Tag Archives: God’s Holiness

Jeremiah 1-4; You Can’t Have It Both Ways

We know from history that the Babylonians took the nation of Israel into captivity. We know from the Bible God allowed that to happen because the Israelites sinned, and continued to sin even after God’s repeated warnings.

Don’t ever forget that God punishes sin. Every sin. Oh, maybe not the moment we commit the act. He might give us warnings, or a slap on the wrist first. He is patient. But just because you seem to have gotten away with it because God didn’t zap you the second you sinned, doesn’t mean He’s forgotten it. It doesn’t mean He’ll let it slide. Every sin comes with a death sentence.

As I was reading these chapters, I heard God’s agony over His disobedient children. I heard Him plead with them to come back to Him. I heard Him warn them about the awful consequences they were facing without Him. He reminded them about the times He had been faithful in the past when they called on Him. He begged them to call on Him again so He could rescue them yet again.

But it seems the people heard only half of what God was saying. They heard: “… I will frown on you no longer for I am merciful… I will not be angry forever… I will choose you… How gladly would I treat you like sons, and give you a desirable land…” (3:11-19)

God really did say all of that. Those promises came from His heart. But Israel was still in trouble, which lead to the unbelievable audacity Jeremiah had to call God a liar:

“… Ah, Sovereign Lord, how completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats.” (4:10)

Wow.

People still question God today, still blame Him when things don’t go our way. And the message of God’s love and provision is still being preached today.

Without the “If.”

God sums things up in 4:18:

“YOUR OWN CONDUCT AND ACTIONS have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” (emphasis mine)

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t expect God to bless you while you are holding on to sin. You can’t expect God to hear you until you first call on Him, repent of sin, bow before Him, and obey Him. You can’t claim His love and protection, and ignore His holiness.

God’s history with the nation of Israel shows us that He not only demands obedience at the exclusion of everything else, He deserves our obedience. It shows us how He delights in blessing our obedience, and how serious He is about our disobedience.

Do you want His blessing? Then obey Him. Period. You just can’t have it both ways.

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Joshua 6-7; Quit Crying

When you were a kid, did you ever hear the words, “Quit crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about?” I have to admit I heard it more than once from my dad, the father of five girls. ‘Nuff said.

I have a great nephew who I adore. When he was younger, and didn’t get his way, or was disappointed about something, his voice would go up about two octaves, he’d scrunch up his face, and he’d whine. One time, during one of these delightful episodes, I asked him if he ever got his way when he whined like that.

“No,” he whined. (good on you, parents) I smile.

You do know we have raised a generation of whiners, don’t you? You can’t watch the news without seeing some millennial whining about something. It’s embarrassing.

The Israelites had just watched Jericho crumble. God had given them such an amazing victory, they seem to have felt invincible. “Let’s get Ai,” they decided.

So Joshua sent some men into Ai to check out the lay of the land. They came back with a glowing report. “Piece of cake. Send a few soldiers and we’ll take that city with no problem.” Hoo-rah.

Well, Joshua did send only about 3,000 soldiers. And they were soundly defeated. Routed. Crushed. They went running for their lives like cockroaches when the lights turn on.

When Joshua heard they had lost the battle, he tore his clothes and fell face down on the ground before the ark. He stayed there all day like that. The elders followed suit.

Then Joshua prayed something like this: Why God? We should have never crossed the Jordan. The Canaanites think we’re a joke now. They’ll attack and defeat us. They’ll wipe us out. It’s not fair. (I can imagine his voice was a couple octaves higher, too)

I love how God answered that prayer, and I can almost hear my dad’s unsympathetic voice as God says, “Get up. Quit whining.”

God goes on: “Israel has sinned. Do you honestly expect me to give you victory when you treat me like that? You know better. A deal’s a deal, and you’ve broken your end of the bargain by your disobedience. Don’t come crying to me. This is on you.”

That’s rough. Where is compassion? Where is tolerance: Where is this love that everyone is talking about?

God’s compassion and love are never directed toward sin. God never looks at a sin and weakens because of a tear in our eye. He cannot and will not tolerate sin. His holiness demands that.

I think God would have us take Him very seriously concerning this sin thing. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. No grey areas there. Not only will God not tolerate sin, He cannot bless sin, either. The consequences for sin are serious. Deadly. I hope you read all of chapter 7 today. It’s not pretty.

It is futile to whine about God’s view of sin. You might think He’s unfair. In reality, He is absolutely fair. He hates your sin as much as He hates mine. And what is sin for you, is also sin for me. We don’t have to guess. He’s absolutely clear about that.

