Last month one of my most read posts was about An Encounter With the Numinous. The Numinous experience is when a person encounters God in a way that overwhelms. It is an experience that invokes fear, awe and a feeling of being in the presence of something that is wholly other. The prophet Isaiah had just such a life changing encounter with God.
What is interesting is that the prophet Ezekiel, nearly 150 years later, also had an encounter with God that was very similar to that of Isaiah’s. You can find this encounter in Ezekiel 1:1-3:15.
Ezekiel’s encounter parallels Isaiah’s in many ways but with a more thorough description:
- Seraphim. Both Ezekiel and Isaiah saw seraphim guarding God. Ezekiel’s seraphim are some of the most unusual creatures ever described – including his famous wheel within a wheel. But then, how would one of God’s most awesome spiritual beings look to a man? And how could one possibly describe the spirit realm in physical terms?
- God Exalted. God is again high and exalted. This time on a throne seemingly floating above or possibly carried by the seraphim. God is described as fiery and surrounded by a rainbow of color.
- Man Overwhelmed. Just like Isaiah, Ezekiel is totally overwhelmed by God’s presence and falls face down on the ground.
- Sent Out. God ends His time with Ezekiel by sending him out to serve. Once again we see that an encounter with the Numinous is life changing.
When God is done, Ezekiel is left dumbfounded for seven days. In our modern worship, with our emphasis on a personal relationship with God through Jesus, we rightfully recognize and celebrate the fact that we can “confidently approach the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). Yet we dare not allow this confidence to change into disrespect.
Ezekiel’s encounter with the Numinous reminds us that our God is much more than just a loving Father. He is also the exalted King of the universe – holy, awesome and beyond description.
I personally find it very difficult to balance these images – the image of an awe inspiring God King that leaves people dumbfounded for seven days and the Father who loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. As hard as it is to maintain this balance, I do believe it is essential for us to never forget that we worship an awesome God.
Questions: What have you done to help keep this balance between reverence and intimacy?
by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory