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Deadly Serious Holiness

Jeremiah Chapter 30, verse 21.  God is speaking:

  "His leader shall be one of his own, and his rulers shall come from his kin.  When I summon him, he shall approach me; how else should one take the deadly risk of approaching me? says the Lord."  

There is a tough lesson- almost unbelievably harsh seeming - that is taught here and there in the scripture. It involves the penalty for becoming overly familiar with and casual about the personal space of the Father. Reaching out to touch what belongs to Him, or the place where He dwells.

The penalty in nearly all the cases is death, and the sentence is usually carried out beginning immediately. Death for entering into the presence uninvited. Death for touching the dwelling place with your hands, unless you are very very dear to His heart. Nothing created is granted such Holiness, unless God specifically grants it such Holiness. Only the Sacred person of the Father, and a few things which He has Sanctified and made Holy seem to have this highest degree of Holiness, which maybe could be called "Deadly Holiness".

It is the kind of Holiness that is only approached with shoes off and head bowed, where speech is in whispers, and where shaking, fear, and the greatest possible respect and veneration are the only allowable behaviors. It is a Holiness reserved to the Father of All. 

Even Jesus, after rising and being perfected, reappeared to His apostles and allowed them to place their hands to the hole in His side and to feel and see His nail wounds.  But touching the Father....no mere man is said to have done it.  No angel is mentioned as having done it.  The Father carries about Himself a supreme and unapproachable Holiness.  Only should He call for someone to enter it may it then be entered, as when He called to Moses to approach Him.  And Jesus is His Son and sits at His right side.  He too is allowed close, as He is both of and from the Father, with the fullness of God dwelling in Him by the Father's will, and is His Son.  Which others there may be, I do not know.  Even the exact relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit is knowledge not given to lowly mankind. 

Have you read in 1 Chronicles 13 about when newly chosen King David of Israel assembled all his people to bring back the Ark of the Covenant from a town called Kiriath Jearim where it had been kept temporarily, and to take it to his capitol in Jerusalem?

David did not take the task lightly. There was a grand procession, and the Ark was placed on a newly made wagon pulled by oxen. There was praise music, and there was singing. Harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets are listed as having been in use. They were bringing the residence of Yahweh, and they treated the occasion with respect. David was always greatly in awe of God....always greatly thankful to God. David would never have intentionally disrespected God. David wished God to be brought to Jerusalem in the highest state of pomp, celebration, and honor.

Yet in the midst of the procession, when the wagon was coming to a threshing floor called the threshing floor of Kidron, the oxen stumbled on the rough road. Threshing floors were usually on hill tops or high places like that where the wind blew strongly enough to carry away the chaff that ends up mixed with the grain, so maybe the road was steep there.

When the oxen stumbled, the wagon leaned. The Ark of the Covenant began to tip.

A man walking along beside the wagon, a man named Uzzah, reached out to steady the Ark with his hand. But, when his hand touched the Ark, God struck him dead. He was struck down then and there for his transgression.

What had he done wrong? He feared for the Ark. It was tipping.

But he had touched that which is Ultimately Holy, Monumentally Holy, Immeasurably Holy. He had touched the Father's Holiness uninvited- the space which, when He so chose, held God's Holy Personage.  The reason did not matter. Uzzah's motivation did not forgive the act.  Perhaps the Father used the man to reinforce the people's understanding of His Holiness.  He had, after all, created Uzzah, and Uzzah therefore belonged to Him as all men do.  And we do not know Uzzah's fate in eternity.  We do not even know the thoughts Uzzah was having at the time he touched the ark.  Perhaps they were somehow disrespectful.  But, probably Uzzah was a well meaning man, normally a respecter of God, who unthinkingly laid a hand on God's Holiness.

(We could note that the honor of walking directly beside the ark would probably have gone to a priest of prominence, held in esteem by his peers. It would probably have been like having one of the best seats of honor at a feast.  We could also notice that his name sounds a little like USA.  That's probably incidental.  But the USA has had a tendency to try to politically rescue Israel at times, and to broker peace deals at times, and I hope that God is using us as a tool in that regard.  I hope we're not imagining in our minds that God's business is something we're entitled to casually delve in.  But Israel is our brother nation, to be highly regarded, and aided when they wish it, to be protected and treated rightly - no doubt there.  Our fear of God demands that from us, whether or not anything else does.) 

 With much of Israel present that day God struck Uzzah down dead and without warning or pause; you can just imagine the hush that fell over the people. I imagine the music suddenly dying. The mood suddenly changing. 

Kind David actually became angry. He didn't then see how he could host the Ark in the home he had built in Jerusalem for himself - which was to become known as 'the City of David'. That day, he was afraid of what God might do to him. 

Later he would realize or be reminded that the ark must be carried by Levite priests only, and properly, on the poles that were made to be slipped through the rings on it's corners.  And the ark itself is not touched unless God directs.  And there were special ways to transport it, from the beginning.  The Torah speaks specifically of how the ark should be handled and respected, and it had been done differently on this day than the way God had long ago specified.  But that day of realization came later for King David.  On this day, King David was afraid and dismayed. 

