My Humiliation in the Courtroom

We were touring the historic Fairfield County Courthouse, circa 1822.  A circuit riding justice, the honorable Judge Goude, was presiding.  As the clerk of court prepared our homeschool group for the judge’s arrival, she explained some of the protocol of the court.  Whether she wasn’t thorough that day, or I wasn’t paying attention, I’m not sure.    

One thing I am sure of though is that what happened next was one of the most publicly humiliating experiences of my life.

We rose to our feet as the judge, arrayed in his imposing black robes, entered the courtroom to the clerk’s announcement, “All rise for the honorable Judge Goude.”  The judge’s tortoise shell glasses and red, white, and blue striped bow tie softened the austerity of his appearance, and a kind smile creased his face as he surveyed the group of students in front of him.  

“Please be seated,” he invited us.  After some preliminary remarks about the historicity of his courtroom, he asked the group if they had any questions.  

Sensing that the children were still in awe of this intimidating man, I decided to lead out with a question of my own.  I raised my hand, and after a nod of acknowledgement from the judge, began my question. Before three words had exited my mouth, the judge’s stern and overly loud voice cut off the flow of my words.

 “Please stand when you are addressing the bench,” he said with a scowl, arms crossed in disapproval.

Embarrassment flooded over me as the harshness of his correction seared a path across my burning face.  Being corrected in public is painful.  Being corrected in public in front of a group of parents and students one is leading is ten times more painful.

I rose to my feet on shaking legs and stammered out both my apology and my question.  As his answer swirled around me, the only thing that computed was its conclusion, because it signaled that I was free to sink trembling back into my seat in mortification.

I was reminded of the protocol of honor recently when I heard a man refer to God as “the man upstairs.”  Others have shared with me a perception of God as “an old man in a rocking chair smiling benevolently down from heaven on his children.”

Isaiah, in chapter 6 of the book that bears his name, came face to face with God in all his glory and had much the same reaction as I did in Judge Goude’s courtroom that day.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple.  Seraphim were standing above him . . . and one called to the other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.’”

“Woe is me” Isaiah said,” for I am ruined . . .!”

In a vision, Isaiah saw God.  

Isaiah did not run up to God, high five him, and ask him how his day was going.  Instead, Isaiah feared for his life.

Isaiah was also immediately convicted of his sin.  

“I am a man of unclean lips” he blurted out, “and I live among a people of unclean lips. . . (I am ruined) because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.”

Isaiah knew that his sinfulness disqualified him to stand in God’s presence, and he was mortally terrified.

But God made a way for Isaiah, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs.  He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed and your sin is atoned for.’”

With his sinfulness purged by the fire of confession and God’s cleansing, Isaiah was free to accept God’s call.  

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Who should I send?  Who will go for Us?’

“I said, ‘Here I am.  Send me.’”

After my debacle in Judge Goude’s courtroom, no one dared pose a question until the judge made this statement, “I singled out Mrs. Hatcher in order to make a point. This courtroom is a serious and powerful place.  I am a serious and powerful man. At my word, men are imprisoned or men are set free. You must always approach someone in my position with honor and respect, never casually or carelessly. As long as you respect those in authority over you, I will never see you in my courtroom or in any other courtroom unless you are here on a field trip.”

The questions and answers flew freely after that, and what had begun as a mortifying experience turned out to be one of my favorite field trips that year.

The connection between Judge Goude’s courtroom and the throne room of Heaven is clear. The throne room of Heaven is a serious place, and God is a powerful God.  At his word, men are eternally condemned or eternally set free. We must always approach him with honor and respect, never casually and carelessly. Like Isaiah, if we confess our sins and allow God to cleanse us, (1 John 1:9), then we can answer his call into service in the same way Isaiah answered.

“Here I am.  Send me.”

Do you need to come to God in humility and respect? Is there a sin or a rebellious attitude that you need to confess to him today?  God’s word promises that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Will you join me today in bowing our hearts before the great and mighty God of the universe in order that he might cleanse us and use us in his service? 
May God richly bless you as you seek to honor him.

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  1. Anonymous11:38 PM

    Yes! I will join you in bowing my heart before the Great and Mighty God of Creation in order that He might cleanse me and use me in His service!!

  2. What a great analogy, Lori. I would have been humiliated too. But God, in His grace, leans back down and comforts us--just like the judge did.

    Blessings to you,