Holy Is the Lord

Sixty years ago people often dressed for church in their “Sunday best.” Men wore a jacket and tie or a suit. Women wore a dress and sometimes gloves and a hat. Today in most churches casual dress is the norm. Does this say anything about our view of what it means to come into the presence of God?

David learned a hard lesson about God’s holiness when he determined to move the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem. David’s initial attempt to move the ark ended in tragedy when Uzzah was struck down for touching it. The judgment may seem harsh, but those who transported the ark failed to obey the regulations outlined in Scripture (Ex. 25:12–15; Num. 4:5–15). Because the ark represented God’s presence, it had to be treated as a sacred object.

“The fate of Uzzah is a fearful warning against over-familiarity with God,” commentator Michael Wilcock says. “His attitude toward the thing should have been as reverent as his attitude toward the person.” Reverence for God is important—it is the focus of the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9). God can be our friend, but He is not a buddy.

Uzzah’s tragic death was intended to make an important point. God’s holiness is not to be trifled with. Similar to other instances of divine judgment, like the destruction of Achan’s household or the death of Ananias and Sapphira, it drove home a forceful truth to the whole community (see Joshua 7; Acts 5:1–11). God’s aim was not to drive His people away. This is evident from the subsequent blessing that came upon Obed-Edom the Gittite when the ark remained with him for the next three months. If Uzzah’s death was a warning, Obed-Edom’s blessing was an invitation.

Apply the Word

True holiness is not a matter of wearing a suit or a tie but of being “clothed” with righteousness. This is only possible if we clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ. Hebrews 10:19 tells us that we can come into God’s presence with confidence if we draw near “by the blood of Jesus.” Have you drawn near? You can do so now by faith.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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