So, the procession turned aside, and the Ark was taken to the home of a man named Obed-Edom, the Gittite. The word Gittite meant people native to the Philistine city of Gath, one of the 5 principle cities of the Philistines.  But Obed-Edom (according to what I've read) was a Levite (Israelite tribe of Levi) who merely lived in the area.  He was possibly the same Obed-Edom mentioned in later Bible pages as being in charge of various things at God's holy temple, such as a temple gate. 

David would sucessfully subjugate the Philistines before his reign was over, but he was, at this early time in his reign, a person who had hid out like an outlaw among the Philistines during the reign of the previous Israelite King named Saul. Saul had hated David (in a strange off-and-on way, because of David's popularity with the people, and David's favor with God.)

So, David, shaken by what he had witnessed, had the ark placed in the home of Obed Edom the Gittite for the time being, until he could make sense of what had happened. And for three months, the Ark remained here. And 1 Chronicles 13:14 reports that "The ark of God remained in the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had."

And all of Israel went home thinking and talking about what they had seen, I imagine. And they had it freshly replanted in their minds that God is Holy! Deadly Serious Holy.

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   There is the case of King Uzziah, an otherwise pretty God-fearing king of Judah who had a 52 year long reign over Judah.  Because he was loyal towards God, his reign had many successes, and they beat back their enemies in every direction, built towers and fortifications throughout the land, and the lands around Judah began to have a fearful respect for Judah for a long way in every direction.

  But......this caused King Uzziah to become raised up in his pride, and to forget the boundaries of respect that God the Father demands for His person and for His holy institutions.  Uzziah decided to do what only priests are allowed to do.  On a certain day of his life, he decidede to just walk into the temple of Yahweh to burn incense to God.  The impulse to honor God was good, but to go into the holier parts of the temple where only priests were allowed to enter and to burn unauthorized incense to God there, where he had no business being.....well, it was not well received.  Read about it as it is told in 2 Chronicles Chapter 26:

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear[b] of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.

He went to war against the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod. He then rebuilt towns near Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabs who lived in Gur Baal and against the Meunites. The Ammonites brought tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread as far as the border of Egypt, because he had become very powerful.

Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate and at the angle of the wall, and he fortified them. 10 He also built towers in the wilderness and dug many cisterns, because he had much livestock in the foothills and in the plain. He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.

11 Uzziah had a well-trained army, ready to go out by divisions according to their numbers as mustered by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer under the direction of Hananiah, one of the royal officials. 12 The total number of family leaders over the fighting men was 2,600. 13 Under their command was an army of 307,500 men trained for war, a powerful force to support the king against his enemies. 14 Uzziah provided shields, spears, helmets, coats of armor, bows and slingstones for the entire army. 15 In Jerusalem he made devices invented for use on the towers and on the corner defenses so that soldiers could shoot arrows and hurl large stones from the walls. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.

16 But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”

19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy[c] broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him.

21 King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house[d] —leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.

  God demands respect from even those He honors most, and to adopt an attitude of presumptive familiarity, trampling on His rules, never seems to end well.  God the Holy Father simply will be honored.

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1 Samuel 6

It was by no means the first time the lesson had been given.

Maybe a half century or so earlier, before Saul became the first King of Israel, there had been a battle between Israel and the Philistines, who were their occupying masters at that time.

Israel was not pleasing God in those days. Especially not the behavior of His priests.  Eli the high priest was old and obese. His sons were disrespectful of their duties as priests, and indulged in many wrongs, even in the tabernacle area, having sex with the temple 'virgins', and being corruptible in other ways. False gods were being worshipped in the Israelite lands by some.  It was a time of growing apostasy to the true God.

So, when Israel rebelled against the Phillistines and fought them, thinking perhaps God would grant them victory, God withheld His help. Many Israelites were killed in the first days' fighting, and the Israelites had many more casualties than the Phillistines.

But the Israelites decided to bring the Holy Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield. God's power resided there, within it. They reasoned that surely God would help them fight this war that they had so far been losing.

God didn't. When the two armies next engaged, the Israelite army got clobbered, the ill behaved sons of the Israelite High Priest were both killed. And the Philistines couldn't believe it when they actually captured the Ark of the Covenant!

They knew what it was. They knew exactly what it was. Every nation anywhere around knew about the God of the Israelites. And all of the nearby nations knew what the Ark was. The mightiest known weapon on the planet.  So they packed it off and gave it a place of relative honor in the temple of their main 'god' Dagon, right across from Dagon, up on a ledge, as Dagon was.  From the Philistine point of view, they were treating the Ark of Yahweh with high honor.

They probably first began to realize that God did not consider it a great honor when they went into the temple of Dagon early the next day and found that the statue of Dagon had somehow fallen off of it's ledge and lay in front of the ark in an odd position, as if it was worshipping the ark.  But they put it back up where it belonged.

