Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
To serve God and to honor Him are by no means the same.
He who serves is in that service a servant, who fulfills his servantship by strict obedience and discharge of all his duties.
Hence, in the service of the Lord our God this servantship stands in the foreground. To be a “Servant of the Most Highest” is an honorary title, and “servant of God” stands so high that it is common to all angels and men and to the Mediator between God and men. Even the Mediator is called “the suffering servant of God.”
But true piety goes further than service, and the name of Religion points not to the service, but to the honor of God. And so in our circles we speak of the Christian Religion; but in the general understanding of the people this noble name has found no entrance.
The great mass of people know of nothing else nor of anything higher than to serve God—something that ordinarily is reduced to the doing of one’s duty, so that all religion is lost in the so-called practice of virtue.
And, however excellent discharge of duty and practice of virtue may be when as ripe fruits they are picked from the plant of faith, yet, by themselves, apart from that plant, they can never make good the lack of real religion.
Surely, it is your duty to keep the commandment, but on condition that you honor Him who gave you that commandment.
Every father of you who has obedient children who never do wrong and never make any trouble, but who never company with him, never honor him, nor show him filial affection, might envy the other, whose children are not always exemplary for goodness and sweetness but who dote on their father and carry him on their heart and are attached to him with their best love.
And not this antithesis, but this rule applies also to the Lord our God.
Altogether good people, but who have no desire after the hidden walk with God, are an offense to Him and an insult to His love.
And therefore calls and complains the Lord so touchingly and tenderly by Malachi (1:6): “If then I am a Father, where is mine honor?”
What this honor of God is, appears when you consider two things: first, reverent praise, and second, attachment of soul.
“Praise is comely for the upright” (Ps. 33:1), says the Scripture. To praise it urges man and angel. “Praise the Lord, sing forth the honor of his name!” (Ps. 66:2) is the call that is sounded in all the holy Testament. To make the name of God ever greater is the blessed accord that is enticed from human tongue and angel voice.
In unhealthy mysticism, they who are over spiritually-minded object to this, and put the question whether before God anything counts except the impulses of the heart, and what that outward praise and Hallelujah Song can mean to Him; but this standpoint is false and is contrary to the creation-ordinance that created us soul and body.
Of course, praise in the lips without praise in the heart degrades the human psalm to the song of the lark. In the praise of the lips the heart must flow out. But the heart must never imagine that the “calves of the lips” have no significance before God.
As among men the tribute of praise to those who attain high and honorable posts is demanded, so the Lord your God demands of you that you praise Him, that you confess Him, that you honor Him, that you thank Him, that you worship Him.
It is impious familiarity, which does not become you, when you deem that your love for God excuses you from reverent worship.
Read it in Revelation how even in the heaven of heavens, where love is perfect, the offering upon the altar of the Holy One is unalterably composed of love and adoring praise.
But you are right in this: in that outward worship the honor of your Father who is in heaven does not come to its own.
If then I am a Father, asks the Almighty, where is mine honor? So in the honor which you offer unto God, the child-element also must come to its own, by warming the worship that by itself is cold, and by making it glow with the soulful affection of filial love.
Also in this honor of God there operates a centripetal and a centrifugal force.
A sense of deep reverence and respect, which would make you exclaim: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” A trembling before His Word, and a sacred fear before His Holy Majesty.
But also a deep-felt sense of clinging affection. A drawing of heart after the Eternal. Inability to rest before His holy fellowship is found. A thirsting after God, as the hart thirsts after the watersprings. A going out with all your soul after His hidden walk.
This is the second part of the honor that is due unto God as Father, and because He is Father.
The claim of the Father-heart that is well-pleased and accepts the love of His child, and where in its sum-total it constitutes the out flowing love of His people.
A love in which we always fall short; which on earth shall ever remain a small beginning of what it must be; and which by reason of its insufficiency ever and again puts to shame those who spiritually are more deeply initiated.
When these two, this reverent worship of prayer and praise and that soulful attachment of love, inwork one upon the other, then, and only then, is worship and love mingled as offering, and our Father who is in heaven receives something, however imperfect, of His honor.
In addition to these two parts there is still another, even the reflective, which equally closely touches the honor of God as Father.
God the Lord has put into human fatherhood a reflection of His own divine Fatherhood.
He could have ordained human procreation in another way, so that no man would ever have become a father.
But He did not ordain it so. By His ordinance regarding the propagation of our race, God made man a father. And even now, for as many as there are whom God granted to beget a child, it is our God who made them father.
Then in such a one He mirrors the image of His own divine Fatherhood, and wills and demands that in this reflected fatherhood we shall honor His original Fatherhood.
Therefore must a child honor his father.
Not to preserve domestic order. Not because his father supports him. Not because father is the older. But because in honoring father we honor our Father who is in heaven.
When I tear off the epaulets from an official, I do no injury to him, but to the king who attached these epaulets to his shoulders as a sign of his office. So also, when a child withholds honor and homage from his father, he does sinful man no harm, but he assails God, who shadowed forth His divine Fatherhood upon him.
To honor your father and your mother is to honor God in them.
And he who professes piety and breaks the fifth commandment robs God with the left hand, of what with the right he offered upon His altar.
He who is an earthly father sees in that part of God’s honor an obligation for himself of highest seriousness.
You can mirror God’s Fatherhood in your own fatherhood before your children in a beautiful and striking way, but you can also do it in an unsightly and false way.
Then arise those bitter conditions in which you do not entice honor and love from your children, but rouse antagonism in them, strife between dislike of your person and the honor which they owe you as their father.
The holy apostle calls this “provoking one’s children.” To demand: you must honor me, and meanwhile given them occasion to despise you, or at least to have no respect for you.
Something which never sets the child free from obligation to the fifth commandment. This, like all other divine commandments, remains unshakable as a rock. But for your child it becomes a grievous temptation to sin. A temptation that goes out from you, to work its ruin.
Whoever therefore is father or mother must in this respect also give God honor, so that in their own person they bear with honor the reflection of the Fatherhood of God.
That in everything they prove themselves worthy of respect before their children, and make themselves a blessing to their children in the grave work of training and educating them, not merely to safeguard themselves against self-degradation, nor yet merely to teach their children order and discipline, but above all and first of all in this matter of the home-life to let the Lord our God come to His honor as Father.
Here, too, in God the starting point and in God the final goal.
From, through, and to Him likewise the honor of the fifth commandment.