15. Don’t Mess with God

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 15. Don’t Mess with God

1 Sam 5:1,2  After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon.

Face the ‘Bad News’: As much as I would like to move on to deal with expectations we may have as Christians – expectations of blessings – while we remain in the Old Testament we must accept the lessons that come through there, and if we think them negative, that is because we have never perhaps considered the seriousness of the ‘bad news’ of the Bible, that sinners should not mess with God but put their lives right with Him – and we’re all sinners. Having done some fairly in-depth studies in the Old Testament, my conclusion why it is there is twofold: 1. To reveal the glory and greatness of God. 2. To reveal the folly and sinfulness of mankind and the need we have of salvation.

Two Modern Failures: I would add that I find two faults that often appear in modern Christianity. First, that ‘Sin’ has gone out of fashion and so it is only dealt with in a legalistic condemnatory sort of way, so we fail to see the depth of the problem of sin, both before we come to Christ and, indeed as something to be rejected as a spoiler of the Christian life. Second, because of that, we so often fail to see the wonder of the Christian life and experience, failing to appreciate and apprehend the full wonder of what Jesus has done for us and the wonder of life in the Spirit that he has opened up for us.

The Backdrop: So here, back still in the Old Testament, there are lessons to be faced, very real lessons that impact on modern day living as much now as then. We come to a time when the period of the judges is almost over. Eli the priest is coming to the end of his time, Samuel has just been called by God and Israel are at war with the Philistines – and the Philistines have just won a battle over Israel. This had already happened once (1 Sam 4:1,2) and so the people of Israel rashly decided their failure was because God was not with them (that part was true), and so they would take the ark of the covenant with them into battle the next time (4:3,4) – but that was superstitious folly. So the Lord allowed them to be defeated and the ark taken. Now I think He allowed that, not so much as to lose the ark but to show Israel that they couldn’t use Him as a talisman or good luck charm. However He would also use this incident to teach the Philistines some things about Him.

Two sets of Wrong Expectations: Now on to expectations. First Israel: they expected that if they took the ark with them it would force God to turn up for them. Wrong! Repentance would do that, but they weren’t ready to do that yet. Second the Philistines: they expected the ark to be just another representative of just another ‘god’ who they half believed in, gods who they sought to appease because it is sometimes a hard world and you need every bit of help you can get, and if this works, so be it. That is what is behind so much idolatry (worshipping idols representing ‘gods’), not any real relationship with a deity. All such ‘gods’ were of course, mere figments of superstitious, fearful, human imagination. Isn’t that how some people still treat God today – some superstitious entity to be appeased or placated in an endeavour to get help to handle this fallen world?

Philistines under Pressure: The story of what follow is worth a reading, if for no other reason than to get a laugh, but the better reason is to see the sovereignty and power of God Almighty, the Creator God of all things. Let’s summarise what happened:

  • The Philistines put the ark next to the idol of Dagon their god. After all, the god of Israel is just another god, isn’t he?
  • Next morning Dagon is found flat on his face (5:3) and when they replace him, next morning, he’s flat on his face again but now headless and with no hands (5:4)
  • Then the people of Ashdod, where the ark was, all start suffering from bad tumours or maybe boils and so send the ark to another group (5:6-8)
  • The same thing is repeated in Gath (5:9) and then Ekron where it got worse and people started dying (5:9-12)
  • To cut a long story short the ark was returned to Israel (6:1-12)

God IS Lord! What we have here is an example of how God looked after His own image. We need to learn a lesson: God does not need defending. When He is rejected by a people or nation, that nation starts falling apart. We might say it is the way He has designed us and so, when people start living contrary to that design, it all starts going wrong, but as much as that is true, it is more than that: He lifts off His hands of protection and even invites the enemy to have free reign until people come to their senses (and that may take a long time).

