Samuel, Day 27: Misplaced Passion

1samuelRead 2 Samuel 6

There is more mixture in this chapter, meaning that David shows both good and bad characteristics in his behavior.

It was a great move of David to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. It represented the presence of God. If you remember, the ark had been stuck in a distant city for a number of years after seventy Israelites were killed after they looked inside of it. But David wanted God’s presence near him and he knew it would be a unifier of the northern and southern kingdoms. That’s the good news.

This is how the ark should have been carried.

This is how the ark should have been carried.

But David failed to remember that God instructed his people to only transport the ark on poles, not a cart. The ark was to never be touched. When the ox stumbled, Uzzah reached out to catch the ark, and bam…God struck him dead. Perrez-Uzzah means the outburst against Uzzah.

Uzzah meant well, but good intentions aren’t all that God is looking for. He’s looking for people that understand and respect his holiness. You were not supposed to touch the ark for any reason. It was like touching God…most disrespectful.

There is always such a tension between God’s holiness and our compassion for people. Our natural reaction is to be mad at God for taking a life. In fact, the text said that David was mad at God. Most of us can relate to that. When we can’t understand God we immediately blame him.

I wonder if anyone was mad at Uzzah for touching the ark, or mad at David for allowing the people to use a cart. He should have known better. Do you see what I mean? Why are we quick to defend people over God? Why aren’t we more jealous for the holiness of God?

This experience shows us the righteous wrath of God. It shows us the way things would always be if it wasn’t for Jesus. God’s holiness can’t allow unrighteousness in its presence. That’s why God sent Jesus. Jesus came to absorb God’s wrath…to take the penalty for sin on our behalf. You see, it’s impossible for God to alter his holiness, but he did provide a way to protect us from the wrath that comes from his holiness. Aren’t you glad for that?

Because of Uzzah’s death, the Israelites parked the ark outside of town in fear of what might happen. But, after three months, David finally decided to finish what he started by bringing the ark to Jerusalem.

When David entered the town, he was worshipping God in a wild david-dancing-before-the-lord-e1436808466749-450x450dance, much to his wife’s disdain.

I can’t tell from the text who was at fault between David and his wife. The traditional teaching is that David was in the right. He was worshipping God and his wife was more concerned with him showing some flesh than worshipping God. The implication was that God cursed Michal for her attitude and that’s why she couldn’t have any children.

If this is true, the lesson is that we should worship with reckless abandon and not let others intimidate us.

But I have to wonder if David couldn’t have been more discreet and more honoring of his wife. There had to have been a way to passionately worship without attracting so much attention to himself. In verse 22 he showed no humility but only contempt for his wife. It’s no wonder she bore no more children. The rift between the two of them kept them apart.

Personally, I think David used his passion for God as an excuse for disrespecting his wife. I’ve seen this in the church many times through the years. This is another example of how David was a mixture of love for both God and himself.

In both situations with the ark, David’s love for God should not have been an excuse for his behavior. I hope you’ll reflect on your own life. I trust you love God. But could it be that you sometimes use your spirituality to excuse your behavior?

Prayer: Father, it’s humbling to see a spiritual man like David take missteps. It’s humbling because it tells me I can do the same. Please show me the ways I might use my love for you as an excuse for misbehavior. Purify my thinking so I might honor you in all that I think, do, and say. Amen.

Samuel, Day 15: It’s About God’s Holiness

1samuelDAY FIFTEEN

Read 1 Samuel 13 – 14:23

It’s important to read this entire section in one sitting to appreciate what is happening and see the mind of God.

First, the context. Saul is the new king with one victory under his belt. He decides to send much of his army home but keeps 3000. It doesn’t say why. Overconfidence? Maybe.

Jonathan takes out a Philistine outpost and that gets their attention. They rally with the full force of their army staring down at them. The Israelites freak out. All but 600 of them go running for the hills. Some hide. Some flee the country. Some join the Philistines.

The tradition was to offer a sacrifice before battle to ask for God’s favor in battle. Samuel said he’d be there to offer the sacrifice but he didn’t show. So Saul got desperate and offered it himself. Bad decision.

Just then Samuel shows up and is shocked to see what Saul has done. He tells him that he and his son Jonathan and his sons sons would have held the kingdom for years. But this one act of disobedience proved that he wasn’t worthy of being king.

It’s About God’s Holiness

Harsh? Here’s the deal: when God appears to be harsh in the Bible, it almost always has to do with his holiness. There is no compromise with God’s holiness. To us, mere mortals, it does seem harsh, like an over-reactive temper tantrum on God’s part. But that’s only because we don’t understand that God is not like us. He is pure in every way. We need to respect that.

