Posts Tagged ‘holy God’

Judges 3:7-11 (Part 1 of 2)
Othniel Becomes Israel’s Judge

Recently, over the last few days, I have been reading a book entitled, The Hole in our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung. The point of the book is that we, today, have veered away from wanting to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests, as Christians. We have begun to see it as acceptable to think about, ponder upon, and participate in actions that are clearly not holy. We have lowered the bar on our holiness. Compare our generation of Christians to the spiritual giants of the past. We live in a culture that is progressively less and less moral and it has affected us as Christians. In his book, DeYoung states,

“In the past Christians equated holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices such as drinking and dancing; our churches have many unregenerate persons in them who are necessarily uninterested in holiness; we emphasize a culture of cool that pushes the boundaries with language, entertainment, alcohol, fashion, and whatever else is deemed cool; labeling something as unholy or ungodly feels judgmental; we fear legalism and are frightened by words like diligence, effort and duty; we face the reality that pursuing holiness is hard work; and finally, many Christians have tried and just plain given up.”

We would rather blend in than be different. We would rather go with the tide and stand against it. We would rather accept that which is clearly against Scripture. Seeking holiness and separation from that which is immoral and against God’s Word is often too difficult. We are called Neanderthals of the past when we go against the tide of “I should be able to do what makes me feel good” sentiment of our day. We would rather condone gay marriage that fight against the backlash of culture. We would rather be silent on men dressed like as normal rather than neuroses that requires psychological assistance. We would rather let them go to the bathroom in the same bathroom as our precious “female by nature” wives and daughters. We would rather allow our daughters to dress in ways that attract the sensual thoughts of men and act all surprised and shocked that our daughters are sexually active and getting pregnant out of wedlock. We would rather accept that having babies without being married is now acceptable. Sex outside of marriage is normative now and those who do not participate in premarital sex are considered weird. Adultery is the single leading cause of divorce in America. We trade in our spouses like we trade cars. Why even get married? More and more Americans see marriage as unnecessary legal entanglements and why shouldn’t they? Half of Protestant denominations now openly accept and/or perform gay marriage and have no issue with gay clergy. We accept that religion should be a menu of options now rather than the Scriptural imperative that Jesus is the only way to the Father in heaven. We now see that we should be able to pick and choose what fits us best from Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and the host of other religions. We have made ourselves our own gods in the process. Holiness is for old fogeys. Holiness is a standard imposed upon us by the mythical religions of the past. We are too evolved now to seek to live by standards set by some external force that we cannot see.

And, as Christians, we are in this thing now and it is deep. The culture itself bombards us with our worship of ourselves and what we think is right. The culture bombards us with sex as recreation. The culture bombards us with self-styled, menu-driven religion of tolerance. The culture bombards us with the need to accept gay lifestyles as normative. The culture bombards us with greed as acceptable behavior. The culture bombards us with lying, cheating, stealing. The culture bombards us with adultery and fornication as acceptable. We have two choices. One is that we are to stand firm on the Word of God as written or become like the culture and throw away the Bible and just be another self-actualization “religion” where we in essence worship ourselves and the high ideals of self-love, self-actualization, and the continual attempt to be one with the goodness of the universe. To be holy is to seek to please God. To be unholy is to seek to please ourselves. To be holy is hard work. To be like the world around us is easy.

That idea of holiness vs. acceptance of the culture around us just to fit and attract people is as age old as God choosing the Israelites to be His holy people. As followers of Jesus Christ chosen by Him through grace by faith, we are called to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests, but yet attract people. Do we forget the commands toward holiness just to fit in. Look what is beginning to happen to Israel when they decide that it is easier to blend in than stand out. Let’s read Judges 3:7-11 now for the first of two reads:

7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim,[a] to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9 But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge[b] and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.

In this passage, we that the nation has succumbed to the attractiveness of the idol worship of the nations around Israel as well as of the remnants of the former nations that were left behind when Israel did completely drive them out of the Promised Land. They intermarried with them and accepted their pagan gods. By accepting these gods into their homes, they gradually began to accept the immoral practices associated with them. They gradually allowed these immoral activities to be considered normative. Before long they had strayed from God and were living just like the world around them. Similarly, today, the church has a choice to make and so its people. We can become so enamored with attracting people inside our fellowship that we begin accepting behaviors as normative that are clearly against Scripture just so we can fill the pews. Likewise, as individuals, we must be discerning about connecting with people where they are at, yet, not compromising on the essential beliefs of the Christian faith.