Our Testimony: However, all the while He will have His representatives, His people, there as a testimony, there as a witness for Him and He longs to bless us in the midst of the rebellious nations of the West, so that we will stand out as demonstrations of His love, His power and His revelation. That is what we can expect in the midst of this fallen world and being part of nations that have largely rejected Him. He will deal with these nations, but in the meanwhile He wants you and me to be His representatives as the body of Christ, revealing Him to whoever’s hearts are beginning to soften and turn and look for answers to the mess. At the moment, these nations, just like the Philistines, think they can play with God – largely reject Him but maybe play lip service to Him, allow Him to be mention as big state occasions and so on, but not be Lord.

Failing Society: That is their folly and the fruit of that is being seen in the breakdown of society in so many ways, with unrighteousness being seen again and again at the very top levels. Some of us tolerate this as the best of two evils, but we are called to stand out and reject ANY injustice, any unrighteous tweets, words, dealings or whatever, by whatever party. If we fail to do that, we align ourselves with unrighteousness and that will probably be seen in other ways as well – family unfaithfulness, break-up of marriages, rebellious out-of-control children, financial difficulties, chaos and confusion in general.

Stand Up, Stand Out! If we will not stand out as a holy, righteous, just, loving, caring and serving people, we align ourselves with the people of Israel in Samuel’s day, thinking we can get away with it because ‘we are the people of God’ and our expectations are false for, as the apostle Peter said, it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God,” (1 Pet 4:17). When God comes to do a clear-up job, He starts with His own people and then moves on to the world. That’s what we see in the first part of 1 Samuel, and we should heed the lessons.  In a day when we rightly emphasise the grace and goodness of God, we should also remember that we cannot use that to excuse our infidelities. May we hear it today.

8. Righteousness by Faith

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 8.  Righteousness comes by faith

Heb 11:5,6   By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The sense of guilt (and even shame) is so often seen in human beings that we might almost think it is a natural characteristic of being human, this sense of not quite having made it, of getting something wrong. Of course we try to cover it up and steel our conscience against such things but on occasions of rare honesty most people will confess to having a sense of guilt about something. But there is something about this sense and it is that we human beings have this awareness of right and wrong. Of course we have been through a period in history where some have said everything is relative and therefore there are no fixed rights and wrongs – well, at least people say that until they have been wronged by another and then it is different!

The Bible uses this word ‘righteousness’ and perhaps the most simple definition of it could be ‘the state of being right in God’s eyes’. We would all like to think that we are all right in God’s eyes, because, after all, God is loving and so turns a blind eye to our imperfections doesn’t He? But no, actually He doesn’t. So much human behaviour, and indeed religious behaviour, is given over to trying to be ‘good people’ If not good in God’s eyes (because atheists struggle to pretend He’s not there) then at least good in our own eyes and the eyes of those around us. We do like to put on masks to cover up the real person who is there.

It is clear when you read through this hall of faith in Hebrews 11 that the writer is working chronologically through the key Old Testament figures and so it is not surprising that he next mentions Noah, but what is surprising it that he mentions him in  the context of righteousness. If we know our Old Testament we perhaps might not expect that to get mentioned until Abraham but, no, Noah is spoken about in the context of both faith and of righteousness.

For those who try to pretend the account of the flood is fictional this passage comes as a wake-up call to its reality. The Son of God spoke of him as an historical figure (Mt 24:37,38) as did the apostle Peter (1 Pet 3:20). In fact Peter in his second letter referred to Noah as a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet 2:5) Interesting!

Explaining Noah’s faith, the writer speaks of his actions in terms he expressed earlier in the chapter, “when warned about things not yet seen.” Faith, he said earlier, “is being … certain of what we do not see.” The Lord told Noah to get ready to cope with a coming flood by building a large Ark.  The flood was a future event: it had not yet happened and so when Noah responded and “built an ark to save his family,” he was responding to God’s word and that was faith.

Now Noah’s faith was not something in isolation, it was something he did in the face of the godless and unbelieving world around him. Building the Ark may well have taken a couple of years and so even if Noah hadn’t actually challenged his neighbours outright, his activity building the Ark would have brought comment and questions, but ultimately no one said, “Can I come along please?” Simply he and his family responded. In that “he condemned the world.”  Belief in God was possible for all people but only Noah believed and responded to God.

