Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Familiarity with God can result is treating Him with casual disregard leading to judgement.

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” [EXODUS 24:9-11].[1]

“Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.

“And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, ‘Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.’ So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, ‘Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.’ And they did according to the word of Moses.

“And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses’” [LEVITICUS 10:1-11].

He was unquestionably a gifted pastor who had built a great church in an unlikely location. People looked up to John, admiring him for his commitment to the Word, the sound expositions and the passion witnessed in his powerful messages. He was loved not only by his congregation, but greatly respected by multiple congregations throughout the area. It was evident that God had richly blessed John—he spent time in the presence of the Master reading the Word and spending time in prayer for the needs of the people.

The changes were at first almost imperceptible. Perhaps the content of his messages seemed less honest; he avoided addressing some flagrant sins, even excusing some dreadful sins, though when you spoke with him privately he was adamant that he still was calling for purity. Nevertheless, John clearly was willing to make exceptions for some gross sinful behaviour. Some suggested that he spoke more on subjects that made no one uncomfortable; but more than anything, his preaching no longer seemed authentic. His sermons were perfunctory, having ceased to be messages while retaining all the hallmarks associated with homiletic precision.

Then came the day when John was removed from serving God and serving the church. He had violated the sacred covenant with his wife and destroying the marriage of another couple in the congregation. The rejection of righteousness, his infidelity, became quite public when he was caught in flagrante delicto by a group of his deacons accompanied by his wife.

The descent from lofty heights hadn’t been precipitous, rather it was gradual. John didn’t wake up one morning and decide to defy God. As is true of many servants of God, it seemed that a little bit of sin couldn’t hurt. Playing fast-and-loose with purity and with pleasing God began innocently enough. The grave danger was that sin ceased being seen as “utterly sinful.” [2] Consequently, a greatly blessed and powerfully used servant who had walked with God was destroyed when he presumed against God. It is a story as old as mankind. Those who enjoy great privilege are susceptible to great sin. Jesus warned, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” [LUKE 12:48b].

Tragedy and triumph go hand-in-hand throughout the Bible. Those who know God most intimately are precisely the ones most capable of sinning greatly against Him. Can any greater honour be accorded mortal man than that one should see the Living God? Surely any individual afforded such glorious opportunity would never again knowingly disobey God or do anything that would dishonour Him. From among the people of Israel, Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel “saw the God of Israel” [see EXODUS 24:9-11]. Think of that—these men all “saw the God of Israel!” They saw the Living God!

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