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Rev. Joseph Holstege, pastor of First PRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

You cannot see honor. You cannot point to it, measure it, weigh it. It will not fill your stomach when you are hungry. It will not refresh you when you are hot. It will not warm you when you are cold. It is nothing. And yet, it is everything.

There is a lust for honor that burns insatiably in the human heart. To have the royal apparel around your shoulders, to ride in the king’s chariot pulled by the king’s horse, to wear the crown, to be proclaimed be­fore all as the man whom the king delights to honor —men will kill, they will cheat, they will do all kinds of dishonorable things just to be in such a state (Esther 6:6-9)! And when they have it, they will flaunt it. They will pronounce over their little kingdoms what Nebu­chadnezzar pronounced over his. “Is not this great Bab­ylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majes­ty?” (Dan. 4:30).

What is ironic is that such men actually degrade themselves in their relentless pursuit of honor. The true honor in a human being cannot be won or achieved, but only recognized. When God created man, He made him “a little lower than the angels” and “crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5; cf. Heb. 2:9). That makes everything he does significant enough for God to weigh it in the balance as the Judge. And that applies to ev­ery one of them, male and female, rich and poor, big and small, young and old. Nonetheless, “man that is in honor…understandeth [it] not,” and so turns to coun­terfeit honors. And eventually he becomes, in the case of Nebuchadnezzar quite literally, “like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20; cf. Dan. 4:33). God strips their hon­or away, for “as snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honor is not seemly for a fool” (Prov. 26:1).

God’s idea of honor is exactly the opposite. Where foolish men seek honor through strife, clawing and pry­ing their way to the top, God says “it is an honor for a man to cease from strife” (Prov. 20:3). Where foolish men say honor comes to those who seize it for them­selves, God says “riches, and honor, and life” come “by humility and the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 22:4). Where foolish women aim to be honorable by sitting in the gates with the men, God says “strength and honor” are the clothing of the woman who fears him by serving her household (Prov. 31:25). Where foolish husbands despise the delicate nature of their wives, God says she ought to be given “honor…as unto the weaker vessel” (I Pet. 3:7). Where we think some members of the body of Christ are “less honorable” because they “seem to be more feeble,” God says these members not only are “necessary,” but on them we ought to “bestow more abundant honor” (I Cor. 12:23) as we walk in the more excellent way of love.

Honor is really an attitude of the heart. The Old Testament word often rendered into English as “hon­or” means, at its root, “heavy or weighty.” If you com­pare the heart to an old-fashioned scale, how heavily certain persons and objects weigh on that scale reveals what the person finds valuable and important. And this “heaviness” will be evident in the way the honorable person or place or thing is treated. To use a familiar example, to blaspheme the name of God is to treat His name lightly, that is, to take His name “in vain” (Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). To honor the name of God is to let it weigh heavily on your mind and tongue so that you treat it with the utmost gravity and respect.

Now, God calls us to bestow such honor on certain persons whom He has lifted into certain positions. Where we may be inclined to view the decrees and laws of the powers that be with lightness and disdain, God calls us to render “honor to whom honor” is due (Rom. 13:7). Where we may be tempted to exploit the weak­nesses of parents as a reason to treat their rules as noth­ing, God calls children to “honor thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16). Where human nature may incline us to discount the message of a prophet who comes from our own country (Matt. 13:57), God calls us to count those who labor in the word and doctrine as worthy of “double honor” (I Tim. 5:17).

This has nothing to do with the inherent weightiness or significance of these men themselves. These men may be petulant and small-minded. These parents may be riddled with weaknesses and infirmities. Even the great­est and most magnanimous among them are counted by God “as the small dust of the balance” and as “less than nothing” (Is. 40:15, 17). But God has put His own name and honor on them. God has ordained the pow­ers that be. God has placed parents over their children. God has sent the prophets that speak in His name. And to honor these is to honor God, which is why the calling to “fear God” is placed side by side with the command to “honor the king” (I Pet. 2:17).

In short, what we must remember is that all honor belongs to God. Honor is before Him always as the roy­al carpet for His feet (Ps. 96:6). Honor is around His shoulders as the robe of the heavenly King (Ps. 104:1). Honor lives in His house (Psalm 26:8). It comes from Him, and it always returns to Him. Those who refuse to honor God, will honor Him nonetheless. “I will get me honor upon Pharaoh,” God says, “and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen” (Ex. 14:17). Those who honor Him willingly will be reward­ed beyond any reckoning. They will be carried up to the host of heaven, where they will lift up their voice to say, “Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanks­giving, and honor…be unto our God forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 7:12).