Perhaps we need to see the realities of the state of the world as laid out in Genesis 6: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Gen 6:9) Before he did anything in respect of the Ark he was seen to be a righteous and blameless man, and in that he stood out, for look at the description of the rest of the world that follows: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.”  (Gen 6:11-13)

Now I am not going to get into whether the Flood was worldwide or local, the main point is all about that state of the earth and why God was acting against it – and how Noah stood out. He was already, please note, a man of faith in that he, like Enoch who we have already considered, “walked with God”. But now the writer to the Hebrews emphasises his faith by the way he responded to God’s call to build an ark and thus stood out from the rest of the world. I like how the Message version puts it: His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world.” The Living version is also good: “Noah’s belief in God was in direct contrast to the sin and disbelief of the rest of the world.”

But as we noted at the beginning, his act of faith was also equated with righteousness and he became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”  He was seen as being right in God’s eyes for his act of faith, being obedient to God’s leading. An heir is an inheritor. Yes, that is going to become clear in the case of Abraham later on, but it is almost as if Noah is the forerunner to ‘justification by faith’, that is seen in Abraham. In other words, although it had not yet been declared or made clear yet, that was what he was experiencing by his act of faith. Faith is thus always equated with righteousness.

It was Habakkuk who declared, “the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab 2:4) A righteous person – one living in the light of God and being accredited as righteous by God – will be a person of faith.  We will see this in various New Testament verses – Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11,  Eph 2:8,  Heb 10:38.

Christians are first of all believers, but life flows in them as they respond to belief and that is faith. Faith is belief in action. Noah exemplified it by his belief in God which led him to ‘walk with God’ which led him to ‘hear’ God and then hearing he responded to God (building the Ark) and thus revealed both righteousness and faith to the rest of the world who were condemned by their absence of either thing. Don’t be just a believer.

47. Through the Water

Meditations in 1 Peter : 47: Through the Water

1 Pet 3:20-21 God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.

Baptism, I have observed over the years, is often a contentious thing in parts of the church. Some want to sprinkle as a symbolic gesture, others use deeper water. Some sprinkle children as a symbol; others wait until the adult is a believer. Peter says some interesting things about it.

He starts by referring to Noah as we have seen in the previous meditation. Note in passing, for the doubters among us, that in the apostle Peter’s eyes, Noah is an historical figure and the Flood a real event in history. Some of us are not so sure, but Peter is. In this he was following in the steps of his master. Jesus said, Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Lk 17:26,27) Clearly the all-knowing Son of God is referring to an historical event.

When John the Baptist baptised people in the Jordan he said, “I baptize you with water for repentance,” (Mt 3:11) indicating that baptism was a form of cleansing from the sin from which they turned away. The apostle Paul spoke of us “having been buried with him in baptism,” (Col 2:12 – also Rom 6:4) indicating the baptism is a picture of us dying to our old life and being buried, and then raised to new life.

Peter now comes with a bigger picture, an all-embracing picture. He refers to Noah building the ark, many dying in the flood with only Noah and his family being saved. Thus, he says, “this water symbolises baptism.” i.e. the Flood waters destroyed the world but the ark saved the faithful. The water symbolises the judgment of God which we all face but (implied) the ark symbolises Jesus who saves us from the judgment.

But then he says something that seems even more contentious:this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also.” Baptism, he says, saves us. How can that be? Didn’t the apostle Paul teach that salvation comes by faith alone? Yes certainly, but perhaps Peter has the ongoing work of salvation in his mind. Remember the illustration that we have used more than once in these meditations – saved from the sinking ship, saved as we go across the sea and saved once we land. We have been saved and we are being saved. It is also an ongoing thing – our living out our lives ‘in Christ’ until the day when we are called home and we die on this earth and go to heaven, our eternal destination. So why do I suggest that Peter is speaking of our salvation in an ongoing sense? Well, see what follows.

not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. The point of this picture – being saved through the Flood – is that it is not about cleansing or washing away dirt, but it about how we can now feel about ourselves and God. It is in fact about us being saved from our sins (being washed clean) and from the judgment of God, and it is all because we have an ark – Jesus, who died to save us from that judgment, as we have seen already a number of times in these meditations. Baptism is thus to be an outward act (and there aren’t many of them) that we do that contribute to our salvation, the onward walk with God.

