Ever done a face-plant? Not just stumbling because you were looking at your phone while walking, or tripping over toys in the living room, but a full-fledged wipeout, sprawled out on the ground.
What’s the first thing you do when you experience this? Look around and see if anyone noticed, of course. And, if you’re like me (when I was going down a couple of steps between rooms of our house one evening, stepped on a toy, and dropped like a stone onto the carpet), you might also check and see if all of your limbs still work. My son was nice: he asked, “Are you ok, daddy?”. I weakly said “Yes” as I got up (probably being less than truthful), despite the extent of my injuries that were just starting to be felt.
What’s the first thing you do when you see this happen to someone else? Well, I’ll leave it up to you and God whether you laugh, help, or both.
In the times when the Bible was written, there are numerous cases of people intentionally (or, just as a natural reaction) getting down on their faces before God…
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.
Matthew 17:5-6 NASB
…or before a person to whom they were showing great respect:
Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
Genesis 42:6 NASB
See also 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, Nehemiah 8:6, Luke 24:4-5, and Revelation 4:8-11. In 1 Samuel 5:2-4, even the pagan idol of the false Philistine god, Dagon, was caused to fall on its face in front of the ark of the actual God.
In most cultures I’ve observed, though, this isn’t really a practice that we see. We show respect, but the idea of actually getting down on the ground – on our face – would be pretty extreme. Students of the martial arts still bow to show respect to an instructor or a sparring opponent. A suitor may still get down on one knee to propose to his sweetheart. These are humbling opportunities. In these circumstances, we put ourselves into a defenseless position, showing trust to the other person, and honoring them by yielding our fate to their will (should they turn against us).
And, if someone got down on his face in front of us, we’d probably be at a loss for what to do. And, why shouldn’t we? When we understand our relative standing compared to God, we don’t need anyone treating us like that.
I envision us showing this sort of extreme humility in Heaven, though. When we encounter the perfectly holy and glorious God of the universe, I think that we will be at a loss for words and actions, and may just fall on our faces in front of Him, saying “Holy, Holy, Holy” over and over and over (see Isaiah 6:1-3).
If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to embrace the holiness of God. This attribute – God’s holiness – results in both His justice and love. It is responsible for both our deserved judgment and the opportunity that Jesus (God the Son) gave us to instead accept His payment for that judgment. It is worth studying and appreciating, and even – in our own imperfect ways – striving to emulate in our own lives, as we are able to do so with God’s help.
To learn more about God’s holiness, take some time to read His word (the Bible), as well as writings from authors who have invested their lives into learning about God’s nature, and who then tried to write it down for the rest of us – giving us just get a glimpse of how great God is.
Then, consider a little “worship practice”. I’m not saying you have to get down on your face, but tell God how great you have learned that He is, humble yourself before Him, and put your life into His hands. He can be trusted.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.