For us there are many situations in Scripture which seem to involve a punishment that was too severe for the crime.
God kills Uzzah just because he tried to keep the ark of the covenant from falling. Uzzah touched the ark because the cart it was riding on hit a pothole (2 Samuel 6). It seems like a trivial mistake with good intentions. Sure, God had forbidden anyone from touching the ark, but what was Uzzah supposed to do? Let the holy ark of God fall to the ground?
What about Moses, who didn’t get to see the promised land because he struck the rock rather than speaking to it (Numbers 20)? After everything Moses went through, was it such a big crime to be frustrated with the people and strike the rock in anger?
Then there are Ananias and Sapphira. They were both struck dead because they lied about how much money they donated to the church (Acts 5). And this is in the New Testament! Really, who hasn’t exaggerated?
Sadly, we don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer to say “Hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). Do we really understand what we are saying? Like the high priest entering the holy of holy’s, we are to treat prayer as sacred.
“Guard your steps when you enter the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Do not be quick to speak with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God.
For God is in heaven, and you are on the earth; therefore may your words be few. For a dream comes when there is a great burden, and a foolish voice when there are many words.” (Eccl. 5:1-3).
In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters. Others may treat these things as common, but we cannot. While others quickly judge God’s actions and question His commands, we are to be careful even to speak His name. We don’t carelessly question His actions or inaction.
We are a part of something much bigger than ourselves, something sacred. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we have been joined to His church. Because of this, we are not only a part of God’s sacred temple but also a part of the heavenly community.
Take some time to read Revelation 4–5 as it describes the scene in heaven. It begins with a majestic picture of God on His throne. The scene is busy and intense: the four living creatures are declaring His holiness, the seven spirits of God are blazing, myriads of angels are praising Jesus with loud voices and the 24 elders are flat on their faces while laying their crowns before Him. Then in 5:8, we finally appear.
“When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints” (Rev. 5:8).
Maybe you feel a bit insulted by this. You’re thinking, That’s it? My only part is that my prayers are lumped in with the prayers of all other believers to form a bowl of incense? Don’t worry—you’re also mentioned in verse 13 when your voice joins the chorus of billions.
“Then I heard every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that are in them, saying: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and power, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).
What is a tremendous, unspeakable honour may feel insufficient for those who are used to being god of their own blogs and Twitter accounts. It feels insignificant to those who have erected their own shrines on Facebook and Instagram, filled with beautiful pictures of themselves. They don’t realise that true joy comes from the opposite. Joy comes as we stand among those Jesus has redeemed and get lost in a sea of worship, becoming fully a part of something sacred.
Gathering with the church should lead us to holy ground. We get to come and worship someone else, with someone else. We get to pour out love to Him by serving those around us and considering them more important. It’s not about us. And we should be glad. Because this is something far greater. It is sacred.
Adapted from an article by Francis Chan in Ministry for Today Why These Scripture Passages Deeply Bothered Francis Chan