How does it contribute to our salvation? It does it by being a continual reminder to us that we came to a crisis point in our life when we surrendered to God and jumped ship, from the ship of destruction, and are now being carried in Christ to our eternal destination. Christ is God’s provision for us and as we look back we are reminded that there was a time when we changed from a sinking ship to a saving lifeboat and it was all his work. All we had to do was jump into his provision and that was enough. Jesus, the ark, had done everything possible to be done and he qualifies as our ark, our means of salvation, our ongoing salvation.

We are what we are because we are being carried to shore by him and thus our conscience can be clear before God. No longer am I under fear of judgment. Now I am being carried to my eternal destiny by God’s provision, God’s ark, His own Son, Jesus Christ. My being baptized was a visual affirmation of all of this and it is something that I can look back on and know is a real expression of what has happened. It confirms and affirms my salvation and it strengthens my faith and reassures my conscience. There is nothing more I can do except let him take me through the choppy waters of the life in this world until we eventually reach the destination he has in store for me. Hallelujah!

13. To Solomon (2)

“God turned up” Meditations: 13 :  To Solomon (2)

1 Kings 8:10,11 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple

After lots of reading the Bible I conclude that I, probably along with most of us, have a terrible habit of skimming over amazing truths without taking in the wonder of them. Probably this is very true of the way we read about Jesus in the Gospels. This must have been THE most amazing period in human history, as God in human form expressed His love and transformed thousands of lives, on a daily basis!  Indeed every Christmas we read the nativity story in which angels turn up a number of times. The nativity story is full of the miraculous and we almost take it for granted.

So here we are following Solomon’s life and we come to the point where he had just finished building the Temple in Jerusalem. The priests have just brought in the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, to the innermost place, they leave that place and suddenly from nowhere a cloud fills the temple, a cloud that is so incredibly bright no one can do anything in the Temple. God has turned up!

Now of course Israel knew about the glory of the Lord from their history. It first turned up when they were in the desert on their way from Egypt to Sinai: While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.” (Ex 16:10) Then it appeared on Sinai itself: “When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai…. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” (Ex 24:15-17). Later, when they had constructed and erected the Tabernacle, when it was finished, we read the following: “Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Ex 40:33-35)

The same thing had happened at the completion of the Tabernacle as happened now in the Temple. It was as if God was setting His mark of approval on the completed building by indicating His presence in it. How easy it is to read but how difficult to comprehend! Suddenly there is this tangible (almost) phenomenon, a cloud within which is this almost scary brightness with no apparent origin. It is the glory that accompanies God’s presence.  Did Solomon wonder if it was going to happen, thinking back to the completion of the Tabernacle? He might have done but there was no way of making God turn up. He’s already had one major example of God turning up in the dream we considered previously, promising him wisdom. But then the wisdom had come with incredible results. Surely that was God turning up, giving him this ability to ‘know how’! Perhaps without him realising it, God had been there the whole time, but now there is this visible sign that He’s there.

I’ve lived through the Charismatic movement in the latter part of the twentieth century and the Toronto blessing at the end of it. I have been in a room when angel lights seemed to flicker around the ceiling for no explicable reason. I have known the Lord ‘turn up’ to convict me on occasions, and to fill me at other times. I have heard Him as He has turned up to speak to me and through me in ways that are sometimes scary.

There is one thing about these happenings when God turns up, that validates them. You could not make Him come and you could not explain His coming. He just comes and makes His presence or His word known – and it is amazing and wonderful, and when He does you just know you are out of your depth. This is not man-made or man-inspired; this is the sovereign Lord of the universe making Himself known to His people. He doesn’t do it because we have earned it or deserved it. He does it because He chooses to do it for His own purposes, and when He does, we bow our hearts before Him in worship for we see He IS the Lord.

