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How can a Loving God do that?

2 Kings 2:23-24
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“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and harassed him, chanting, ‘Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!’ [24] He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the youths.” (HCSB)

2 Samuel 6:1-7 says, “Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. [2] And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim. [3] They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. [4] So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. [5] Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. [6] But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. [7] And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.” (NASB95)

These two passages of scripture provoke the question, “How can a loving God do that?”  We know that God is love, the scripture clearly teaches that truth in 1 John 4:16.  It says, “God is love,” (NASB95) In the first passage we have a prophet cursing 42 youths in the name of the Lord, resulting in their mauling by two bears and in the other, God strikes Uzzah dead just because he reached out to steady the ark when it appeared that it would fall.  Neither of these scripture passages exemplify the teaching of 1 John 4:16, do they?

Certainly, the Bible teaches that God is love, but it doesn’t say that He is only love and nothing else.  In our pop theology, we tend to over emphasize this one attribute while downplaying all the others. Today we begin a series of sermons that will help us better understand the nature and character of God.  We will look at some tough issues together.  It is not my intention to only explore soft themes; we’ll dig deep into the scriptures to learn more about God’s glory and grandeur.  In the weeks ahead we’ll discuss God’s goodness, faithfulness, immutability, love and power.  Today we focus on His holiness.

1 Samuel 2:2 says, “There is no one holy like the Lord. There is no one besides You! And there is no rock like our God.” (HCSB) 

Psalms 99:5 says, “Exalt the Lord our God; bow in worship at His footstool. He is holy.” (HCSB) 

Revelation 4:8 says, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.” (HCSB) 

Revelation 15:4 says, “Lord, who will not fear and glorify Your name? Because You alone are holy, because all the nations will come and worship before You, because Your righteous acts have been revealed.” (HCSB)

Isaiah 6:1-3 says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. [2] Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. [3] And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.” (HCSB) 

Yes, God is love, but He is also holy! Before we discuss the ramifications of God’s holiness and how they impact on our question, “How can a loving God do that?”  I want us to consider the majesty of His holiness.

Exodus 3:1-5 says, “Meanwhile Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. [2] Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. [3] So Moses thought: I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up? [4] When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ ‘Here I am,’ he answered. [5] ‘Do not come closer,’ He said. ‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’” (HCSB)

Because he stood in the presence of the Lord, even the ground Moses stood on was holy.  To show respect, God instructed Moses to take off his sandals, because he was on holy ground.

Later, Moses would ask to see the glory of God. God passed by Moses, but covered him with His hand, because Moses could not live if he saw God in all of His glory.  Exodus 33:18-23 says, “Then Moses said, ‘Please, let me see Your glory.’ [19] He said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ [20] But He answered, ‘You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.’ [21] The Lord said, ‘Here is a place near Me. You are to stand on the rock, [22] and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. [23] Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.’” (HCSB)

Have you ever seen something so majestic that you couldn’t find words to describe it?  Located about 4 miles west of New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns is Lechuguilla Cave, a national treasure.  Explorers who have descended deep into its interior describe a wonderland whose beauty is beyond almost anything they have ever seen.

Detroit Free Press writer Kelley Lewis quotes a geologist as saying, "Everything is alien...I've been in caves that are so beautiful that you just have to leave.  You just can't take it." Apparently that's how the explorers felt about Lechguilla Cave.

Their experience gives us a clue to the problem we have in describing a holy God.  He is so arrayed in splendor, so pure in His goodness, and so beautiful in His character that our sin- darkened eyes cannot bear to look on Him.  We cannot endure His glory.

Because God is a holy God, he could not allow 42 youths to mock his prophet or a moving man to defy His command not to touch the Ark of the Covenant.  His holiness can never be compromised. It cannot be compromised by His grace or goodness.  Something we’ll explore further next week.  Because He is holy He must judge.  Isaiah 5:16 says, “But the Lord of Hosts is exalted by His justice, and the holy God is distinguished by righteousness.” (HCSB)  But don’t confuse His holiness with harshness.  Perhaps His response in our texts today is extreme, but a part of His holiness is a desire for us to experience His best. Isaiah 48:17 says, “This is what the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for [your] benefit, who leads you in the way you should go.” (HCSB)  And because He is holy, He must forgive our sins when we ask. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (KJV)

We respond to His holiness with worship, fear and pure lives. 

Psalms 99:5 says, “Exalt the Lord our God; bow in worship at His footstool. He is holy.” (HCSB)   Because He is holy, we worship Him.

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (HCSB)  Because He is holy, we fear Him.

Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the Lord your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy.” (HCSB)  Because He is holy, we live pure lives.

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