In the day of the Israelites, Baal was the most worshiped god of the Canaanites. Most often cast in the form of a bull, he symbolized virility and power and strength and growth. Asherah was Baal’s female consort and was viewed as the goddess of fertility and sensuality. In essence, they represented the worship of desire and of self. Not too much different from the world in which we live today.

How can we be holy without driving people away in today’s culture? How can we be holy and attract people to Jesus Christ? How can we do this? How can we get people to see their need in the midst of all this pleasure-seeking? How can we attract them and be holy at the same time?

That’s the struggle of God’s people through the ages and is certainly no less and probably more intense now. We must demonstrate to the world that we are different through our striving for holiness. We must demonstrate to them that their pursuits are going to leave them empty. We need to be different so that they will see us when all this anti-scriptural behavior (sin) that they have touted as new freedom ensnares and enslaves them. God wants us to be holy not because He is keeping us from fun but rather He knows that sin is destructive and soul deadening. It always comes up empty and wanting.

That is when they can see us as Christ followers and be drawn to us. How can they be drawn to us if we are no different than the culture? That’s when we can tell them about the forgiveness in Jesus Christ. That’s when we can tell them about His righteous covering. That’s when we lead them toward the truth of Scripture and its conviction through the Holy Spirit of our sins that we use to think were “culturally relevant”. It’s only by being different and separate and apart that we can attract those whom the Lord wills. Fitting in is not the answer. We’ve seen Israel’s example. Holiness is the answer.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 4:1-20

Duties of the Kohathite Clan

Have you ever noticed that some parents want to be their children’s friend rather than be a true parent to their children? Some parents are afraid that they will lose their “friendship” with their children if they take a hard line on disciplining their children. They are afraid that their children will hate them or cause their home to be a difficult one to live in if they discipline their children. They want to be buddies with the kid. As a result, such parents end up having unruly children and end up hating their parents anyway. As parents, we were not put on this earth to be, contrary to 21st century sensibilities, our children’s friend or buddies or pals. We were put on this earth to raise them up to be responsible adults. We were put on this earth to teach them the ways of the world so that they can survive in it and even flourish in it as adults. We were put on this earth to teach them right from wrong. We were put on this earth to teach them about actions and consequences. We were put on this earth to teach them about hard work and rewards and about the lack of rewards for laziness. We were put on this earth to, yes, love and protect and provide for them but never at the expense showing them the way to adulthood. Being buddies with your child never produces the intended results. Being the cool parents to your kids will often lead to children who grow up thinking that they are entitled to a certain kind of lifestyle without having to put forth any effort. It can lead to disastrous results. You can end up with a child in their twenties that lives in your basement and doesn’t see the need to “get a life” of their own among other unintended results of being buddies with your kids.

 

I know that with my father and mother, I knew that they loved me. They sacrificed greatly so that my brother and I could have what we needed to survive. Some of the best times that I had growing up was with my family. Some of my most unique and funny memories are things that I did with my mom and with my dad. One of my favorite memories was when I was about 10 years old and my dad and I were traveling back from Columbia to our home, at the time, in Anderson, SC. We stopped to get a soft drink after getting outside of Columbia and from that point forward until our soft drinks were gone, we had a burping contest. The contest was to see who could have the longest burp or who could say the most syllables of a word or words while burping. It was a priceless father-son moment. However, I respected my dad beyond belief. That was what made the fun moments most fun was because I knew who the boss was. Dad was not a tyrannical father but he was the authority in our house. I knew what the boundaries of behavior were and I knew there would be consequences for bad behavior. He never wavered in our consequences. If he said this is your punishment, that would be your punishment. There was no negotiating our way out of the consequences of bad behavior. I hated his consistency and his willingness to stay the course at the time, but looking back I am glad he did. I knew that my parents loved me. Without question, I knew this! They showed us love with hugs and kisses and hanging out together and playing sports with us. However, I knew my place as child and their place as parents. There was an understanding that I was not equal to them. The roles were properly defined. There was no blurring of the lines between being a parent to me and being a friend.

