Friday, September 28, 2012

Men Whom God Struck Dead

I would like to look at several events in the Bible that remind us of the authority of God in our Worship, our Walk and our Witness. In each of these cases we read of men whom God struck down because they did not submit to God's way of doing things. To us the judgments might seem a bit too severe for what might appear to be trivial or minor offenses. There have been many who did much worse and God did not strike them dead. Think of an Abraham who lied about Sara his wife and yet is called a friend of God. Think of Moses who murdered a man and later lost his temper and yet he is called a meek man. What about David who had committed adultery and tried to conceal it by deception and even murder, and yet he is called a man after God's own heart. I'm sure we can think of many more. But it is especially instructive that each instance that we are going to look at, it was at the beginning of a new era. In each illustration we'll see God had instituted something new and was warning the people of the seriousness of worshiping before Him, walking with Him, and witnessing for Him. Let's look at each case to see what He might be teaching us.

Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2)
The LORD had just instituted the priesthood. The offerings are set before us in the early chapters of Leviticus. Then the high priest with the priestly garments of glory and beauty is brought in. His sons are seen appropriately dressed placed at the alter and ministering the holy things of God. At the end of chapter 9 we see Aaron offering the prescribed offerings to the Lord and fire coming out the Lord's presence consuming the burnt offering. It caused all the people to fall on their faces in awe of the presence of God in that place! But in the very next verses we learn that Nadab and Abihu did not take their role as priest very serious. Outwardly it might have looked like they did, but they did not obeyed God's word. What should have been beautiful day of worshiping Jehovah ended up with the funeral of two of Aaron's sons. 

Everything these two men did was wrong. To begin with they were the wrong people to be handling the incense and presenting it to the Lord. This should have been done by Aaron the High Priest according to Exodus 30:7-10. They also used the wrong instruments when they used their own censers, instead of the high priests, which had been sanctified by the anointing oil (Exodus 40:9). They also acted at the wrong time, for it was only on the Day of Atonement that the High Priest was permitted to take the incense into the holy of holies and even then he had to do it a certain way (Leviticus 16:1). They acted under the wrong authority independent of Moses or Aaron, nor did they seek the Word of God. They used the wrong fire, which Scripture calls "strange fire" or "unauthorized fire." The high priest was to take coals from the brazen alter (Lev. 16:12) for the fire. The also acted from the wrong motives, not seeking the glory of the Lord, they had lost sight of the holiness of God (Lev. 10:3). It seems they might have also done it all in the wrong energy for verse 9-10 seem to imply that they were under the influence of alcohol. This would remind us of Ephesians 5:18 were we are told not to be drunk with wine, but controlled by the Holy Spirit. He is the energy in which all worship should be offered.

All this emphasizes to us that God had a prescribed the way He was to be worshiped. They went independent of it and were disobedient to His Word. The Lord is looking for obedience from each of us as well. Paul said that true believers are to worship God in the Spirit, "We are the circumcision that worship God by the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). There is no room in true worship for fleshly outside influences. We are to obediently follow His Word, being filled with the Spirit as He leads us in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and in our prayers (Eph. 5:18-19, Jude 20). As priests before God (1 Peter 2:5, Heb. 13:15) it is not enough for us teach people the difference between the holy and unholy, we must practice it in our own lives. If our privates lives are not controlled by the Holy Spirit then our worship will not be lead by the Holy Spirit either. Everything begins in private and depends on obedience to His Word.

Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-8)
Here at the very beginning of David's reign we read of this interesting story. As we read this story there is something that is missing from the whole narrative. There is no record that David sought the Lord's mind in moving the ark. It seemed like a good idea and the right thing to do, but it is always best to inquire of the Lord before we make a move. 

In our verses we read that the ark started to slip and Uzzah reached out to steady it when the oxen stumbled and he was struck dead. At first glance this seems a bit harsh. He was no doubt trying to a good thing, but he went about it the wrong way. He wasn't struck down only because he touched the ark, but because he didn't follow God's prescribed method for transporting the ark. In Numbers 4:9-20 we learn that it was to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites who descended from Kohath . Uzzah sin was really three-fold:

First, he was not of the Priestly tribe, but of the tribe of Judah (Num. 1:51, 4:15). Secondly, they arranged for the ark to be transported in a way that was typical of the pagan Philistines and not according to the pattern which the Lord commanded Moses and is re-emphasized in 1 Chronicles. 15:15. Lastly, he touched the ark, disobeying God's specific command. He was struck down for his error. Some have translated the word "error" as "irreverence." He not only disregarded God's command for transporting the ark, but he had no regard for the consequences of disobedience. We must reverence God in our work and walk. Uzzah did not take the testimony of the Lord serious and was struck down because of it.

We must take our testimony for Christ serious today. Our work and our walk must be in a way that is keeping with His Holiness. He is looking for yielded vessels in the smallest job such as in Acts 6:3 where they serve tables or even caring the testimony of Christ to the mission field as in Acts 13:1-4. In both cases there was a sense of the Lord's presence and of the power of God at work. This should also be seen in our local testimonies as well, as it was in Ephesus (Acts 20:28). The Holy Spirit was evident in the local assembly, in the behind the scene service (Acts 6), and on the mission field as in Acts 13. 

We must follow God's prescribed way for our worship and our daily work. Our service must be done with the awareness of His holiness or we will be crying like those of old, "Ichabod" which means the "glory of the Lord has departed."

Annaias and Sapphira (Acts 4:36-5:1-5)
The story Annaias and Sapphira is to Acts what the story of Achan is to the book of Joshua. Both incidents interrupted the victorious progress of the people of God. Keep in mind that this story took place at the beginning of the church. Annaias name means "Jehovah is gracious" but he learned that God is also holy and you can not separate His holiness from His grace! Sapphira's name means beautiful, but what she goes along with here is ugly to God!

Annaias and Sapphira were apparently impressed with the generosity of Barnabas and others. Perhaps they desired the praise of men for similar acts of kindness. They pretended to have surrender every thing to God, but kept some back for themselves. Their sin was that they pretended to be something they were not. What they were was hypocrites. In their hypocrisy they lied to God and to the people of God. They pretended to be totally dedicated and totally surrendered to God. Peter called this lying to the Holy Spirit. God is looking for reality in our worship, in our walk and in our witness. How often do we do this? How often do we pretend that everything is alright spiritually and it is not. They allowed themselves to be a vessel for Satan's work instead of their lives being witness for Christ glory. 

In each of these thee cases, these people were what we would call "Believers." But God will not allow us to continue on this way. Often we have no power because we are under the hand of God in discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11). Sometime His discipline can be so severe that He may have to remove us from this scene because our witness is not bringing Him glory and damaging His testimony (1 Cor. 11:30).

In most cases the discipline is not that severe, but maybe we suffer the lack of spiritual vitality because we rely on own strength. Maybe spiritually there is little signs of life because we rely on our own understanding instead of acknowledging Him in all our ways; in our worship, in our walk and in our witness. May the Lord cause each of us to say, "Search me Oh GOD."

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