Summary: God is Holy. Leads to our call to be excellent!
Our Holy God
February 28, 2016
We’ve been looking at excellence for about 7 weeks now, and for the past 2-3 weeks we’ve talked about Spiritual Gifts. Please, fill out those Spiritual Gift inventories. I’ve received a few back, and it’s great going through them and seeing what your gifts are, and how you can put them to use for the glory of God. There are more on the table in the lobby.
Today, we’re going to continue to look at excellence, but it’s going to be a different way to look at it. We’re going to look at excellence through the eyes of God, as we consider God’s call to be holy, because He is holy. The approach is going to be a little different than a normal sermon.
If this message was receiving a movie rating, it would probably be PG-13 to R. I'm not kidding. It’s because so many people die in this story . . . literally thousands and thousands, and it tells the story of so much human pain, grief and divine judgment.
So why am I preaching from this text? Why not find a place in the Bible that’s comforting and positive? Because we need this story. We need it because it challenges one of the great delusions of our culture regarding God. We need it because it helps us base our lives on reality, before it’s too late.
We need to read and understand stories like today's - - - because it’s harsh. Some may not like it, saying this is wrong! Some may say it’s stories like this, that they don’t believe in the Bible. We may think we have to apologize for our God.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. We never have to apologize for God. He always does what is right and perfect. We may not understand God’s ways, but we don’t need to apologize for God. God also never apologizes for His actions.
Our Scripture is about the holiness of God. And this holiness is expressed in and through judgement. The holiness of God is a positive and powerful feature of God's character. We praise and thank God for that character. But for people who dishonor and disobey God, who choose sin, the holiness of God means trouble. And that's what happens in this story.
Much of this story concerns the ark of God, which was one of the holiest objects in Israel's religion. The ark was a box about the size of a small file cabinet that was kept in the Holy of Holies, in the Temple. In the ark was stored the two tablets of the Ten Commandments.
On top of the box were the statues of two heavenly beings called cherubim, and God said that above these cherubim His holy presence remained in the midst of Israel. God gave careful directions and warnings to Moses about how they were to treat the ark, because to mistreat the ark was to sin against God's holiness. Whether intentional or accidentally, you’d die. And that’s serious. God warned that those who sinned against his holiness would die.
So, our story is about lots of people, including priests, who sinned against God's holiness, who treated God without reverence, and consequently they died. The ark was treated it like a good luck charm.
Eventually, an Israelite asked ~ "Who can stand before this holy God?"
And that’s the question for today . . . Who can stand before this holy God?
That’s a huge introduction. We’re going to look at portions of 3 chapters from the book of 1 Samuel. So, let’s start by looking at portions of 1 Samuel 4:1-11.
1 Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines.
2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about 4,000 men on the field of battle.
3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.”
4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.
6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp,