Trembling in Awe of God’s Glory

Trembling and shaking in fear is a common physical reaction in Scripture to encountering the awesome power and glory of God. From Moses at the burning bush to demons confronted by Christ, God’s manifest presence often evoked intense dread, convulsing, and shaking. As Christians, learning to tremble rightly in God’s presence aligns our bodies with spiritual truth – He is infinitely majestic while we are lowly creatures dependent on His mercy.


Throughout Scripture, encountering the glory and power of God elicits intense physical reactions from those who draw near. Bodies tremble, knees knock, joints give way, faces fall to the ground, people convulse or collapse before Him. This bodily demonstration of fear and dread reveals the visceral awe stirred up in God’s commanding presence.

Recognizing God’s fearful holiness and splendor should prompt profound physical reactions from us as well. As we will see, trembling in body as well as spirit demonstrates appropriate submission to God, reminds us of spiritual realities, and prepares us to receive from Him. Bodily reverence aligns with biblical truth and potentiates intimacy with God.

Key Takeaways:

  • Scripture often describes intense physical reactions of fear and trembling before God
  • Our bodies should reflect the sobering spiritual truth of God’s glory and our lowliness
  • Trembling prepares our bodies to receive God’s presence and move in His power
  • We tremble because God is supremely majestic while we are humble creatures dependent on Him
  • Cultivating trembling posture facilitates intimacy with God and righteous living

Let’s now explore biblical accounts of trembling before the Lord and derive applications for our embodied devotion to God today.

Trembling in Awe of God's Glory

Physical Reactions to Encountering God’s Presence

From Moses to Isaiah to the exorcism accounts of Jesus, Scripture depicts dramatic physical manifestations of fear and trembling before the overpowering presence of God. Consider these examples:

Moses Hid His Face in Fear

When God first spoke to Moses through the burning bush in Exodus 3, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:6) This account depicts Moses physically recoiling and hiding his face in dread of making direct eye contact with the fiery divine presence.

Israel Trembled at God’s Descent on Sinai

In Exodus 19, we read of God’s theophanic descent on Mount Sinai in smoke, cloud, and blazing fire. As God drew near, “Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” (Ex. 19:18). In response, “all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.” (Ex. 20:18). God’s nearness made the mountain and the people quake in fearful awe.

Belshazzar Was Shaken to His Core

The infamous finger of God writing on the wall in Daniel 5 elicited an extreme physical reaction from king Belshazzar: “The king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.” (Daniel 5:6). The king’s terrifying dread made his joints literally give out and knees knock as he collapsed to the ground shaken to his core.

Demons Would Convulse and Cry Out

Throughout the gospels, evil spirits would often dramatically react and convulse in the presence of Jesus. One demon-possessed man fell down before Him “crying with a loud voice” (Mark 1:23-26). Others convulsed and cried out “You are the Son of God!” (Matt. 8:28-29; Mark 1:23-26; Luke 8:28). The demons innately reacted in fearful dread and shaking to Jesus’ divine presence and authority.

John Fell as Though Dead Before Christ

The ascended glorified Christ appeared to John in Revelation 1 displaying blazing glory. John says, “when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). The magnified revelation of Christ’s deity caused John to immediately collapse liflessly in overwhelming awe and fear.

Clearly Scripture depicts very intense, visceral physical reactions to directly encountering the fiery holiness, glory, and power of God’s presence. What implications does this have for followers of Christ today?

Principles for Embodied Reverence Toward God

Though we walk by faith and not sight, the vivid bodily reactions to God’s presence in Scripture contain essential principles for postured reverence toward God. Our bodies should demonstrate the spiritual realities we know to be true about God’s greatness and our lowliness. Consider the following ways to manifest holy fear physically:

Tremble in Response to God’s Word and Glory

Do you shudder in awe when reading verses describing God’s fierce holiness and judgment? Do you tremble at His exceeding majesty proclaimed in worship? We should visibly react to God’s glory – whether displayed in creation, Scripture, sermon, or song – with tremors of wonder and fear befitting His supreme splendor and power.

Prostrate Yourself Before Him

Does your body hit the floor when alone with God or corporately worshipping? Kneeling posture demonstrates humility, but fully prostrating yourself exhibits utter lowliness and dependence. Lying facedown or kneeling with head to the floor confesses He is supreme as you surrender your body in reverent submission.

Lift Your Hands to Surrender and Receive

Raising open hands admits need and receives from God. But lifted hands also display surrender, acknowledging He is Lord of all. Opened palms release control as we intertwine trembling submission with expectant dependency upon Him. Combining lifted hands with prostration portrays complete bodily devotion.

Dance Vigorously Before Him

The undignified leaping and whirling of David models robust, concentrated worship of God’s supreme majesty. Like David, let your “undignified” worship challenge onlookers with radical, uninhibited abandonment before God. Enthusiastic dancing portrays the joyful fear of the Lord.

Fall Silent and Be Still

Silencing yourself demonstrates awe-filled restraint and submission before the Lord. Stillness allows reflection on His unrivaled glory. Be quiet and focus exclusively on Him.God may meet you in the silence with thundering power that leaves you shaken or gently with tender embrace. Hush and wait on Him.