I can’t help but think of the movie, League Of Their Own. I’ve never watched the whole movie, but I’ve often seen the part where the frustrated coach of a girls’ baseball team tells a weepy player, “There’s no crying in baseball.” In life, as in baseball, there are rules. Three strikes and you’re out. Beat the ball to the base and you’re safe. Obey God and you are blessed. You can whine about the “unfairness.” But it doesn’t change the game.

Get over yourself, dear one. If you are holding on to a sin, and think God ought to bless you in spite of it, think again. If you want God’s blessing, repent, get rid of the sin, obey Him according to Scripture.

Quit crying. You just might find yourself with something to really cry about.

Joshua 3-5; 1,000 Yards Away

The Jews reached the Jordan River, but Canaan was on the other side. Plus, the river was at flood stage so that took wading across out of the mix. They could see the Promised Land. But there was a watery barrier between them and the blessing.

Then Joshua told them God’s plan: Have the Levites pick up the ark, and step into the Jordan. That in itself was an act of faith. And their obedience always speaks to me every time I read this Scripture. But something else jumped out at me today.

We know the Ark of The Covenant wasn’t just a fancy trunk containing valuable Jewish memorabilia. It was the place God sat on earth. It not only represented His Presence. It was His Presence. And no one could touch the ark and live.

The Levites took the ark into the river, the river stopped flowing, the Levites walked on dry ground and stood in the middle of the Jordan. The people were told to follow the ark, and they did.

Now here’s what I’ve been overlooking all these years: Joshua told the Israelites to stay 1,000 yards away from the ark. That’s ten football fields, over a half mile.

We’ve all seen the pictures in our Bibles, or on the walls of our Sunday School rooms. A wall of water looming over them on one side, dry ground on the other, priests standing there holding the ark, and Jews scurrying along to get to the other side. That’s not how it happened.

The ark stood there, all alone with only the Levites holding on to the poles. The wall of water was more than a half mile away, and the dry ground reached all the way to the sea.

The commentaries I read this morning pointed out some interesting thoughts about this. One, it tells us God stands alone. He doesn’t need our protection. Two, everyone could see it, and be assured by its presence. If they had crowded around it, only those closest to the ark would be able to see it. Standing back gave everyone the same opportunity to look and be encouraged. Three, no one would be in danger of accidentally bumping into it, which would have meant death to that person. And four, it demonstrates that a Holy God is untouchable.

So I sit here today and wonder what any of that has to do with us in 2017. The ark was meant to be followed. The Presence of the ark parted the waters when the Levites obeyed. But no one could get within a half mile of God. Is that the lesson today? Are we to take this to mean God is far off, working in our lives, but untouchable?

Yes.

God is so holy that no one ought to ever think about approaching Him closer than from 1,000 yards away. He is that holy.

But Jesus!

Makes me love Him all the more. When I take a look at God’s holiness as shown in Old Testament Scripture, I am humbled to know I have access to Him every moment of every day, up close and personal, because Jesus lets me wear His holiness! I deserve to be made to stand back from God. Way back from God.

But Jesus bids me, “Come.” Wow.

God has not changed. He is as holy as we see Him here in Joshua’s book.

But Jesus!

Holy God, I pray that we will never overlook the fact that You are Holy, Holy, Holy. I don’t think we really grasp that reality very well here in 2017. Thank You for sending Jesus to purchase holiness for me, so that I can come to You boldly, without fear of the death I deserve. It’s true that Jesus is the only access to the Father. I pray that everyone reading this blog post will receive Him and allow Him to be that bridge between us and You. You are holy. We are not. But because Jesus died on the cross, we don’t have stand 1,000 yards away from You. We can crawl up into Your lap, whisper in Your ear, and know You welcome us with open arms. I love You.

May 28 – I Love the Lord

Psalms 111-118

Sometimes I read a psalm and am surprised at how it reflects my own thoughts as though I had written it myself. These psalms I read today have me praising God.

Psalm 112 says we who fear the Lord are blessed. We who love to obey Him are blessed. To the world, that seems backwards. Fear God? What’s to fear in our heavenly Santa Claus who wags his tail like a puppy when we call him, and wants only to please us? Obey Him? Doesn’t God want me to be happy and strong and follow my heart? It’s my life. What’s right for me doesn’t have to be right for you. Right?

I am reminded that what the world has to offer in its definition of happiness is shallow and an imitation of that which God gives through His Son. This Holy God and Judge is to be feared. He demands perfect obedience.

Yet this Holy God wants to and will bless us with heavenly blessings when we obey Him, by accepting His Son as our Savior. It’s a blessing and joy the world can’t understand or manufacture.

