The Holy God’s Ark; Fear of God
2 Samuel 6:9–12
Samuel Lesson #126
April 3, 2018
“Father, we are thankful we can come together this evening, to fellowship around the study of Your Word.
“Father, we continue to pray for the students there at the Word of God Bible College, and we pray for them, especially the second-year students who will be wrapping up their studies coming this May.
“Father, we pray for us that we might be diligent students of Your Word, not only learning what it says but understanding how to apply it in our lives, how it transforms our thinking and shapes the way we look at the world around us as we understand a consistent Christian worldview from the Scripture. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
We are in 2 Samuel 6, so let’s start off by going there and we will review a little bit. Then I want to take us through an application type of study this evening.
Last week we went through the first eleven verses of 2 Samuel 6 and that had to do with moving the Ark of the Covenant from its resting spot.
It had been there for at least the entire length of Saul’s reign. There is a passage we looked at last time that said twenty years. I think that’s twenty years before Saul’s reign. So that’s twenty plus forty, plus the seven and half years for David, so that’s at least sixty-seven years, and could have been a little bit longer.
As David said in Chronicles, they had not paid attention to the ark. They just ignored the ark during this time. Now he is refocusing their attention back on the Ark of the Covenant, and moving it to Jerusalem, to bring the ark back together with the tabernacle.
Just a reminder as we looked at the outline in this first part. We’re still in the middle of the first section between 2 Samuel 2–10. We see God blessing David. And David unites and expands the kingdom, but it is, of course, God Who is uniting and expanding the kingdom.
In the next section, from chapters 11 to 20, God will bring discipline upon David for his sins: the great sin of adultery with Bathsheba, and also the conspiracy to have her husband killed once her pregnancy is discovered.
Then David will confess his sin and truly repent, which means to change his mind and turn from it and turn to God. As a result, God doesn’t remove the discipline, but He transforms the cursing into blessing.
We see how David will use the promises of God and the provision of God to deal with the discipline that comes his way.
Then the last part, the appendices.
What we have seen in this first section is the beginning of David’s kingdom, then God giving David control over Jerusalem, and we traced that through the Old Testament.
That God has put His heart on Jerusalem. He loves Jerusalem. He’s chosen Jerusalem as His dwelling place. Jerusalem doesn’t have any political value, it doesn’t have any military value, and doesn’t have any economic value.
But this is the location where God has set His love. The tradition among the Jews is that this goes back beyond Abraham.
Scripturally we can only say it goes back to Abram in Genesis 14, where Abram gives tithes to Melchizedek, who is the priest-king of Jerusalem.
Melchizedek worships El Elyon, Who is the great God, the powerful God, the maker of Heaven and earth, which is quite a distinctive phrase, because in the ancient world no pagan religions believed in a deity, a monotheistic deity, Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, Who is distinct from His creation.
That really set Melchizedek apart from all of the pagan cultures and pagan kings. Abram recognizes that they worship the same God, so he gives ten percent of the plunder, which doesn’t belong to him, it belongs to the king of Sodom, but he gives ten percent of it, a tithe, to Melchizedek.
That’s covered in Genesis 14.
All of this shows that God has a long-range plan for Jerusalem. According to Jewish legend, that location where the Ark will eventually reside on Mount Moriah, on what is called the foundation stone, that is where the Garden of Eden was located.
That is Jewish legend, not what the Scripture says, but it’s clear that God has a focus on that geography as a location for His presence, which is going to be in the first temple until He removes it.
So God gives David control over Jerusalem. All of this is working towards a plan. Jerusalem may not have a political or economic or military advantage, but it has a spiritual significance that is David’s focal point.
Then we see that David brings the Ark to Jerusalem. This is where God is enthroned between the cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant, and the true king of Israel is going to be brought to His throne in Jerusalem.
We looked at how David selected thirty choice men. 1 Chronicles 13 gives us a little more information. He organizes them as a military escort during this great parade to bring the Ark of the Covenant in from Kiriath-Jearim, which is about six or eight miles from Jerusalem, into Jerusalem.
This is a map where I pointed out that once he expanded his military control out to Gezer then Kiriath-Jearim, which is located halfway between the old Canaanite city of Jebus, now Jerusalem, that is the distance they have to bring the Ark of the Covenant.