God established an elaborate system for worship, involving priests and sacrifices showing that you don’t just come tripping into the presence of God. But that’s what Saul did. He felt like he could break all the rules of worship because he was going to lose his battle. He put his concerns ahead of God’s.

There are few lessons in the Bible more important than this. I think this might be THE problem at the heart of the church: not appreciating the holiness of God. It takes us off track and out of God’s will every time.

After reading what Saul did, you’d assume that the army would have been crushed as punishment for Saul’s behavior. But God used Jonathan’s solo mission as a springboard to reveal his glory. It’s like God was showing Saul that he should have trusted him more. If God could route the entire army through Jonathan and his armor bearer, how easy would it have been to route them with Saul and 600 men?

The point here is that we often compromise our faith and morality because we think we “have to.” We see no other option. We have to help God out. But with God, obedience to him is the only option. And when you honor him, he will honor you.

Prayer: Father, help me to get this one thing right. Help me to understand your holiness and honor it through my obedience. Holy Spirit please challenge my justifications and poor excuses for why disobedience is the right path. God, you are worthy of my obedience. Help me to trust that you will show up on my behalf if I have the courage to trust you today. Amen.

Wrestling with the Holiness of God: Day Ten

arkcart

The Philistines return the Ark

Congrats on finishing the second week of our walk through the books of 1 & 2 Samuel. I’ve gotten good feedback from people. I hope you will stick with it. Use the weekend to get caught up! – Remy

Day Ten: Read 1 Samuel 6.

It had been seven months (a number of completion in the Bible) that the Philistines had the Ark of the Covenant after capturing it in battle with the Israelites. But it had become a curse to them. The Philistines sent the Ark around to all five of their cities in a version of “Hot Potato” (You take it, no YOU take it…). They were finally done with it. Bad idea. It was time to send it back to Israel.

But how should they do it? They don’t want to make any more mistakes and incur even MORE wrath from the Israeli god. The Philistines asked their priests and diviners what to do. They didn’t know either, but they told the rulers to return the ark with five golden rats and five golden tumors to appease this god.

These gifts give us a clue to how they were being afflicted. Scholars tell us that the people had a bad case of hemorrhoids and the rats were carrying a disease throughout the country.

Return from Exile

A key verse in this chapter compares the situation to when God poured out plagues on Egypt in order to force Pharaoh to let his people go:

Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?

So, the Philistines sent the Ark back to Israel on a cart with the gifts. It was a joyous scene that quickly turned sour:

But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them. And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” 1 Samuel 6:19,20*

God is Holy

I preached on this text in the Spring of this year when I spoke on “Restoring the Awe.” These kinds of events often throw us for a loop. We have a certain notion of who God is and who he should be. But what we often fail to include in our concept of God is that he is holy. He dwells in unapproachable light. His holiness is the reason Jesus needed to die for us, to make us acceptable in his sight. It’s only because of Jesus that we can enter his presence.

The Israelites forgot this. They got curious and looked in the ark. You can’t treat holy items in an unholy way. And then when people died because of it, they gave up on God. They didn’t want anything to do with a wrathful god. So they took the Ark to a distant city and left it there for twenty years! But it wasn’t God’s fault that he was holy. It was the people’s fault for not respecting his holiness.

What about you? Do you understand and appreciate God’s holiness? Are you careful to honor God in how you live your life? Or does a story like this offend you and push you away from him? This issue of God’s holiness is something that every believer has to come to grips with.

A story like this tells me that God is very different from us…and that’s a good thing. That’s who I WANT God to be. I don’t want him to be like me. In Isaiah God tells us:

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

Prayer: Father, help me to not fear your holiness but may it cause me to cling to Jesus that much more, knowing that it’s in Christ that I’m acceptable in your sight. Thank you for making an impossible situation (a relationship with you) possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Help me to grow in my understanding of your holiness and how I might increasingly set myself apart for you. Amen.

* Note that the text doesn’t say that God sent these people to hell. They were his people. He loved them. But they mistreated his holiness and God used them as an example to all the people that he was not like other gods. He was holy and should be treated as holy.

Restoring the Awe- Part 4, by F. Remy Diederich

Dirty Little Secrets

In this message, Remy tackles one of the biggest question people have about the Bible: Why does God kill so many people? Doesn’t this discredit and even invalidate the Bible? Or is there something God is trying to tell us through these deaths? Listen in on this challenging message. Read the message here, along with the study notes.

Check out this episode!

Restoring The Awe- Part Three, F. Remy Diederich

Take Off Your Sandals

“To fully appreciate God’s love, we have to first appreciate his holiness.” When God revealed his holiness to Moses, he didn’t use just words. Tune into part three of this series to find out what God did and the impact it had on Moses. Read the text of the message here, with study questions.

Check out this episode!