In the book of Ezra, we read of the return of Jews from captivity to Jerusalem and the work of the priest Ezra in rebuilding the temple and restoring worship. In the ninth chapter, the leaders came to Ezra declaring how the people had not separated themselves from the heathen and had intermarried with them. The thing greatly disturbed Ezra, and the text says, “Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive…” (Ezra 9:4). The words of God invoked a response of trembling by those who recognized their transgression of it.
As the story continues in chapter 10, a large congregation of men, women, and children assembled to Ezra. They were weeping over their sin. A man named Shechaniah confessed to Ezra that they had sinned and that they should make a covenant with God to put away the foreign wives and those who had been born to them, “according to the counsel of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God” (Ezra 10:3). After a proclamation to gather in Jerusalem was issued, all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. The Bible says in Ezra 10:9 that all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, “trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.”
Indeed, there are many things that may cause us to tremble – for example, shocking news, natural disaster, things that go bump in the darkness….and even being out in heavy rain. But the important question is: do the words of God cause us to tremble? The people of Ezra’s day trembled at the words of God, finding themselves in violation of it. I believe their trembling was an outward sign of their godly sorrow.
The Bible speaks a lot about trembling. Moses is said to have trembled at the voice of the Lord at the burning bush (Acts 7:32; c.f. Exodus 3:6). Because of God’s greatness, His authority and supremacy, the psalmist says we ought to tremble: “The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!” (Psalm 99:1. David says in Psalm 119:120, “my flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments.”
At the sight and voice of the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul trembled and was astonished, asking Jesus what He wanted him to do (Acts 9:6).
As Paul reasoned with Felix and Drusilla concerning righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. The ASV says he “was terrified.” Felix trembled at the word of God! Why? The words Paul preached were penetrating, and they were supposed to. It is unfortunate that he delayed responding to those words by which he could be saved.
Here’s the one upon whom the Lord is pleased: “But on this one I will look; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). God looks favorably and with blessing upon the one who has respect for His word.
Why should we tremble at God’s word and His commandments? First, it is not the word of man; it is the word of our Creator! Second, His word is the final authority, so it represents the standard for our living. What a sobering thought it is then to consider that this is God’s message to you and to me, and He will hold us accountable to it! Third, when we have violated His word, it is a serious matter about which we are sorry and ashamed. Recognition of the violation should cause us to tremble and to repent and confess that to God.
The world does not fear God. The world does not tremble for fear of God. The world is not afraid of His judgments. The world does not tremble at the commandments of God. The world does not tremble at transgression of His law. To the contrary, many today take “pride” in an “alternative lifestyle”, many women glory in “a woman’s choice,” and so many are “broad-minded” enough to accept a diversity of beliefs not found in the word of God.
Brethren, let us, as children of God, be a people who tremble at His word!
- Larry Jones