 

It was that proper relationship between a parent and a child that was the thought that came to mind when I read through today’s passage. It might seem odd to think of that in a passage about the duties and responsibilities of the Kohathite clan within the tribe of Levi at the tabernacle. As you know, the tribe of Levi was assigned responsibility for the Tabernacle and as we open Chapter 4 of Numbers, we see that God gave specific assignments to each clan within the Levite tribe for the care of the Tabernacle. After you read it, you may wonder how I came to this thought of proper relationships but I will, I promise, tie it together when we finish reading the passage:

 

4 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

 

4 “This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law. 6 Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather,[a] spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.

 

7 “Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. 8 They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

9 “They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, and all its jars for the olive oil used to supply it. 10 Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of the durable leather and put it on a carrying frame.

 

11 “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

12 “They are to take all the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with the durable leather and put them on a carrying frame.

 

13 “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles in place.

 

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.

 

16 “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.”

 

17 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not destroyed from among the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”

 

The Kohathites along with the other two clans to be mentioned in this chapter were family clans within the Levite tribe who assigned special tasks for the maintenance and care of the Tabernacle and in Israel’s worship of God within it. They were expected to carry out their duties in exacting detail as described here. Failure to do so would result in death. This contrasted greatly with the culture from which they were enslaved, the Egyptian culture. There, worshipers of the Egyptian gods could purchase amulets and potions related to their gods. The idols of their gods could be touched and handled and thus reduced to common everyday elements. This is because their gods were not real. Man makes up his own rules when he creates gods of his own making. However, our God is a holy God. He is separate and distinct from His Creation. Therefore, Israel was being taught proper respect for being in the presence of a perfect and holy God. Since He was and is far greater and far better and more awesome than anything in His creation, He is teaching the Israelites how to take great care so as not to be consumed and die in His presence because we are imperfect and He is perfect and He must make sure that we take care when we have the opportunity on this side of heaven to come into His presence. Since He is the Almighty God who is perfection itself, we would be consumed, burned up, would die in His presence because of being imperfect. I don’t quite think that we grasp that, but it is really a thing. Imperfection cannot exist in the presence of perfection without being burnt up. Think of iron ore being smelted. Imperfections are consumed and burned up in the smelting process. It’s kind of like that.

 

Too often in our 21st century sensibilities, and this is where we tie this though of parent-child relationships into what we have read about the special care of the objects in the Tabernacle, we try to make God our friend. We even sometimes say we are co-pilots with him. In the 21st century, we like to think of ourselves as in control of our world and of our own destiny. Therefore, we have elevated ourselves and demystified our God. We want to be buddies with Him. We want to be pals with Him. Even in my own Bible from which has footnotes to help explain the passages and in other biblical materials nowadays, we have made subtle changes to the relationship. Hardly ever (and I one of the few that still does) do you see pronouns referencing God capitalized anymore (instead of He, Him, Himself, and so on, we now use he, him, himself and so on). We want to be buddies with God. He is our pal. We even pray to Him like he is our buddy. We do not take time to properly prepare for prayer. We just talk to him as we are doing other things. We do not prostrate ourselves in prayer. We do not have alone time for prayer. I dare say that most of us do not have a quiet, special place where we go to have quiet prayer time with the Lord. We do not honor Him the way He should be honored. I am not saying that we should not talk to Him throughout the course of the day. We should! However, we do need those times where we approach Him in humble reverence. We need to treat God like He is God.

 

He is not our buddy. He is God of the Universe. He is the Creator of all Things. He is Almighty. He is Perfection. He is God of Strength. He is God of Infinite Wisdom. He is God of All Knowledge. He is Holy. He is Mighty. He is Perfect. He is Everything. We are, by contrast, like a grand of sand in His Presence. We have forgotten how holy God is. We have forgotten the reverence with which we should treat Him. He is All and we are nothing. He is not our buddy. He is our Father. He is a good, good Father. We should know, yes, that He loves us with unbounding love. He loves us so much that He gave us away to exist in His presence even with our imperfections through the perfection of Jesus Christ. So, yes, He loves us intimately and pursues us relentlessly. But He is God. Let us remember our place in this relationship. We are the sons and daughters of God. We are not His equal. He has no equal. He is God. We are His children. Let us always remember to approach Him with the reverence and awe that He deserves. He is not our buddy.

 

Amen and Amen.