Cry Out Loudly to Him

Like the exorcized demoniac, sometimes reverence expresses itself in loud, impassioned crying out to God. Unleash loud praise, repentance, supplication that genuinely reflects the swirling awe, grief, or need in your soul. Let your volume mirror the intensity of your heart’s cry as you reverberate His praise.

So demonstrating reverence physically by trembling, falling down, lifting hands, shouting, and dancing out our genuine awe and need honors God. Embracing these examples from Scripture challenges our pride and reminds us of His greatness. Now let’s explore how cultivating a lifestyle of holy trembling reorients our lives to God’s glory.

Cultivating a Lifestyle of Holy Trembling

How can bodily reverence become an integrated lifestyle orienting all of life to the glory of God? Consider the following practical ways to cultivate holy trembling:

Posture Your Body Throughout the Day

Momentarily prostrate yourself or lift surrendering hands multiple times a day during tasks and transitions. Brief physical acts of submission re-center your awareness on His presence and lordship amidst busy schedules. Posturing all day long tunes focus to Him.

Tremble as Spiritual Practice

Regularly spend time waiting in stillness focusing only on the majesty of God until you tremble in awed response. Set reminders to stop and reflect on His holiness until your body shudders. Practice sessions of adoring God through trembling.

Journal Physical Reactions

Track experiences when God’s glory or goodness elicited bodily reactions of awe or joy – tears, goosebumps, heat, trembling, prostration, dancing, etc. Journaling helps discern patterns of His presence and our responses. It reminds us to pursue encounters with Him that provoke holy physical reactions.

Include Bodies in Corporate Worship

Incorporate kneeling, lifted hands, and prostration into your church’s worship vocabulary. Modify the environment to facilitate casting yourselves down in reverence. Teach trembling before God as part of discipleship. Equip believers in using their bodies to honor God.

Let Go of Dignified Self-Control

Godly reverence often manifests through “undignified” or intense physical reactions in Scripture – shouting, groaning, running, leaping, crying out. Release worldly expectations of dignified self-control that hinder freely responding to God. Yield to His Spirit moving through you.

Parents Model Trembling for Children

Demonstrate reverent fear physically before your kids – let them witness you trembling, crying in awe, silently prostrating yourself, or loudly praising His glory. Children need to see quaking awe modeled. It teaches them who God is and how we rightly respond to Him.

Making holy trembling a lifestyle realigns all of life around awe of our wondrous God. With this vision for embodied devotion, let’s reflect on how trembling impacts intimacy with God and righteous living.

Benefits of Embodied Reverence

Why is cultivating physical trembling as a lifestyle so essential? What benefits arise from viscerally revering God through our bodies? Consider the following:

Heightened Awareness of His Presence

Posturing reverent awe heightens your perception of God’s presence. Physical stances focus attention on Him. Trembling readiness anticipates encountering Him. You become sensitized to discern His nearness.

Hearts Aligned to Receive Fresh Encounters

Embracing His transcendence prepares you for fresh spiritual encounters. The posture of holy trembling cries out “I am undone! Visit me afresh Lord!”. From prone positions, He lifts and embraces the humble. Yielded bodies make room for God to move.

Greater Intimacy with God

Something mysterious happens in intimacy with God when your body reverberates your awe-filled spirit. Holy Spirit touches spirit, but having your body also aligned amplifies communion. The more of you submitted in reverence, the more of Him you receive in intimacy.

Motivation for Holiness

Trembling physical posture reminds you of God’s consuming holiness. You then desire to mirror His purity in living. Embodied reverence invigorates urgency to repent and walk uprightly out of reverent fear. Your actions align with your trembling awe.

Strengthens Testimony to the World

Unbelievers need to witness reverence for a holy God. When you literally bow low or lift surrendered hands while worshipping in public, it testifies to God’s supreme majesty requiring such honor. Your trembling body magnifies public witness.

In summary, cultivating lifestyle trembling facilitates deeper intimacy with God and empowerment to live righteously. Physically revering God trains the body to march in step with the sobering spiritual reality of His unmatched glory.


From Moses to Isaiah to the exorcized demoniac, Scripture shows encounters with God’s fiery presence often elicited dramatic physical reactions – faces hidden in dread, knees knocking, prostration, convulsing. Bodily reverence and trembling demonstrates appropriate submission and awe toward the majestic glory and holiness of God.

As Christians, we should manifest holy fear physically through practices like prostration, lifting hands, shouting, and exuberant dancing. Embracing biblical examples of abandoned, reverent bodies challenges pride and reminds us of God’s greatness compared to our lowliness. Cultivating a lifestyle of trembling posture sensitizes us to God’s presence, facilitates divine encounters, spurs holiness, and strengthens our witness.

Though we now relate to God as adopted children through Christ, He remains wholly Other and supremely glorious. May our bodies align with this sobering spiritual reality. Let us corporately and individually learn to tremble and live out, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).

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