Monday, April 8, 2019

God's Holiness and Justice

Among those who approach Me I will show Myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored” (Leviticus 10:3b).

God moved into the tabernacle after it had been set up by Moses and Aaron in the wilderness (Exodus 40). God lit the fire on the altar in front of the tabernacle as a sign of His presence and of His holiness. The judgments rendered on the altar were God’s judgments, and so the fire was His fire (Leviticus 9:24).

God consecrated Nadab and Abihu as priests to assist their father Aaron, but at the time God lit the fire on His hearth-altar, these two young men brought “strange fire” before Him. We don’t know for certain what this meant, but we do know that “fire came out from the presence of LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:2). Aaron was very upset, and Moses had to remind him that God had said that He would show Himself holy among those who approached Him. Those set aside to be priests had to be especially careful because God’s holiness is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Another Bible story that shows the frightening holiness of God is found in 2 Samuel 6, the story of Uzzah the Kohathite. The ark, which was God’s earthly throne that sat in the throne room of the tabernacle, was being transported to Jerusalem in a great celebration. It was put on an oxcart. The Kohathite priests walked alongside the cart, watching over it. As the procession moved along one of the oxen stumbled and the cart began to teeter. It looked as if the Ark of God might slide off into the mud and be desecrated. Instinctively, Uzzah stretched forth his hand to steady the ark.

As soon as Uzzah touched the holy ark, God struck him dead. As a Kohathite priest, Uzzah was to be especially aware of the holiness of God. One of the rules that had been drilled into him was this: Never, ever, touch the throne of God. God had said, “If you touch it, you die” (Numbers 4:15).

What was Uzzah’s sin? He assumed that his hands were less polluted than the ground and that it would be better for his hands to touch the Ark than for the ground to touch it. But nothing in the Bible indicates that the earth is defiled. It was the defiled hand of a man that God did not want touching His throne.

As Protestants, we celebrate the “priesthood of all believers.” Does today’s lesson give you a sober view of what it means to be a priest? How have you been as a priest, as one who lives in the sphere of God’s awesome holiness and who lives in terms of it all the time?