Then we looked at the history of the Ark. It had been residing in the house of Abinadab in Kiriath-Jearim, and God had blessed him and his house.
Then the Ark is brought to Jerusalem. One of the things I emphasized is that God instructed Israel in terms of who could move the Ark and how they were to move the Ark.
The point I keep coming back to is that God has specific ways in which we are to worship Him, in which we are to walk with Him, and in which we are to live our Christian life.
The same thing was true in the Old Testament. There were very specific things that were to be done. God is not a God who just sort of winks at us and says, “Well, anything goes as long as you are sincere, and as long as you are doing what you think you need to do to worship Me, then it’s okay.”
God has very specific plans. He has specified these things in Scripture. He has revealed how we are to worship Him, and He doesn’t accept anything less.
It all relates, ultimately, to understanding His character—that a righteous God cannot have fellowship, cannot enjoy fellowship, and cannot enjoy the relationship with His creatures, unless the sin problem is taken care of.
That means all creatures must adjust to the righteous standard of God. We do that first of all at salvation by trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we do, we are instantly given the righteousness of Christ. It’s imputed to us, the Scripture says.
It’s reckoned to our account so that God declares us justified or righteous, not because of what we’ve done, but because we possess Christ’s righteousness.
That’s the basis for adjusting to God’s righteousness at salvation. When we live our life after we become a believer we have to continuously adjust to His righteousness whenever we sin.
In the Old Testament it was through sacrifices and confession for cleansing. It was demonstrated ritually through the sacrifices. It was demonstrated in the personal spiritual life by confession. That’s made clear in the life of David when he confessed his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51.
The Ark, and the travails and travels of the Ark, tell us something about God’s righteousness and justice, which is really the focal point of the lesson this evening.
God had specific ways that the Ark was to be moved. He described how the Ark was to be transported. He described who was authorized to move the Ark because this is the scene of His presence.
In Numbers 4:5–6 we saw that it would be Aaron and his sons, the high priest, who will take down the veil.
As you would go into the Holy of Holies, the Ark is the only furniture in the Holy of Holies. They would take down the veil and they would put it over the Ark of the Covenant so nobody could look at it. Nobody could gaze at it. It’s completely covered.
Then they would insert poles in the rings on each side of the box.
You can see the poles and rings in this depiction of the Ark of the Covenant.
So that’s one thing they had to do. Exodus 25:15 says, “The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.” They are there permanently.
They would cover it and this is how they would carry it.
Another thing that we learn in Deuteronomy 10:8 is that it was only the Levites, only those from the tribe of Levi, that is the priests, who were authorized to carry the Ark of the Covenant.
In Numbers 7:9 we are told how they were to carry it, which was on their shoulder. What’s interesting is that it is carried by Levites as they take the Ark into Jerusalem, but it’s not carried properly, and it is mishandled along the way.
What we saw before, and we’ll look at this map, is that the Ark was captured by the Philistines at the first battle of Aphek.
The Israelites had treated it like a good luck charm and after they were initially defeated, they sent back to Shiloh and said, “Bring up the Ark” and they brought up the Ark.
We are not told in that account if they did it according to procedure. We are not told that they covered it with the veil. We are not told if it was carried on the shoulder, and apparently none of that part was significant in terms of how they carried it. But they were abusing the purpose for the Ark.
The result was that they were defeated, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. It’s taken down to Ashdod, then the Ark is taken to Gath.
Along the way all these humorous things take place as God shows that even though it’s been captured, He is still in control. God’s stability, God’s control of the situation, is not dependent upon man at all.
It’s captured and put inside the temple of Dagon, that the next morning is found bowing down to the Ark of the Covenant. The Philistines stand Dagon back up and the next day it’s bowing down. Its hands and feet are cut off so it can’t be put back up, showing that it has been completely rendered impotent by the God of the Israelites.
It goes through these places at Gath and Ekron. We’ll come back and talk about what was going on there a little later on. Then they put it on a cart with a milch cow and it’s taken to Beth Shemesh.
And there again, the Beth Shemites treat it with disrespect. They sacrifice to it, they do some other things that are right, but ultimately they treat it with disrespect. They’re looking at it, they’re taking the lid off, they’re looking inside.
So, God struck down all the people. (1 Samuel 6:19-20 says in one place 50,070—there’s a textual corruption there so we’re not sure of the exact number. Beth Shemesh isn’t a large town so maybe the number seventy is the more correct number.)
