Reflections on “Holy Justice” (from RC Sproul’s “The Holiness of God”)

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holiness of god

I discovered R.C. Sproul fairly recently– last year I read Chosen by God as the first book I had read by him, and I felt like I was reading an American CS Lewis. This week, thanks to my friend Mark Knight trying to consolidate his library, I started reading Sproul’s The Holiness of God. And it is a fantastic book.

Chapter Six is called “Holy Justice,” and it deals with the harsh stories of God’s judgment against Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10); Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13-15), the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Canaanite nations that were driven out before the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. As Sproul says in the opening paragraph, these are not stories for the faint or faint of heart.

It’s admittedly hard to square our “God is love” understanding from the New Testament with the God who put Nadab and Abihu to death for experimenting with the rituals of sacrifice. It’s even harder to think about Uzzah, whose only offense (if you could even call it an offense) was trying to keep the ark from falling into the mud when the oxen stumbled who were pulling the oxcart it was sitting on. But Sproul makes some great observations which help us understand this story:

  1. The ark should never have been on an oxcart in the first place. God’s law was clear that it was to be carried on poles inserted through rings (see Ex. 25:10-16).
  2. Uzzah should never have been in a position to touch the ark in the first place. Only the Levites were authorized to approach the ark, and even then, not all of them could. Sproul suggests that Uzzah might have been a Koathite, which would have allowed him to carry the ark in the prescribed manner (see the above point). But even if he was (and I think this is a big if. I’m not sure how Sproul comes to this conclusion); the Koathites absolutely couldn’t touch the holy things, or they would die (Numbers 4:17-20). David apparently learned from the mistake, because 1 Chronicles 15 is very clear that Obed Edom, who has been housing the ark, is among the Levites who ultimately transport the ark to the City of David.
  3. It was presumptuous for Uzzah to assume his hands were holier than the ground. Uzzah did what any devout Jew would do–he reflexively reached out to steady the ark. But who are we to believe our hands, attached to our bodies, which rebel against God time and time again, are holier than the God-created ground, which never disobeys God? Sproul writes “Uzzah assumed his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that would have polluted the ark; it was the touch of man” (Holiness of God, p. 108).

As I was journaling on this today, it came together in a poem. I wrote the last stanza several years ago, but this expands on that one stanza. You can kind of sort of sing it to “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Enjoy.

UZZAH WASN’T, WAS HE?

Look at God’s ark, on an ox-cart.

That’s a bad start, ain’t it?

Where’s the long poles that the priests hold

So their hands won’t taint it?

Oxen stumble, Uzzah fumbled,

Put out his hand and grabbed it.

The deadly lesson–don’t go messin’

With holy things, like Nadab did.

Why should we who are sinful all through

Think our hands are cleaner

Than the mud that blooms and buds at

God’s word, and earth made greener?

Obed-Edom, how we need him

To handle the ark safely

He’s a Levite; he’s got the right.

But Uzzah wasn’t, was he?

 

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Revelation 7: The Seals, Part Two

It’s the end of the world as we know it. But we’ll be fine.

March 31, 2019, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL

James Jackson, Lead Pastor

Click here for manuscript: Revelation 7 Manuscript

61liz79yq4l._sx345_bo1204203200_There have been two super helpful resources I’ve been using for this teaching series. The first is Revelation: Four Views–A Parallel Commentary by Steve Gregg. What I love about this one is that it takes each passage of Revelation and presents the four classic interpretations (historicist, preterist, futurist, spiritual) in parallel columns). A word of warning, though: as I learned last week, trying to present all four interpretations in a teaching time is overwhelming. This week, I tried to just cover the two I thought were most relevant for our discussion.

496826The second is the volume on Revelation in the Christ Centered Exposition series. I can’t say enough good things about this commentary. It is thorough, well-written, inexpensive, and practical. If you are using The Gospel Project or a similar curriculum that shows how all Scripture points to Jesus, you won’t find a better resource.

Four Questions, Four Cups (A Communion Service)

How the Gospel is revealed in the Passover Seder

March 31, 2019, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL
James Jackson, Lead Pastor
Text: Luke 22:7-21

Click here for Manuscript: 4 Questions, 4 Cups Manuscript

Just to give you some context, I preached this after the platform of our sanctuary had already been converted into the set for our Easter production. It was the perfect opportunity to link the story of the Passover to the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples. I toyed with the idea of preaching the entire message from the “Upper Room” that was constructed as part of the set. But I was afraid the people on the front row would get cricks in their neck from looking up there the whole time!

 

In the sermon, I explained the elements that are on the Passover Seder Plate. Here is a great diagram that explains each one.

Seder-meal_0

I had found an interpretation of the egg that connected it to the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, instead of the new life after Egypt, so my explanation was a little different from this diagram.

(For what its worth, last week I ordered a Seder plate from an online Judaica store, but it didn’t arrive on time. Keep in mind, it took the Israelites forty years to get to the Promised Land, so I guess it was unrealistic to expect two day shipping).

christ in the passoverThere are many great resources for explaining the Seder from a Christian perspective. The most helpful to me as I was preparing this message was this pamphlet from Rose Publishing. You can click on the image if you’d like to order one from Christianbook.com.