The grace of God is a marvelous thing. To be under the grace of Christ is to be free to enter the presence of the Lord in safety, knowing that the perfection of the Son of God and the full work of his sacrifice is there to protect you and to bring you into God’s family. We must rejoice in that grace. We should feel free and confident if we are in Christ.
But, I fear that we so often talk about the freedoms of grace that some forget the significance of the holiness of God. We must not forget that what makes grace so amazing is not just the benefit of joy but also the terror of the judgment we deserve for offending the holiness of God.
I thought of this while reading through 1 Chronicles 13. This chapter tells the account of David and the men of Israel moving the ark of the covenant of God. The ark, if you remember, is a gold-covered box that represented the presence and holiness of the Lord. In the process, a man named Uzzah saw that the ark was in danger of falling off the cart it was sitting on, and he reached out to keep the ark from crashing to the ground.
1 Chronicles 13:9-10 9 And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.
That, my friends, is a frightening holiness. Uzzah had good intentions. Uzzah was trying to help. But, Uzzah came into contact with the holiness of God without proper protection. And when he did so, Uzzah’s life was forfeit.
Holiness is deadly. We cannot be in the presence of holiness while we are in our sin without our lives being destroyed. God is pure, and he cannot and will not allow his purity to be compromised by ignoring or accepting sin. He must punish sin properly, and that punishment is an infinite wrath which matches god’s infinite perfection. Even our good intentions leave us short of God’s perfection, guilty, and judged. This is why Uzzah died.
It is only if you grasp the significance of god’s holiness that you will grasp the significance of the grace of God in Christ. Jesus is our propitiation. That word means that Jesus is the sacrifice who can both cover our sins and reconcile us to God. The anger of God over our sins against him is fully satisfied in Christ’s offering and he can now look upon his children, those in Christ, with only favor that fits the perfect life that Christ lived.
So, holiness should terrify us. And holiness should make us unbelievably happy about the grace of God in Christ. Only in Christ can we enter the presence of God without being immediately destroyed as Uzzah was. Only in Christ can we live in the presence of God. Only in Christ can we survive for eternity in the joy of the Lord.