have it as often as He wants?
Now that we’ve hit this, reread the very top portion about “the king”.
Why do we lose this view of a king when we think about our Father? Christ lived, walked, talked, breathed, and died among us. Men bowed. Men worshipped. Men listened to His words, wisdom, truth, and life with deepest intensity. He was “the King” among us. Did He force everyone He met to bow before Him and worship Him constantly? No. He counseled, taught, loved, embraced, healed, and most importantly, fed us the bread of life. The Word of the Father made flesh speaking to us. That’s incredible. Emmanuel, “God among us”. I just look at how we are willing to bow to our neighbors and coworkers, open doors for strangers, yield our time and energy for some we’ve never met, but when we dwell on the concept of worshipping, bowing to, and praising the Lord of our Universe, we quibble and panic.
When He wants praise, I will praise. When He wants to teach, I will listen. When He wants to be honored, I will honor. When He wants to offer me the bread of life, I will eat. When He wants to sit on His throne to rest His legs, I will bow.
So that answers, to me, why this image has been recurring to me for so long (in part), and also, I believe, why it’s given to us in scripture: He deserves honor and praise. But He also wants to teach, walk, and love us. Is walking around singing songs of His glory really so much to ask? Most of us already hum songs as it is. Why not pivot those to songs that honor Him? Seems like a simple and reasonable trade to me.
And now we reach: Why does the enemy use this?
I honestly imagine that anyone that is actually reading this likely already can see why this would be an image that’s constantly conjured up to make us waiver and doubt. But…before I explain this, I want to visit just a couple of passages to show what Satan does, consistently, in scripture to those that have God’s Word before them.
Firstly, again in Genesis, we have two portions that I’m going to combine in order to compare directly with God’s statement:
Genesis 3:1 && 3:4:
1 And he said to the woman, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” | 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die!…”
Let’s compare that to what the command was directly from God’s mouth.
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.”
What do you notice that Satan does here? He knows God’s word. But he doesn’t just know it, he actually brings it up before her, but with a couple twists. He just barely manipulates God’s Word in order to test how well she was listening and if she’d kept it closely to her heart. Sadly, we know what happened, but this is so incredibly critical to our walk with the Father and understanding Him the way He intended us to.
Let’s look at one more batch of passages from Jesus’ temptation in Luke 4 just to solidify that this is the tactic God says Satan uses.
Devil: Luke 4:3
3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus: Luke 4:4
4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written: ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE'”
Devil: Luke 4:6-7
6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory, for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I want. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”
Jesus: Luke 4:8
8 Jesus replied to him, “It is written: ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY’.”
Devil: Luke 4:9-10
9 And he brought Him into Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written:
‘HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS ORDERS CONCERNING YOU, TO PROTECT YOU,’
‘ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL LIFT YOU UP,
SO THAT YOU DO NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'”
Jesus Luke 4:12
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been stated, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'”
Even against Jesus, Satan uses the same pattern he used against Eve. Know the Word, test them to see if they understand God’s Word, and deceive with a twist if they don’t. I believe this is why Satan uses this image to conjure up confusion and fear. Why wouldn’t he? It’s the perfect plan to combat our hearts and desires. It’s very difficult to imagine bowing, praising, worshipping, glorifying, and kneeling before the Father for actual eternity. Just the thought of it makes our backs, knees, heads, ears, and minds crumble in presumed agony.
So the question becomes: why is this lie so good?
And now we have it: the best lie is one embedded with truth. Satan always uses mostly truth in his best lies. Why wouldn’t he? I mean, think about it: if the truth will set you free, but the words of the truth are embedded in the lie that obscures the truth from you, how do you use those words to be freed? It’s honestly brilliant. You have to use God’s word, the same word that’s imbued in the lie that’s deceiving you, to dig yourself out of the lie and into the truth. The only way to do this, I believe, is to believe.
Belief precedes faith.
I truly have come to believe this. I believe there comes a point where the only way to understand and to believe is actually to simply do it. It’s about commitment. If you won’t imagine yourself worshipping the Father of the Universe, that gave you life, family, food, memories, freedom, and the like, how will you commit yourself to doing it? That’s the test. Only those that are willing to cast aside their doubts and believe without proof can see it. We have to see the throne, be terrified of it, and say, “Well, it’s scary, but that doesn’t make it untrue.” Once you’ve committed yourself to accepting the throne, His Lordship of your life, His character becomes full. You step into the vision of the throne, yes, but also to the vision of His communion, plan for you, love for you, and His worth in receiving your praise, glory, honor, and worship.
So, I beg you, please believe today. Don’t wait. Believe, and discover what He’s revealing to me more every day: His character and worth in the “throne” of my life.