I often think that this is where the crusading atheists of the day are on a losing wicket. They come up with all their wild ideas trying to justify their position and trying to put believers down, but they just don’t realise that we have encountered the living God, we’ve had a life changing experience which is ratified and confirmed a hundred times over as the days go by. God IS and He comes to people and makes His presence known. Yes, there are very human experiences that sometimes seem to be similar experiences but they are normally abnormal people, people with strange mental states or imposed psychological states, but the atheist cannot understand that for the vast majority of us, our experience of God is in the mundane ordinariness of life when He just turns up and makes Himself known: God in the ordinary making it extraordinary.

In Solomon’s case, they haven’t got around to doing the religious bit of dedicating the Temple; they had only just finished building it and have been bringing in the ark – then God arrives! After that they do the religious dedication bit, but God hasn’t come because they are doing the religious stuff. He comes because they have been obedient and He obviously wants to give His approval to that. Hallelujah!

Walk of Joy

WALKING WITH GOD. No.24

2 Sam 6:14,15 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

Now you may be surprised when you see today’s verse because it seems such a close follow on to yesterday’s meditation – and it is! Because it is such a close follow on, it has special significance. Yesterday we saw David’s walk of carelessness as he walked alongside the cart carrying the ark of God, while singing his heart out, accompanied by all the musicians. Today’s walk is in fact a dance, a very different sort of walk. So what has changed? Well we hinted at it briefly yesterday.

The walk of carelessness ended in a death. That upset David and he left the ark at a nearby home and disbanded the party and went home. There the ark remained for three months and we read, “The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.” (v.11) This was not the sign of an angry God. This was the sign of a God who desires to bless those who will respond well to Him. As David thought about this, and no doubt sought counsel of others, he realized that it should have been the Levites who should have carried the ark, lifting it up and reverencing this box that so often signaled the presence of God. He also realized that there was a whole sacrificial system that had been provided by God for Israel whereby they could do something that indicated their state before God, whether it was penitence as they came and confessed their sins, or simply reverent love as they came to fellowship with God. Yes, the sacrificial system allowed them to express what they felt to God in a prescribed manner. Doing it in that manner was an indication of their obedient, submissive hearts.

Thus David began to realize that he could actually take the ark to Jerusalem without being struck down. So they had the Levites carry the ark and others offer sacrifices along the way. More than that, David put off his kingly robes and put on the garments of a priest, a linen ephod, a light shirt, as a sign of his humility. This was no great king bringing in the ark; this was a humble worshipper. As the procession got under way and the music played, David caught a sense of the rightness of what they were now doing, and of the approval of the Lord, and he was filled with joy so that he danced with all his might as an expression of that joy.

Do you see what has happened? The walk of carelessness leading to death has been transformed into a walk of joy-filled obedience. Now in Acts 5 we find Peter referring to, “the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (v.32). We also find Paul teaching, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (3 Cor 3:17 ). The simple lesson? It is that when we are obedient to what God has said, God blesses us with His presence, the presence of His Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit expresses himself there is freedom and joy. As Paul taught the church at Rome, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.(Rom 14:16 ). What is the kingdom of God ? It is the reign of God in us as we are obedient to Him and as we are that, it brings righteousness and peace and joy from the Holy Spirit.

But we commented above on the special significance of this verse that follows so closely on the ones we considered yesterday. Yesterday it was failure and fear. Now it is obedience and optimism. What does this say to us? Among other things it should remind us that God is forgiving and seeks to redeem. God did not hold David’s previous failure against Him. Our previous failures do not exclude God from our lives. Jesus died for those failures so that we might confess and be forgiven and reconciled to God. Yes, David did blow it with disastrous consequences the first time round, but that has not stopped him coming in the right manner to God and finding a tremendous joy in obedience and in the realization that he was still accepted by God. That is why this ‘walk’ of joy is so significant; it is all about redemption and reconciliation. Rejoice in it and experience it yourself after a previous failure.

