Telling God How It Is
More than once I have had that curious conversation with a young-to-middle-aged man or woman who has decided that they are displeased and disapproving of the way God is running the universe. If you have not had one of these conversations, you need to do so. Get that on your bucket list.
Them: “Man, I tell you what. When I git to heaven, I got me some questions. I got things I want answers to.”
Me: “You think so?”
Them: “Oh, yeah. Me ‘n’ God, we’re gonna have a talk. We’re gonna have us a discussion. We got a score to settle.”
Me: “I don’t think so man. When you . . .”
Them: “Oh yeah! Oh yeah, baby! We’re gonna have us a dialogue!”
Me: “Naw, man. If you find yourself in heaven, in God’s presence, the only thing you’re going to do is fall flat on your face in reverent awe, and possibly in tears.”
Somehow, somewhere, we have lost sight of the awe-inspiring holiness of God.
Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
– Revelation 15:4, NIV-1978
Trouble With the Ark
In 1 Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant of God had been captured by the Philistines, but its capture was not quite the victory they thought it was. Every morning the Philistines found that their god, Dagon, had toppled over and fallen on his face before the ark. So they put him back up, and the next morning he would be on his face again.
The people of Ashdod, where the ark was being housed, were afflicted with tumors, and God sent devastation on them. So much so that the Philistines decided to send the ark away, sending it to Gath. At Gath? More tumors.
Again the ark was sent away, heading to Ekron. As the ark entered the city, the people cried out saying, essentially, “No way! We don’t want that thing here!”
Eventually, the Philistines had had enough and sent the ark back to Israel with a cache of gold included as a “guilt offering,”
When the ark arrived at Beth Shemesh, the Levites set it to rest on a large rock there, but once again tragedy (or justice?) struck because seventy inhabitants of Beth Shemesh were struck by God, putting them to death because they dared to look inside the ark of the LORD.
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?”
– 1 Samuel 1:19b-20, NIV-1978
Respecting God’s Holiness
It seems like such a trivial thing . . . they looked inside. Having done so, they would have seen the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a gold jar with manna in it. Big deal, right?
Wrong! It is a big deal, because it makes common the uncommon holiness of Yahweh. He is holy, holy, holy.1 Yahweh is not mocked.2
Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
– Exodus 15-11, NIV-1978
Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain for the LORD our God is holy.
– Psalm 99:9, NIV-1978
Get it very clear in your mind that we serve a God of awe-inspiring magnificence. It is astonishing that we are allowed to speak to him at all, and we dare not do so with irreverence.
Perhaps the greatest picture of God’s holiness is that painted by his prophet Isaiah.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
– Isaiah 6:1-5, NIV-1978
We see the seraphs again in Revelation as they ceaselessly cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”3
Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
– Revelation 15;4, NIV-1978
I am persuaded that, even in the church, many, if not most have lost sight and understanding of the complete transcendence, the wholly-otherness of the Creator of the universe.
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
– Isaiah 46:9b, NIV-1978
He is God, alone. He is holy – beyond holy – a God of all-consuming holiness. He is trustworthy and secure, the Father of heavenly lights, the one who is unchanging, and in whom there is no shadow of turning.4
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
– 1 Timothy 6:15b-16, NIV-1978
1. Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7, 20:26, 21:8, Deuteronomy 23:14, 1 Peter 1:15-16
2. Galatians 6:7.
3. Revelation 4:8
4. James 1:17