Francis Chan: When God’s Punishment Seems Too Severe for the Crime

Excerpted from Letters to the Church by Francis Chan

I was bothered the first time I read about God killing Uzzah just because he tried to keep the ark of the covenant from falling. Uzzah touched the ark because the cart it was riding on hit a pothole (2 Sam. 6). It seemed like a trivial mistake with good intentions. Sure, God had forbidden anyone from touching the ark, but what was Uzzah supposed to do? Let the holy ark of God fall to the ground?

Isn’t it a little puzzling that King Saul’s sacrifice cost him the kingdom (1 Sam. 13)? After all, he waited seven days for Samuel the priest to come and make the offering, but he didn’t show up when he said he would. To me, it seems noble that Saul offered the sacrifice because he didn’t want to go to war without first acknowledging God. Now the kingdom would be torn from him?

Or what about Moses, who didn’t get to see the Promised Land because he struck the rock rather than speaking to it (Num. 20)? After everything Moses went through, was it such a big crime to be frustrated with the people and strike the rock in anger?

Then there are Ananias and Sapphira. They were both struck dead because they lied about how much money they donated to the church (Acts 5). And this is in the New Testament! Really, who hasn’t exaggerated?

To top it off, Paul told the Corinthians that many of them were sick and some had even died because they celebrated Communion in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:30). If Paul wasn’t exaggerating, could we be one sip away from death?

To us, many situations in Scripture involve a punishment that was too severe for the crime. But why do we feel this way?

We don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” We live in a human-centered world among people who see themselves as the highest authority. We are quick to say things like “That isn’t fair!” because we believe we deserve certain rights as humans. Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God. Even in the Church we can act as though God’s actions should revolve around us. The stories in Scripture are meant to show us that there exists something of greater value than our existence and rights. There are things that belong to God. Sacred things. His ark of the covenant, His command to Moses, His offerings in the temple, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Communion, His sacred Church. In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters.

RUSHING INTO THE SACRED

We live in a world where people carelessly rush into things. If we don’t rush, we will be passed up and miss out. So we frantically follow the pattern of the world and ignore the fact that God calls us to act differently. Productivity is no sin, but when it comes to the sacred, God commands us to proceed with caution. Others may treat these things as common, but we cannot. While others quickly judge God’s actions and question His commands, we are to be careful even to speak His name. We don’t carelessly question His actions or inaction. Instead, we pray, “Hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). While others rush into prayer with opinions and demands, we cautiously approach His throne in reverence. Like the high priest entering the Holy of Holies, we are to treat prayer as sacred.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.”

Ecclesiastes 5:1–3

SACRED MYSTERY

There is no greater honor on earth than to be part of God’s Church.

When was the last time you were awestruck by the fact that you are part of Christ’s body? Have you ever marveled at this privilege?

“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

Ephesians 5:29–30

Every believer needs to stare at those verses long enough to be stunned. I mean really stunned. Paul referred to it as a profound mystery. If achievement is your idol, you won’t make time for mystery. You will rush to the next sentence so you can finish this book rather than meditate on the miracle that you are a human being who is currently joined to a God “who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16).

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Source: Christian Post