What we see here is a foreshadowing of what happens as David is bringing the Ark into Jerusalem. The question asked, especially by modern critics and unbelievers in the Scripture is, “This is so harsh. How is this a loving God? How can God be so cruel and mean? They were just trying to do the right thing. They were sincere in their hearts and God strikes down 70 of them dead? [or 50,070 of them dead] That’s not a very loving or caring God.”
What we see in modern liberal theological thinking since the 19th century is to juxtapose the love of God with the righteousness and justice of God. And not comprehending, or willing to accept, the fact that the love of God is completely compatible with His righteousness and justice.
A love that is not righteous or just—that lacks integrity—is not a very good love at all. A righteousness and a justice that is not tempered at the same time with true love becomes an overbearing tyranny.
There is a perfect balance within the character of God. We break down the attributes of God only for academic study, but they are totally interconnected and interrelated in the one Person of God, just as your attributes are interconnected and interrelated in your personal life.
You may be honest, you may be a hard worker, you may be a person who has a tendency to be subjective, or a person who tends to be objective or more analytical. All of those characteristics make up you as one person. They’re not mutually contradictory. They make up your personality, who you are, and they blend together.
You can talk about a person’s attributes or characteristics for academic purposes, but in reality, they’re all blended together. The same is true for God’s character, for His righteousness and justice.
After the Ark has this episode at Beth Shemesh, the Beth Shemeshites are understandably fearful of this God Who has taken the life, struck dead seventy (or 50,070) of their people. They want the people of Kiriath-Jearim to take this “hot potato”, as it were, off their hands.
And the Ark of the Lord, we saw, was brought into the house of Abinadab on the hill in Kiriath-Jearim. He consecrates his son Eleazar to keep the Ark of the Lord.
What do we know about Abinadab? There are three Abinadabs in the Old Testament. One is the brother of David who is mentioned in 1 Samuel 16:8.
Another one was one of the sons of Saul who died on Mount Gilboa. And this is the third one who’s only mentioned here in 1 Samuel 7 and then in 2 Samuel 6.
It’s not indicated in Scripture what his lineage was, that he was a priest, but his son’s name is Eleazar. That was the son of Aaron, which would indicate that he was probably of the priestly line.
Josephus, an extra-biblical source, does identify Abinadab as a Levite. The text indicates that he is blessed, he keeps the Ark there. God doesn’t bring discipline on the house, which He would have if they were violating the standards.
He consecrates his oldest, Eleazer, sets him apart to keep the Ark of the Lord. We covered most of that last time, as well as getting into the specifics of 2 Samuel 1–11.
The point of these first eleven verses is that God demonstrates that He is holy, that He is in control, and He is sufficient.
That’s really important. That’s a mouthful, but that’s really important. God is demonstrating He doesn’t need any help from anybody else, and that He must be dealt with, or treated, in a manner that is consistent with His instructions.
He is not a God Who can be controlled. He is not a God that is to be manipulated by the Israelites. He is not a God that people can manipulate. He is very much in control of the situation, and He is not necessarily going to behave in the way we think He should behave.
That’s one of the interesting things that sets the Bible apart from other religious literature. You can go back into the ancient world and you can look at the histories.
For example, you can look at Egyptian history, Babylonian history, Persian history, Arab history, things that go back into the Old Testament period, and what you read is that when they were engaged in battles they always won. They were never, ever defeated.
As a matter fact, today there is a square in Cairo where there is a monument that is dedicated to the Egyptian victory over the Israelis in the 1967 War, in the Six-Day War.
You all know what happened don’t you? On the first day of the Six-Day War the Israelis attacked. Knowing that the Egyptians were going to attack, they attacked first.
Within the first three or four hours they wiped out the Egyptian Air Force. The Six-Day War was a resounding defeat for the Egyptians, but they’ve rewritten history.
There’s a monument to their victory over the Israelis. This shows the same thinking today as they had in the ancient world.
This is not uncommon in the ancient world. When kings and emperors had their chronicles written they often would embellish, and they would in fact totally twist the facts to show how great and wonderful they were.
In some cases when they came into power, they would erase other pharaohs’ names from monuments and from pyramids and other things, and then they would put their name on it, as if they had done that.
This kind of propaganda, or fake news, is not new to this generation or this century.
