Five Words

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In Washington, DC, in a museum just down the road from the Smithsonian, there’s an old, beat-up piece of wood on display. It’s an important piece of wood, although you might not know it just by looking at it. On its surface, which is covered in gouges from a sharp blade, is a hand-painted sentence, barely legible.

The letters—or rather, what’s left of the letters—are Hebrew, and the word is a lintel that once stood guard over the torah ark of a German synagogue. The gashes that now cover its surface appeared in November of 1938, during a fateful evening in which 91 Jews were murdered and 30,000 more were arrested and shipped off to now-infamous concentration camps.

It was Kristallnacht.

The Night of Broken Glass.

In a single night, over a thousand synagogues were burned, and over seven thousand Jewish business were ransacked—to say nothing of the Jewish hospitals, schools, and homes that suffered similar fates. But somehow, amidst the chaos, this lintel and its message survived. It now resides in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where visitors can view the Hebrew phrase it still proudly bears:

Da lifnei mi attah omed.

“Know before whom you stand.”

The message itself isn’t unusual—you can find it written in synagogues across the world. For the Jews, it’s a reminder to behave with reverence and respect within the walls of the synagogue—but more than that, it’s a reminder that they stand before God always. Not just in the synagogue, but outside it as well. At work, at home, at play—there’s never a moment when they aren’t standing before God.

What about us? What about you and me? Once a week, we come to services to stand before God, but what happens after the last amen? What happens after we leave the building? What happens when we return to our day-to-day lives filled with the normal and the mundane?

Da lifnei mi attah omed.

Know before whom you stand.

Those words might not be written on the walls of our church halls, but they’re still worth considering. How well do we know the God before whom we stand? And more than that, how often are we aware of the fact that we’re standing before Him? It’s easy to forget. Life gets busy. We get distracted. Keeping God in the forefront of our minds isn’t always easy—but it is important. It matters.

It matters on the simple nights when our greatest challenge is finding something good to watch on Netflix. It matters on the difficult nights when we’re wrestling to understand why God is allowing us to experience a painful trial. And it matters during the nights when your country has turned against you, when the sky is lit by the flames burning your church, your business, and your home to the ground.

Do you know the God before whom you stand?

In the book of Revelation, John helps us with answering that question:

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

(Revelation 4:2-11)

When you pray, this is the throne you come before. This is the God who hears you, who loves you, and who created you to be His child.

This is the God before whom you stand.

We live, for now, in a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity—but Jesus warned us about a coming tribulation more terrible than anything the world has ever known. Worse than Kristallnacht. Worse than the Holocaust. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter if we’re living during that time or this time. What matters—what’s required of us—is still the same.

Da lifnei mi attah omed.

Know before whom you stand.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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