Dr. R.C. Sproul closed out the conference speaking on the theme A Consuming Fire: Holiness, Wrath and Justice.
Very few believe in the holiness of God. And if they do, few add the concept of justice to holiness. And fewer have a concept of the wrath of God. It is far more common to believe that the love of God trumps the justice and the wrath of God. We generally assume grace. We no longer think grace is amazing. We no longer think God is holy, or a God of justice, or a God who expresses wrath.
I CHRONICLES 13 – THE DEATH OF UZZAH
Dr. Sproul took us to I Chronicles 13:1-12. He noted that when he was in seminary he was taught that passages such as this, where God suddenly kills a person, demonstrate that the God of the Old Testament is incompatible with the New Testament emphasis on the love of God in the teaching of Jesus. But let’s at least look at the story.
Uzzah is driving the cart which is carrying the ark of God, and when the car tips he instictively reached out to keep the arc from falling. Now some say, “Actually, Uzzah just had a heart attack.” Others say, “This just represents the dark side of Yahweh.” But we can get some help from Numbers 4. We see that the Kohathities had an elaborate process of carrying the holy vessels using poles. The details were so that humans could never actually touch them (verse 15). Given that Uzzah had this reponsibility of driving the cart, we can infer that he was probably a Kohathite. His sin, as Jonathan Edwards once preached, was the sin of arrogance.
LEVITICUS 10 – THE DEATH OF NADAB AND ABIHU
We don’t know what was in the strange fire. But it was not offerred according to God’s command. See Gospel Worship, by Jeremiah Burroughs, for a great exposition of this text. In light of our crisis of worship, this is a book that every Christianity today needs to read.
Note that with Uzzah, David got a bit upset. And here we see that Aaron gets upset. Moses is able to calm him down by reminding him of what the Lord had said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”
But the story goes on. God (through Moses) instructs that the bodies be removed from the camp. The two deceased priests had profaned God’s camp with their false worship. Furthermore, God forbade that public lamenting take place for them (“Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die.”)
SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD
The imagery employed in Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God. In that sermon, he employed numerous metaphors, all of which had Scriptural origin. One of them is that of a dam breaking. People are storing up wrath against the day of wrath. And another is of a spider’s web, holding sinners up by a single thread. And that single thread is held by the hand of God. We rightly remember the sermon’s topic as the wrath of God. But even moreso it is a sermon about the grace of God–holding people up from the pit, and preventing their immediate destruction.
Sadly, some believe in a “god” of love from whom there is nothing to fear. But this “god” is a figment of imagination. Edwards wisely reasoned with the people of his day: “Give me one good reason you are still alive today and not dead and in hell already.” Apart from the grace of Christ, we cannot.
THAT’S NOT FAIR
Dr. Sproul recounted the story of when he was first teaching at the college level. He had 250 freshmen and he explained that there would be 5 essays to write during the semester and they all needed to be on time barring extraordinary circumstances such as a death in the family. The first deadline came, and 25 weren’t done. They begged for mercy and received it, with the warning that it shouldn’t happen again. The next time, 50 were late. And the time after that, 100 were late. Eventually, when mercy was refused, they retorted “that’s not fair.” They had totally confused mercy and justice. The first time, they were amazed by grace. The second time, they assumed it. By the third time, they demanded it as an entitlement, as an inaliable right.
Some in this room may be close to their own deaths, and to the terrors of hell thereafter. I beseech you to be covered with the righteousness of Christ and to escape for the righteous wrath of God. Receive the mercy and grace He offers to you today in Jesus Christ.