God doesn’t behave like that. When you look at the Scripture and you read the lives of Abraham, and Moses, and David, we see them warts and all.
We learn about the fact that sometimes God deserted the Israelites. Sometimes He let the Israelites get completely defeated by their enemies.
Sometimes God brought great plagues on them. God is not under the control of man and that is something that is seen in this whole episode.
It reminds me of an episode in the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The episode is also in the film. It tells the story of four children who go through a wardrobe and end up in the magical kingdom of Narnia.
C.S. Lewis wrote it as children’s book, as a Christian allegory that was comparable to the kingdom of God. The real ruler of Narnia is a lion, taken from the Lion of Judah.
The lion’s name is Aslan. In the story, as it talks about this kingdom, and it talks about the Christ figure represented by the lion Aslan, the children meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and they have a conversation.
Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are describing this mighty lion to them and the little girl Lucy says, “ ‘Is— is he a man?’
“Mr. Beaver replies, ‘Aslan a man! Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.’
“ ‘Ooh!’ said Susan. [that’s the older girl] ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’
“ ‘That you will, dearie, and no mistake,’ said Mrs. Beaver. ‘If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking they are either braver than most or else just silly.’
“ ‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? Of course, he isn’t safe, but he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.’ ”
I think that’s such a great episode because that’s what most people want to think about God—that He is safe, that they can control Him, that if they do this, God will do that, and things like that. They can make a deal with God.
But what we learn from the Scripture is that God isn’t safe. God is really quite different from anything we can fully imagine, and not like the gods of any of the kingdoms or anywhere else.
This is what David is having to grapple with because when the Ark is brought into Jerusalem, and the cart that it’s brought on, in violation of the instructions in the Torah— When the Ark is brought in and it hits this bump in the road and the Ark is jostled, one of the two sons of Abinadab will reach out and try to stabilize it.
Abinadab, as I said, is of the priestly line. He has a son, Eleazar, who’s put in charge of it, but we don’t hear anything about them being present. Maybe they’re both dead by this time. His two other sons Uzzah and Ahio are present with the Ark. Uzzah reaches out to stabilize the Ark and God immediately takes his life.
I want you to read what happens.
2 Samuel 6:7-9, “And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence and he died there by the ark of God. And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez-uzzah to this day.”
Remember that, it is God’s outbreak, perez means outbreak.
“So David was afraid of the LORD that day;”
God’s presence is there, and the response of David is one of fear.
“… and he said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?’ ”
Think about that question. We’re going to see that this echoes other questions.
I’m going to skip some slides here. [Skips slides #15–21] 
When we finished last time. we had just talked about what happened in 2 Samuel 6:11, “And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household.”
The question I want to address and answer tonight is: why then is David angry? God is not controlled or safe. That’s really the issue. Why was David angry? Because God can’t be controlled and is not safe.
What we see in the Scripture is that fear toward God is the response of the fallen human who is confronted with the presence of God. That’s what we see here. Where else do we see this kind of response?
Let’s walk our way through the Old Testament. The first example is in the Garden of Eden. Let’s look at the passage in Genesis 3.
What has happened is that the serpent has come along and has tempted Eve to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She has eaten and then she offers it to her husband, Adam.
We will pick up in Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
I want you to notice how crisp that narrative is, it doesn’t go into a lot of detail. It tells us a lot in a very few words.
The result is given in Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
Look at Genesis 3:8-9, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ ”
What happens is that the presence and the reality of God provokes something deep within the human soul. It’s this existential fear that develops; a dread because we are lost, because we are spiritually dead and separated from God.
We are not meant to live or to have real life apart from God, and we are lonely, isolated, and exposed.
Then the Lord God comes to them in the garden.
In Genesis 3:9-10 we read, “And the Lord said to the man, ‘Where are you? And the man replied, ‘I heard of the sound of You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked.’ ”
He’s exposed. It’s not just that he is without clothes. He’s totally exposed now as a creature designed to be totally dependent upon God. That ability and that dependency upon God is gone, and he’s left with nothing.
So he says, “I was naked and I hid myself.”
The basic emotion is that he was afraid.
Now I would imagine that if I were to give you a vocabulary quiz and ask, “What is the opposite of fear?” most of you probably wouldn’t come up with the biblical answer.
