This past Sunday we had a man interrupt our worship service.  We were five minutes from finishing.  I was in the middle of my sermon’s concluding remarks when a man walked into the back of the sanctuary, and with a loud voice, asked one of our deacons if they could move a vehicle that was blocking the gate.  This man works for an organization that rents out some church property.

 Though this deacon responded appropriately, he was still very troubled.  How could someone be that disrespectful? Not only was he disrespectful to the people who have treated his organization with great tenderness and benevolence, but his disrespect toward God was palpable.

 As I thought about how to handle this situation, my thoughts went to several stories in the Bible of people disrespecting God.

 Uzzah and the Ark  2 Samuel 6:3-8

3  And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, 4  with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark. 5  And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 6  And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.  7  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. 8  And David was angry because the LORD had burst forth against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day.

 King Uzziah and leprosy 2 Chronicles 26:16-21

 16  But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.  17  But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, 18  and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”  19  Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.  20  And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him.  21  And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.

 Ananias and Sapphira  Acts 5:1-11

 1  But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2  and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  3  But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”  5  When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.  6  The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.  7  After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  8  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”  10  Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  11  And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

 And as I thought about these three stories, they had a couple of things in common.

 First, the guilty parties did not consider the holiness of God to be something to be concerned with.  Uzzah thought nothing of touching the very object where God’s presence would be manifest.  King Uzziah thought nothing of the sacredness of those who serve in the temple.  Ananias and Sapphira thought nothing of telling a little white lie to make themselves look good in front of the Church.

 God does not take lightly to people who show disrespect to the very places and people where He has chosen to put His name.   Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” 

 Second, they deserved exactly what they received, if not more!  Two of the three stories resulted in the death of the offender.  That King Uzziah lived was by mercy alone.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death . . .”  and Ezekiel 18:4 says, “the soul who sins shall die.”

 I don’t know where this man stands spiritually.  I have not had a conversation with him about God, the Church, or anything in the Bible.  But my concern in this blog is not so much for Him.  God will surely deal with Him as God has so determined to do.  My concern in this blog is for the people who call themselves Christians and yet do the very same thing.

 The third thing these people had in common is that they belonged to the visible people of God.  If God could levy such punishment upon those who were numbered as His people, is there any reason why God should not level such judgment against us when we disrespect God? 

 Ezekiel 36:21-23 says, But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.  22  “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.  23  And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

 But do not lose heart!  God is a God of holiness, justice and righteousness.  But He is also a God of compassion, mercy and grace. 

 Consider the case of Miriam.  The story is found in Numbers 12.  She is blatantly disrespectful of Moses and therefore of God as well.  Verse 2 is emphatic that her grumbling was actually against God.  “And the Lord heard it.”

 Miriam suffered some dreadful consequences for her disrespect.  She became leprous.  She was shamed before the people.  And she was excluded from the people for seven days.  Yet, how God dealt with Miriam was much different from how God dealt with Korah and the others who assembled in utter disrespect for Moses.  In Numbers 16 we have God destroying those who showed disrespect. 

 God had every right to bring this same punishment upon Miriam, but He didn’t.  Instead, God reconciled her to Himself.  2 Corinthians 5:17-18 explains this.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.   All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.”

 Thus, for those who call themselves Christians, we must be ever striving not to show disrespect to our Lord in word, thought, or deed.  For it is by God’s grace alone that we have been reconciled to Him.  And He has done this in spite of the fact that our sinful nature is programmed for disrespect.  This good news is found in 1 Corinthians 6.

 1 Corinthians 6:9 -11 says, “9  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.   11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

 So what should our attitude be towards those outside the family who show contempt and disrespect for God?  We must continue to hold up God for who He is, and we must continue to hold out the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The graciousness of God goes beyond just the visible people of God.  There is hope for those outside the visible family for God to be merciful to them, too.  One of the best examples is King Nebuchadnezzar.

 Even though he witnessed the power and glory of God when Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams were interpreted, when Daniel was preserved in the Lion’s den, and when the three men were thrown into the fiery furnace, King Nebu grew proud and arrogant.  And his life became one of utter disrespect for God.  So God sent the king another dream which resulted in King Nebu being reduced to insanity and living with the animals.  But at the end of seven years of this, God reconciled him.

 And king Nebuchadnezzar responded in humility and worship.   “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.”  (Daniel 4:34)

 The last recorded words of King Nebuchadnezzar are found a few verses later.  He says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37)

 Let us pray that God would be gracious and reconcile those who are outside the body just as He did King Nebuchadnezzar.

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