They probably began to get a better view of the situation when they went in to Dagon's temple the next day and found the statue again fallen off and seeming to worship, but now it's head and one arm were broken off.

And from right there, residing in the Ark, God began to bring a slow, terrrifying, unstoppable destruction by plague on whichever Philistine city hosted His famed Ark of the Covenant. They were, 7 months later, a shaken and horrified nation who wanted nothing so desperately as to send this Ark of the Covenant and the angry God inside of it back to the place where it came from - without further angering that God - even though they would lose face among their neighbor nations by doing so.

And so, after discussion, they placed the ark in a wagon, surrounded it with golden statues shaped like the lumps on their body from the plague destroying their nation, and like the rats that were everywhere around their cities - 5 golden statues of each.

That wagon was hitched to and pulled away by two mother oxen, their bags full of milk - two mother oxen that had never pulled a wagon before - two mother oxen that had calves in a pen which they should have been unwilling to walk away from (this, the Philistines reasoned, would prove that only the Hebrew God could be causing their problems) And the wagon had no driver. Yet when harnessed up and released to pull or not pull as they wished, those two mother oxen pulled that wagon unerringly over many miles along the roads that led back to the territory of Israel - a place unfamiliar to them.  And the Lords of the Philistines followed at a distance to see how it would end.

The oxen came to the land of Israel, to the vicinity of Beth Shemesh, to the farm of a man named Joshua, and stopped. Israelites living near there came towards the wagon, curious no doubt, but then as they got closer they saw what the wagon contained, and we can only imagine their feelings. The whole land of Israel had been in mourning for 7 months at the capture of the Holy Ark of God. Now here it was, driven back by God and God alone. No one else was worthy of bringing Him back. No one else was necessary to bring Him back. No one else would share His glory as He came back by His own sovereign power - no mere man helping. He alone was God, as He alone is God in full today. 

Though Jesus is His full Son, and as a full Son, is of the nature and substance of God like any son would be of his father, yet the Father is sovereign.  For man, Jesus is fully and completely our King, and He is as God is to us, as well.  But Jesus never left it a mystery that the Father was above Him, and greater than Him.  The rest of their relationship to each other, the Spirit, and us, will hold some degree of mystery for us humans until we die and learn more.  We are a lower creature, and things like that are higher knowledges.

When the ark returned, the men of Beth Shemesh were ecstatic. Mesengers spread the news, no doubt, but in the meantime, these men slaughtered the oxen that had brought the ark as an offering to God, and they celebrated and rejoiced at the ark's return, at the return of their God to their land.

But then .....some people lifted the lid to look inside. These were not priests. And even if they had been priests, they wouldn't have been allowed to lift the lid of the ark unless told to by God.  And God had asked no one to lay a hand on His ark in this case. So, God killed 70 of these men of Beth Shemesh.

1 Samuel 6: 19 - 21

"But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the Ark of the Covenant. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them, and the men 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?"  End Quote

Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearam, saying, "The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your place."  And this town called Kiriath Jearim is the place that David would later be bringing it from decades later, on the day that Uzzah was killed for touching it.

Deadly Holy. A Holiness which allows no unwanted trespass. A Holiness with no regard for the lives of men, who are but dust. It is something we simply don't talk about much today. In our modern world we still use the word 'holy' from time to time. But we don't have any real concept, I don't think, like they did then.

This was their God. They honored Him. They loved Him. And He cared for them. They, the Israelites, were His special people. Yet, for all that, He would end their lives in a heartbeat if they encroached upon His Holiness. In a heartbeat! His Holiness was untouchable.  And it cost you your life to forget that fact.

Exodus 19: 19 - 25

Summary: When God came down upon Mount Sinai, and was preparing to call Moses up into His presence on the mountain, He instructed Moses to put limits (a ring of boulders at the mountain's base was used) around the entire mountain. Like a 'warning fence'. And He told Moses to instruct His people that neither man nor beast was to be allowed to walk closer to the mountain than this 'warning fence', or the Lord would break out against them.

Exodus 19:21 the Lord speaking to Moses

"Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish."

Again, not even His own people were safe if they lacked the fear and respect that's appropriate for Yahweh's person. Not even His people could approach uninvited.

Aaron was the first high priest of Israel. And he was Moses's brother. But, in Leviticus 10, when two of Aaron's sons took it upon themselves to offer incense to the Lord, but not in the carefully prescribed way that God allowed, God consumed them with fire. He killed them. And it is there in Leviticus 10, that the Lord explains His view on this subject, I guess, as Moses spoke to the grieving father Aaron (Moses's older brother, whose sons had just been burnt up):  See Leviticus 10:3

Moses said to Aaron: 

"This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

"Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored." " 

So, from His own words we have it.  God WILL be honored. No matter what situation exists, no matter what people's intentions, no matter if you're part of the family of God or the people of God .....no matter what, we should remember just how holy God actually is. He has a 'Deadly Serious Holiness' around His person. Our Holy Father said it Himself, plainly and for all to hear and know: "I WILL BE HONORED."

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website