I want to look at a couple of verses in 1 John that give us some insight into what’s going on. What are the mechanics here in terms of what goes on in the soul?
1 John 3:20 says, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.”
The word “heart” here doesn’t refer to emotions. Often that’s how people use it today. It’s talking about the core of our being, the center of our soul. And as part of our soul, we have a conscience that knows right from wrong.
When Adam hears God in the garden, he knows he’s done wrong. He has violated God’s standard, and so his conscience convicts him. Because he knows he has done wrong, then his heart, his conscience, condemns him for doing wrong.
John is saying God is greater than our heart. God knows everything. We can’t hide from Him. We can’t cover up our sin. God is greater than our heart and He knows all things.
The next verse I want to look at is also in 1 John. It’s in the next chapter, 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected [matured] in love.”
Most of us would juxtapose hate with love, but what we see here is that fear is juxtaposed to love. Perfect love here is a mature biblical love, the kind of divine love that God has. It’s only that love, and what it provides, that can deal with the basic attitude of the human soul, which is fear.
There is a fear of punishment at the heart of every human being. I think that is a core motivation that people try to cover up. They try to deny it. It’s part of their understanding of the existence of God.
John says because fear has to do with punishment we are afraid because we know, existentially, in the core of our being, that we are wrong, that we should be punished, that we are sinful, we have violated God’s standard.
A lot of people are going to debate you about that. They are going to say, “No, no. I don’t believe in God and I’m not afraid. I’m just as happy as I can be.”
They have been practicing for years, in a sort of self-hypnosis, to convince themselves that the lie is true.
We will go to Romans 1:18 in just a minute to deal with that, but this is what 1 John 4:18 says, “The one who fears punishment has not been matured in love.” The word “perfected” means matured.
The only way to overcome that orientation of the spiritually dead person, the fear—fear of life, insecurity, being threatened, unsure and uncertain—is to recognize what the love of God has provided for us, what it’s given us.
This is most exemplified at the Cross where in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
As a result, when we come face-to-face with the love of God at the Cross, we know that basic problem of fear is canceled out by the love of God.
Let’s go a step further here in our analysis and look at another passage in the New Testament, Romans 1:18-21.
This is one I refer to a lot. Bruce Baker did a great job with Romans 1:18-21 at the pastor’s conference just couple weeks ago, a tremendous presentation.
This again is one of those central passages for understanding people and their motivation in the Scripture. This tells us that, despite all of the arrogance, all of the pride, all of the denial that you hear from people about God and His existence, is just that, it’s just camouflage.
It is their camouflage. It’s self-created in order to cover up the fact that they are scared to death in their heart of hearts. They are not only scared to death, but they have been taught in our culture that they are nothing more than an accident of an electrical discharge, a bolt of lightning hitting some kind of blob of protoplasm that brought forth organic life. They have no meaning, they are just an accident.
You hear this again, and again, and again. And what we see now in this generation, among the millennials and the generation younger than the millennials [I don’t know what they are called that are the teenagers today, the twentysomethings], that the rate of suicide in this generation is going off the charts. I think it’s important for us to understand that we, as Christians, have a real answer for people.
They are living in existential dread and are overwhelmed by everything going on in life. They are scared to death. That’s why they are called “snowflakes.” But we can tap into that as we seek to explain the gospel, that there is meaning, there is hope, there is value, in every single human life.
Many of them have lost all of that because it’s been drummed out of them through the fables and the mythologies that are present in the science classroom.
That doesn’t need a whole lot of help because this is the orientation of basically every human being.
Romans 1:18 talks about the wrath of God, 1 John talks about punishment. The wrath of God is simply a graphic way of talking about the severity of divine judgment, which, of course, brings divine punishment, 1 John 4:18. Fear has to do with punishment.
There is punishment, there is the justice of God which will enact and uphold the standards of God’s perfect righteousness.
Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men …”
The very fact that we have these terms, ungodliness and unrighteousness, indicates that within every culture there are concepts of right and wrong, even among those who believe there’s no basis for right or wrong.
You can’t say anything absolute. If you tell them, “I don’t agree with that, you’re wrong.” They will react and say, “No, you’re wrong.”
Human beings can’t live apart from demonstrating that in their soul there’s the idea that some things are right and some things are wrong. Of course, they have everything all jumbled up and mixed up in the process, but they believe.
