- The customs and regulations dealing with diplomatic formality, precedence, and etiquette (Dictionary.com)
- The forms of ceremony and etiquette observed by diplomats and heads of state
- A code of correct conduct (The Free Dictionary)
When Queen Esther walked into the king’s presence without being summoned, she breached the protocol of Persia’s royal court. Doing so, could very well incur the penalty of death. Aware of this, she declared with boldness and determination “…if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16 NKJ).
Fast forward to today’s world, with particular focus on the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, and we discover that an archaic code of conduct still operates within the Royal circle. So when it comes to greeting members of the British Monarchy, the media have been quick to report breaches of protocol by individuals who touch the Queen, or other members of the royal household, in what is deemed to be over-familiar ways. At best, it is seen as a faux pas, at worst, a lack of respect. So bystanders were amazed when the Queen herself dispensed with royal etiquette and placed an arm around the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, at a Buckingham Palace reception.
Did you know there is a protocol for entering into God’s Holy presence?
When instituting the laws of sacrifice, thanksgiving and worship, God gave the Children of Israel a set of rules for approaching him. If breached, the penalty was instant death (see Leviticus 10:1-3 NKJ). Later, when Jesus was crucified at Calvary, his death brought an end to the fear and trepidation associated with God’s presence. Dispensing with protocol (only an appointed priest could enter into his presence), God tore the temple veil from top to bottom, granting unprecedented access into the Holy of Holies, into His royal throne room (Mark 15:37-38 NKJ).
Psalm 100:4 highlights the protocol for entering into our Heavenly Father’s presence. Over 2,000 years later, I believe this instruction is just as valid today. We are commanded to:
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”
We are being asked to come into God’s Holy presence with grateful thanks for what He has done. We are being asked to acknowledge and appreciate Him for who he is.
In Psalm 107, the psalmist complains no less than four times about the common tendency of mortals to take God’s goodness for granted (see verses 8, 15, 21 and 31). Unfortunately, it would seem that just as it was in the days of antiquity, so ingratitude to God features as a failing of our modern times.
Now, if people fail to thank me for a gift I’ve given, or a good deed done, it offends me. I’m pretty sure that you are no different. Well, if we, as fallible humans, appreciate common courtesies and recognition of our benevolent acts, then how much more our Heavenly Father, who is unstinting in his unconditional love, care and provision? In fact, we know from the laws set out in Leviticus that acknowledging his goodness and expressing gratitude to him was something He expected from the Children of Israel (see Leviticus 7:11-15).
The thanksgiving (or peace) offering was a free will sacrifice (Leviticus 19:5). In other words, although God expected his chosen people to be thankful to him, it would be their choice whether or not they actually expressed this. After all, nobody wants to be on the receiving end of token appreciation, or enforced thanks.
Which brings me to the point of self-examination. If we are honest, whether in our private or public devotions, there are times when we do not always feel thankful, or overflowing with gladness and gratitude. We may be feeling bewildered by circumstances, devastated by broken dreams, frozen with fear. And so we become preoccupied with protecting, or licking our internal wounds.
It is at such times that the offering of joyful thanks and praise to our Father God becomes a sacrifice – something that costs us mentally and emotionally – yet something that God highly prizes. At times like these, we need to resist our pain and swallow our disappointments, in order to “bless the Lord at all times” and allow genuine praise to flow continually from our mouths (Psalm 34:1 NKJ).
Do you regularly offer thanks to the Lord? Do you frequently express sincere appreciation and gratitude to him?
Hebrew 13:15 (NKJ) exhorts: “…let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” During Biblical times, sacrifices had to be the very best you could offer. Anything less was considered an insult to God (see Malachi 1:6-8, 13-14). In today’s context, as worshippers, even though there may be periods where we are depressed, disappointed or disillusioned, this cannot and does not justify us offering lacklustre praise to the Lord.
So ask yourself – have I been, or am I guilty of auto pilot praise?
In this dispensation of grace, what a privilege we believers have been given that we can come without prior appointment, without the need of a third party, into God’s holy presence and in the knowledge that we are both acceptable and welcome.
What a blessing that we can step into our awesome God’s throne room without fear, without guilt and without an inferiority complex, knowing we are worthy because of the precious blood of his Son Jesus.
What a prestigious honour we’ve been granted, to be able to have an audience with the Holy One, with the Most High God, appeal to him for our needs, intercede on behalf of others and share our desires, dreams or problems, knowing that instead of incurring his wrath, He will place his loving arms around us.
On that note, let me close with the following:
I will extol you, my God, O King;
And I will bless your name forever and ever (Psalm 145:1)
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:3).