And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. I Samuel 6:19-7:2 ESV
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31 ESV
But as it is, [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26b ESV
We use electricity every day. Electricity gives us light and heat in our homes, keeps our food cold in the refrigerator, cooks our food on the stove or in the oven or microwave, gives us power for music and TVs and computers, and many other things. Electricity is almost always safe and reliable. But it is also very powerful. Electricity can kill a person if it is used in the wrong way. For example, if you put your finger or something metal into a socket you can get a very bad electrical shock. Electricity always tries to find its way to the ground, and since the human body is about 70% water, it conducts electricity very well. An electrical shock like this can cause serious injuries and even kill someone.
God’s holiness is a little bit like that. God is loving and merciful and cares for his people, but he is also holy and righteous. Sinners can’t safely approach God on their own. It’s like sticking your finger into a socket. When some people were curious and disrespectful and looked at the ark of God in a way they shouldn’t have–perhaps they opened it up and peeked inside–God put them to death. He needed to teach his people that they were to treat him with respect and never forget his holiness and power. The people were afraid after this happened, and for 20 years they were sad and wished they could be close to God again.
We are also sinners and have no right to approach God on our own. We deserve his anger and punishment as much as the people of Israel long ago did. But God has had mercy on us, and sent Jesus to take our punishment on ourselves. Jesus gave himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Because of Jesus, we can come close to God, and we don’t have to be afraid. In Jesus, we have God’s love and forgiveness now and forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior so we could be your people. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.