Just push their buttons at some point and they will say, “You are wrong. I disagree with you as a Christian, you’re wrong. You’re absolutely out of line.”
Well, where did you get that value, where did you get that standard? Ultimately that drives us back to show that only when you have a God like the God of the Bible, Who is eternally righteous and just, can you have a solid foundation for any kind of values, any kind of morality, and any sort of ethics.
This Scripture, Romans 1:18, teaches us that God brings judgment against “all forms of ungodliness and righteousness of men,” and then those men are described as those “who suppress the truth by means of unrighteousness.”
They use unrighteousness. They use fables, they use legends, and they use fantasies. They use all these different things to suppress the truth. And what happens is they adopt in its place delusion. We see this over and over again.
The human being who rejects God and the truth of Scripture has to create another origin myth to tell where they came from and what their life is all about. They have to come up with something to provide meaning for their life.
What this Scripture says is they are suppressing the truth because they have rejected God. And there is accountability.
Romans 1:19, “because what may be known of God [certain things can be known objectively about God] is manifest in them.”
The first thing it says is that internally, in their soul, it doesn’t matter who they are, how much they write, and how much they preach, how much they scream about the fact that they don’t believe in God, the knowledge of God is manifest in them internally, but also externally, because God has shown it to them.
Then Paul explains how that’s done, through the creation, through looking at what we call nature. Through looking from the macro universe, looking at the galaxies, and all the stars, all the way down to the micro universe, looking inside of a cell, looking inside of an atom.
All of that manifests or reflects the attributes of God “so that they are clearly seen.” This is seeing with the mind’s eye, seeing in terms of understanding and comprehending.
Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so they are without excuse.”
That’s the answer to the problem of “What about people who never heard the gospel?”
Well, they saw something. There is evidence of God’s existence out there, and they either accept it or reject it. There’s enough evidence to hold them accountable for understanding the evidence.
If they reject that evidence, God’s not going to give them any more information. If they want more evidence, God is going to give them more information, all the way to the gospel.
This is what’s happening. Inside the human soul everything in God’s creation, as it were, is announcing to each human being, “God made me. God exists, God is powerful, God is righteous, and God is just.”
And man is saying, “No, when I hear that message I’m scared to death. I am frightened because God is not something that I can control. I need to have something that I can control.”
So from the very beginning we see this kind of reaction to God.
I want to skip over to the next book in the Old Testament, which is Exodus, and I want to go to Exodus 19. We’ll see the same kind of thing going on here in Exodus 19:10.
The setting here is that God has redeemed the Israelites out of Egypt. They had the ten plagues; they saw God’s power in the ten plagues.
They saw God’s power in the tenth plague. As God passed over the Israelites, He did not take the lives of their firstborn. God made a provision in the Passover lamb— the blood that was applied to the doorpost covered those who were in the house so that the firstborn was not taken.
But the firstborn of all the cattle, and all the herds, and all the families of the Egyptians died that night. Pharaoh releases them; then he changes his mind and starts chasing the Israelites.
God parts the Red Sea. They’ve seen God’s provision of manna and water in the wilderness. They’ve seen all these miracles, and now they come to Mount Sinai, and there is going to be a meeting with God there on Mount Sinai. God is going to describe what must happen for the people to come and listen to Him.
Exodus 19:10, “The LORD also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments,’ ”
It’s ritual cleansing and the people have to be set apart to God. Why? Because God is holy.
What does that word mean? God is holy means He is distinct, He is unique. He is not like anything else. You can’t control Him. He’s not safe, but He is righteous, He is just, and He is love.
Exodus 19:11, “and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”
If they had their video cameras and iPhones they could have filmed it.
Exodus 19:12, “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.’ ”
It’s interesting, as I went through this today and I’m looking at the Hebrew text, the grammatical form there is the same thing we have in Genesis 2:17, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
It is this repetition of the verb; it doesn’t mean dying you will die, it means it is a certainty that you will die. Now the death in Genesis 2:17 is a spiritual death that happens instantly.
The only thing that you can say about Genesis 2:17, and about this grammatical form, is whatever it’s talking about it happens instantly.
What happened with Adam and Eve is that they died spiritually instantly. They don’t die physically for over 900 years.
What will happen here, when God says they shall surely be put to death, is that it’s supposed to be an instant capital punishment. They will instantly die physically.