Walk of Carelessness

WALKING WITH GOD. No.23

2 Sam 6:7 The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

There are some passages of Scripture that make you gulp, and this is one of them, especially when you consider how we sometimes think about our ‘worship services’ today. We need to get the full picture of what was happening here to appreciate this. The ark of God was a box covered in gold which had resided in the innermost part of the tabernacle. Originally it had housed the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s rod that had budded. It was in the innermost place where the presence of God was said to reside and God’s glory hovered above it. It thus came to be associated with the presence of God. In the time of Eli and Samuel it had been taken foolishly by the Israelites into battle, almost as a good luck charm, and had been captured by the Philistines. There followed a time of misfortune for whichever Philistines looked after it until it was eventually sent back to Israel. Thus the Lord conveyed a sense that it was holy and not to be messed about with. In the wilderness wanderings it had only been allowed to be carried by the Levites. When it had been brought back from the Philistines it was put in the Tabernacle which had been set up at Shiloh and there it remained until the time of King David who had made Jerusalem the capital city of Israel.

Thus we come to chapter 6 of 2 Samuel when David decides to take the ark to Jerusalem. They put it on a new cart pulled by two oxen and with a large fighting force and a big band, they set off for Jerusalem with great celebrations. In fact we read, “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.(v.5). This was one serious celebration! The only trouble was the Lord spoilt it!   At one point in the journey to Jerusalem, the oxen stumbled and the ark looked like it would slide off the cart. To stop this happening one of the attendants, Uzzah, reached out to push it back on. Instantly he was struck dead. Suddenly the celebrations stopped.

David’s initial reaction was one of anger. Why should the Lord do this? They were, after all, celebrating with all their might and he had had a good heart in his intention to bring the ark to Jerusalem, so why has God gone this? But as he thought about it his anger gave way to fear, as he began to realize that he was dealing with a holy God. This had in fact been a walk of carelessness. Later, as he thought about it, he realised that God had said the ark should only be carried by Levites, and he hadn’t bothered with that. The ark should have been given reverence but he hadn’t done that. He had in fact, been careless about how he dealt with things pertaining to the Lord, and that left him in fear. How could he ever bring the ark to Jerusalem?

The ark had been left at the nearby home of one of the Israelites and God blessed that household. When David realised that the ark brought blessing he realised that God would in fact bless him if he handled it right. Thus we find that when David tried again to bring it to Jerusalem, he had it carried as it should have been and as they carried it, they sacrificed offerings to the Lord all along the way. In this way they showed their reverence for the Lord and in this way they came safely to Jerusalem.

Now the question must arise, how do we do things pertaining to the Lord? How do we come together, how do we pray, how do we worship? Because God is described in the New Testament by Jesus as our Father, and even daddy, we sometimes perhaps treat God as our best friend and lose something of His holiness and majesty. Do we come casually and with little preparation? Are we careless and thoughtless about how we approach the Lord? When the apostle Paul was talking to the Corinthian church about the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Cor 11) he chided them for the careless way they were coming to Communion (v.21) and pointed out to them that as a result many among them were weak and sick and some had even died! (v.30).

Now I wonder how often you have heard that preached? Some in the New Testament church were dying because of the way they were treating the Lord’s Supper! That raises a further question: are there people ill or dying in our congregations because they are casual about how they treat God? This is a serious question, and it raises a number of further questions, which we haven’t space to answer here. However, both the Old and New Testaments testify to this fact, that God deals with unrighteous and ungodly attitudes in respect of things we should consider holy. As we said at the beginning, these are passages that make one gulp. Don’t be careless with God! Realise again, that we only come into the Lord’s presence without being destroyed, because of what Jesus achieved on the Cross at Calvary.  Remember that.

We do need to hold the balance: God is our Father, a loving Father, but we do need to hold onto the truth that He is holy and pure and He knows best the way He has designed the world to be. Sometimes, to make the point, He will take people prematurely from this earth into their eternity. Always hold the bigger picture; this earth is not the end, merely a temporary staging post if you like, where part of God’s plan is that we learn that we are designed in specific ways for good and He does know best.