The dangerous side of holiness: 1 Chronicles 14


Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 12-14.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the children travel to Narnia and learn about Aslan, the great leader whom all the animals look up to. They are surprised, however, when they learn that he is a lion.

 “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Aslan, of course, is the representation of God or the Savior in C.S. Lewis’s story. Jesus is the Lamb of God, but he’s also the Lion of Judah. God is indeed good, but he is far from safe for those who fail to take account of his holiness.  Fortunately, God has made a way for us to be holy so that we can safely enter his presence:

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

Our safety is “in Christ.” If we are “in Christ,” God reckons us as holy on account of the holiness of his son who covers us, if we are covered by his blood. The danger lies in approaching God without the safety of a righteous covering, as revealed when King David tries to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.

They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets. When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” 1 Chronicles 14:7-12

Uzzah lost his life because he encountered the holiness of God without preparing for it. God had given specific instructions for the transport of the ark. The Israelites had safely followed those instructions during all their wilderness journeying, but now they either ignored those instructions or had forgotten them. The ark had been sitting, unused, in Abinadab’s home for over twenty years, and it appears all knowledge of the ark had been lost during that time.

If David and his assistants had bothered to read the Book of the Law, they would have found God’s instructions for handling the ark. Levites had to carry the ark, on their shoulders, with poles through the hooks on the corners of the ark. Uzzah was not a Levite, and the ox cart was definitely not the prescribed method of transportation. As we read back in Leviticus 15, God gave his law to create a safe way for the people to interact with his holiness. In brief, common things had to be made clean, and then consecrated, before they could enter into holy service.

The dangerous side of God’s holiness should serve as a warning to all men who approach God on their own terms instead of God’s terms. One day, when our lives are over, we will all stand before God. Those who are in Christ will stand holy and blameless, clean and consecrated, covered in righteousness by the blood of Jesus. But those who stand before God dressed only in their own filthy rags will find him to be a very unsafe lion.

Image by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr, CC by2.0