The point I’m making is that this shows that that phrase means something is going to happen immediately. It’s not going to be put off for 900 years.
Exodus 19:12, “and whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.”
There’s a barrier there, but if you touch the mountain you’re going to die instantly.
Why? Because that mountain represents the presence of God. You are infringing upon God’s unique holy ground. This is the same thing that happens to Uzzah with the Ark of the Covenant.
What I’m saying is that event with Uzzah is not out of the ordinary for the Old Testament. This is the norm for anyone who breaches God’s righteous presence.
Exodus 19:12, “Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.”
And the following verses talk about how that would happen, that it would be instant.
So the people go and they wash their garments and get ready for the third day.
Then we read in Exodus 19:16, “Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.”
The Hebrew word there means to tremble in fear. What is the response to God’s righteous, holy, presence? It’s fear, because God can’t be controlled. God is totally other. He is holy.
As we continue to read down through the account, what we discover is the Lord descends upon the mountain, comes down to Mount Sinai, and then He speaks to Moses. He again reiterates the warning, for Moses to warn the people that they don’t break through to the Lord.
This is in Exodus 19:21, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down, warn the people so that they do not break through to the Lord to gaze and many of them perish.’ ”
Exodus19:22, “Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.”
Guess what that Hebrew word is for “break out.” It’s perez. Remember what David says, “We’re going to call this place where Uzzah died Perez-uzzah.” Perez means “to break out” because here the Lord broke out against Uzzah.
It is a term for the wrath and the judgment of God. What happens to Uzzah is not any different from what would’ve happened here. So we connect those dots. This is the norm when God’s righteousness and justice are violated in this way.
Moses goes down to tell the people, and then God speaks to them. It’s audible. If they had a recorder, they could record it. God gives what we call the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, the prelude to the Mosaic Law.
When we get down to Exodus 20:18-20 we read, “Now all the people witnessed the thundering, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it …”
When the people saw it what’s their reaction to God?
“They trembled and stood at a distance.”
There is fear because you can’t control God.
Exodus 20:19-20, “Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen, but let not God speak to us or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ ”
That’s the same word you have over in Genesis 3. “They were afraid …”
“ ‘For God has come in order to test you in order that the fear of Him may remain with you so that you may not sin.’ ”
See this pattern that we’re developing.
Now I want to skip forward to another episode in Numbers 16. Ultimately we are going to Numbers 17.
This is a time when the Israelites are wandering about in the wilderness. They have just had their greatest failure in Numbers 13, where they have rejected God.
They have rejected God’s provision at Kadesh Barnea. They had sent the spies in. The spies came back and ten of them said, “We can’t do it.” Two said, “We can do it because God promised it.”
Everybody wants to follow the ten instead of the two. In fact, they want to kill Joshua and Caleb because they don’t agree with the others. That is typically what happens to those who take a stand for God; everybody else wants to kill them.
When we get into Numbers 16 there is the rebellion of the priests. There is the rebellion of Korah, who is a Levite, and he’s a grandson of Levi.
He, Dathan, Abiram, and some other priests lead a revolt against Moses and against Aaron. As a result of that, what happens? God immediately takes their lives.
Then we go into Numbers 17 and at this point God is going to give an empirical test, He is going give these priests who want to take over Aaron’s job a little test.
Each one’s got to give their rod and they’re going to put those in the tabernacle, and the one that sprouts green leaves, or buds, is going to be the one that God has chosen.
By the way, if you look at Numbers 16:49, there were 14,700 who died by a plague on account of Korah. So, this is not unusual, for God to harshly punish.
I pointed this out last time. At the beginning of certain dispensations, or even sub-dispensations, God harshly lays down the law.
In the Book of Acts when Ananias and Sapphira lie against the Holy Spirit, He instantly takes their lives. It has to do with protecting and affirming the righteousness and the justice of God.
What we see here is recognition of this, and the people are fearful of God. If we look at Numbers 17:12-13 it’s recognized that Aaron has been chosen by God.
What is the people’s response?
Numbers 17:12-13, “So the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying ‘Surely we die, we perish, we all perish! Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD must die. Shall we all utterly die?’ ”
They are scared to death. Why? Because they violated the righteousness and the justice of God.
Let’s skip forward to one of my favorite episodes in the Old Testament. We will summarize it here to begin.