I am blessed by God Himself. Let it be known that I love the Lord!

April 9 – Take a Peek and Die

I Samuel 4-8

Curiosity killed the cat.

The Philistines had sent the Ark of the Lord back to the children of Israel. What a surprise it must have been for the people of Beth-shemesh who were working in their fields to look up and see the Ark coming toward them on a cart, pulled by two young cows.

They rejoiced! The Ark was back after having been captured by the enemy.

For whatever reason, the men of Beth-shemesh took a peek inside the Ark. It was famous, and here it was right there in their own backyard.

Did they stand in line, like a crowd waiting for their turn on that death-defying roller coaster at an amusement park? Was there excitement as they stepped nearer and nearer to  the place where God was? Was it an adrenaline rush as they were about to do something they knew they probably shouldn’t, but just had to see inside?

Was there a bit of fear as they approached God in such a manner?

I don’t know what they were thinking. But I know what God thought about the matter. 50,070 men died because they had disrespected the Ark of the Lord, they had disobeyed God.

I can’t help but think of the contemporary approach to worship we see today. It’s casual. Bring a cup of coffee and enjoy the show. Let’s sing songs about how loving God is, and repeat the words over and over until we feel that worship experience everyone is talking about. Let’s watch the preacher perform his comedy act, complete with special effects, and go away feeling good about ourselves.

Sadly, too many churches provide an opportunity for people to get a glimpse of God. They get just close enough to God, hear just enough Bible, that they consider themselves children of God. But they don’t deal with their sin problem, they pride themselves in their tolerance, and they don’t humble themselves before a Holy God.

Is it possible to get just close enough to God to be fatal? Ask the people of Beth-shemesh.

April 3- Do What Seems Best

Judges 10-12

The children of Israel once again worshiped idols, the false gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and the Philistines. It seemed like the right thing to do. After all, their neighbors were doing it.

So God let them be enslaved by the Philistines. For eighteen years the Israelites were mistreated at the hands of their captors. Then, when they finally cried out to God for help, God told them to cry to the gods they had chosen. Maybe those wooden images would deliver them.

But then the Jews said something that hit home here in the 21st Century. “We have sinned. Do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.” (10:15)

The other day I told you what Kay Arthur had to say about God’s judgment on the US. God cannot NOT punish our disobedience. And it will come because God’s people have rejected Him in favor of wealth, health, tolerance, and acceptance of sin. God is going to judge this nation because too many pastors are not preaching the Truth according to Scripture. He’s going to judge this nation because the rest of us have accepted it.

We’ve been living according to what we think is best, what makes people comfortable and feel good about themselves. We go to church for a worship experience, and come away unchanged and unrepentant. How is that working out?

I would like to rally Christians to revival. To say to God what Israel did so long ago:

We have sinned, God. Do to this nation what you deem right and good. Deliver us as you seem best. Forgive us. And may Your children be found faithful through it all.

Feb 24 – His Holiness

Numbers 3-4

What does it mean when we say God is holy? I’m not sure we can grasp the whole of it, but Scripture does give us a glimpse at the truth of God’s holiness.

The Levites were appointed keepers of the tabernacle, the carrying of it, the assembly of it, the priestly duties inside it. Some parts of the temple were considered holy so that even the Levites could not touch them with their bare hands. Those things had to be covered first to prevent even an accidental touch, resulting in the death of the one whose skin touched a holy object.

And don’t even think about getting too close if you’re a layman. That was a death sentence, too.

God’s Presence had made the temple holy, including the ark, the veil, the table, dishes, pans, all the furnishings of the sanctuary. And all these things were untouchable by virtue of their holiness.

This picture from Numbers reminds me that God is not our equal. In light of His holiness we can only bow before Him. It’s such a blessing to know that Jesus has provided a way for us to approach our Holy God. He’s not the God to be worshiped from afar like He was in the Old Testament.

We are even invited, as children redeemed by Jesus’ blood, to come boldly into God’s throne room.We are privileged to have the Spirit of our Holy God living in us.

But let’s not mistake this Holy God for our buddy. Don’t reduce Him to one of the good old boys.

Grasp His holiness. He is no less holy than He was when the Levites were covering the spoons, knowing if they touched one they’d die.

Our Holy God, we can only fall to our knees in Your Presence. You are Holy. You are awesome, powerful, perfect. We are nothing in comparison. Forgive us if we gloss over the fact that You are holy, holy, holy. May we worship You today with the measure of understanding you’ve given us. You are holy. There is no one like you. You are eternal. You were, are, and are to come. We give you all our praise.