Day 124: Hazards of the Holy (A Spurgeon Snapshot)

“For the Lord our God burst out in anger against us because you Levites were not with us the first time, for we didn’t inquire of him about the proper procedures.””
‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭15‬:‭13‬ ‭CSB‬‬‬

On February 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, It was loaded with toxic chemicals that forced evacuations, created an environmental disaster, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, and led lawmakers to work for legislation to tighten up safety laws.

The site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 4.Credit…Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Bottom line: if you don’t follow proper procedures when transporting hazardous materials, there can be horrible consequences.

This is the lesson we learn from the story of Uzzah in 1 Chronicles 14-15. Transporting the ark of the covenant was not a matter to be taken lightly. The ark represented the manifest presence of God with His people Israel. God had given detailed instructions about how the ark was to be made, how it was to be moved (Exodus 25), who could move it, and what would happen if anyone touched it (Numbers 4). Failure to follow these commandments resulted in fire coming from heaven and destroying Uzzah (see Day 124: What’s Up With Uzzah?)

That which is holy is also hazardous. To be in God’s presence is no small thing.

Over a hundred years ago, Charles Spurgeon applied this text to how we approach God in worship. Even in his day, Spurgeon had seen worship services that were standing room only and full of enthusiasm, but lacked reverence and awe for the holiness of God. He wrote that when David first attempted to bring the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13),

…[T]here was no failure through lack of multitudes. It is of little value merely to gather crowds of people together. That alone does not guarantee God’s presence among us… There may be a great deal of outward expression yet no inward life. It may be only dead worship, after all, despite the noise that may be made. In this case there was too little thought as to God’s mind on the matter. This great undertaking of bringing up the ark of our Lord seems to have been entered with much heartiness and enthusiasm but not with any preparatory supplication or spiritual consideration. There is not even a mention of humiliation of heart or of solemn awe in the presence of God, whose symbol was the ark. We must take care how we worship God.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 526

Beloved, take care how you worship God when you come into his house this weekend. Yes, enter into His gates with thanksgiving in your heart. Yes, enter His courts with praise. Nevertheless, approach God’s holiness as you would approach the edge of Niagara Falls. Awed by its vastness. Captivated by its beauty. And respectful of its power.

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

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