This is in Isaiah 6 when Isaiah the prophet is taken into the presence of God in Heaven. As he is confronted with the righteousness of God, as he hears the seraphim saying, “Holy, holy, holy,” he is confronted with the holiness of God.
Isaiah 6:5, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ ”
He is fearful. “Woe is me, I’m going to die.”
Isaiah 6:6, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.”
This isn’t literal. This is a picture of his iniquity being purified.
Isaiah 6:7, the seraph says, “ ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.’ ”
This is the Hebrew word kaphar, which is the same word translated “atonement.” It means to be cleansed, to be purged. You have heard me say this over and over again, that kaphar has this idea of cleansing and purging from sin, and this is just another example of it.
Let’s continue. I want to look at a couple of more episodes before we wrap up.
When the Ark of the Covenant is taken to Ekron with the Philistines, after it’s captured at Aphek, and it goes down to Ashdod, and then to Gath, and then it comes to Ekron. The residents of Ekron have a response to the holiness of God.
In 1 Samuel 5:10, “Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. So it was, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, ‘They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!’ ”
This is a recognition that if you violate the righteousness of the Jewish God, you’re going to die.
In 1 Samuel 5:11, “So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel …’ ”“We don’t want it; it will kill us and our people.”
This leads to its being put on the milch cart and sent down to Beth Shemesh.
When it gets to Beth Shemesh in 1 Samuel 6:20, “The men of Beth Shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? And to whom shall it go up from us?’ ”
Have you seen that statement before? “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God, and to whom shall He go up from us?”
That’s the same basic question that David asked after Uzzah is killed. He says, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me? How is this possible?”
The thing is, we don’t understand God. God is comprehensible to a point, but beyond that He’s incomprehensible. He’s eternal, He’s infinite, He’s righteous, and He’s just. We can’t comprehend Him.
The men of Beth Shemesh, after God has taken so many Beth Shemites, 50,070, or maybe seventy, they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-Jearim to take back the Ark. So they do that, and there’s peace, and it’s there for twenty years until Saul reigns. Throughout Saul’s reign it is basically ignored.
David makes this comment in Psalm 119:120, “My flesh trembles for fear of You.”
You can’t control God. There’s a book that was written by a British pastor and theologian by the name of J.B. Phillips, just a small book called Your God is Too Small.
There were two or three different times in my life when I was taking a course here or there and had to read it. The basic thesis of the book is that most people have this view of God where God is small and they can control Him.
The thesis of his book is that is too small a view of God. God is outside your comprehension and your understanding. We need to learn to understand God on His terms as He is revealed in the Scripture, and not try to reduce Him to our level of comprehensibility.
In Leviticus 11:44–45 God says, “For I am Yahweh your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves and you shall be holy; for I am holy.”
HAGIOS means set apart, distinct, or unique. He’s unique in His righteousness. He is unique in His justice. He is unique in His love. He is unique in His power, and in His presence, and in His knowledge. He is unique in every area of His attributes. He is one-of-a-kind, and He is not at our level.
In Leviticus 11:45, “For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
This is what must be understood. This is why Uzzah loses his life at this point, because whatever else is going on here, I think it’s more than he just reaches out irreverently.
2 Samuel 6:6 says, “Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it …”
Then 2 Samuel 6:7 says, “and God struck him down for his irreverence.”
There’s more to the taking hold of it than simply just touching it. He is probably looking at it, he’s gazing at it. Maybe the cover fell off and he’s looking. He’s treating it in a profane manner. So, for that reason, he is struck down.
But David has a lesson that we see has been learned again, and again, and again, since Genesis 3. And that is: God is going to do things His way and it’s not our way. We cannot control what God is going to do.
This just throws David completely off balance for a while, before he is able to figure things out and return to do it the right way.
So David’s response is like everybody else. David was afraid of the Lord that day.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study this and be reminded of Your uniqueness, of Your righteousness, of Your justice, of Your greatness, of the fact that You are not under our control at all.
“That too often our thoughts about You are too small and not correct. We try to reduce You to a level of our comprehension rather than standing in absolute awe of You, and recognizing that we need to submit as Isaiah did before Your throne in Isaiah 6.
“Father we pray that You would help us to expand our comprehension and understanding of You as we study the Scripture, we read it, and that it impacts the way we think and the way we live. In Christ’s name, amen.”