The truth is, the Old Testament of the Holy Scriptures contains multiple stories about death that many readers find troubling. God allowed people to die and sometimes even caused their deaths. For example, one of the stories that always troubled me is found in 2 Samuel chapter 6. God struck Uzzah dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant while transporting it. The oxen pulling the cart stumbled and Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark. What might seem like no-big-deal to the readers, affronted God on multiple levels. The Ark of the Covenant served as a temporary dwelling place for God - a very HOLY God who gave strict, hands-off warnings. Numbers 4:15 says this: "And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the
furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall
come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry."
God made it clear not to touch (defile) His Holiness. God needed no one's help in protecting His dwelling place. Uzzah's faith and reverence for the Ark (aka Tent of Meeting) was lacking. Not only should he have been unwilling to touch it, he should have been horrified to do so. God did not need human assistance to keep His dwelling place safe. Uzzah knew better—and he knew that death would be the result of such a breach. As harsh as it may seem, he got exactly what he deserved—a consequence he was fully aware of. God's Holiness cannot be tampered with. Even though modern day Christians (and non-believers too) struggle to understand and/or agree with God's fiery passion for His Tent, the Israelites knew and understood.
Biblical accounts like this cause many to scratch their heads.... how could a loving God strike someone dead? The New Testament presents a Savior, Christ Jesus, who seems to be the polar opposite from the OT God. But nothing in the NT changes anything about the God of the OT. What changed was the solution to the problem of sin. In the OT, the way to fellowship with God was through the priests in the temple and unique encounters with His glory. In the NT, the way to fellowship with God is through the Spirit of Jesus. He is the mediator that allows us to live in the presence of a Holy God.
So, how do we see past the accounts of death and destruction in the OT to see the God of love? I hope and pray some fresh biblical insight will help you achieve a clear perspective—the way it has helped me. We shouldn't fear the truth of the Old Testament because at the core of that truth exists a patient, loving, merciful God who never gave up on His people and never has stopped making a way. He, from the beginning, always makes a way for forgiveness and redemption. Always.
The first episode of this loving God who always makes a way, despite our unworthiness, is right after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. It's so subtle that it's easy to miss. We know that Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the tree that they were prohibited from eating. As a result of their disobedience, God banished them from the garden forever, and their sin destroyed the shalom (peace) they previously enjoyed. They would now experience hardship and suffering—their new reality in work and in their relationships, and ultimately they would experience death instead of life in paradise (Gen 3). But more to this story reveals a loving God. Before He banished them from the garden, it says in 3:21 ... "And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." The significance of this suggests He didn't just "clothe them," he more specifically covered them. And God would continue to offer His covering to this very day. God did not have to cover Adam and Eve before ushering them out of Eden. He wasn't required to personally make garments for them. As upsetting as it must have been to observe His perfect creation deny the perfection He promised them—He showed them the love of a Good Father.
Another detail often overlooked involves God's sacrifice: For Adam and Eve to be covered, something died. Blood was shed. For God to make a covering of animal skins - He sacrificed an animal. We can see evidence through Scripture that God's sacrificial system for purifying and cleansing sinners of their obstruction of Shalom is always accessible. First by God Himself, then through the priests who oversaw the sin and guilt offerings throughout the history of Israel, and now through the High Priest - Jesus. (See Hebrews 4:14-16)
---> Hebrews 4: 14 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Just as He made a cover for Adam and Eve after they sinned against Him, God provided covering through a sacrificial system, and with the advent of Christ, He continues to provide blanket coverage for the sins of all who believe in Him. His love is evident through His grace extended to all who believe. The grace of God lines every page of the Old Testament, so clearly in the stories of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Esther, Ruth...and on and on. Rather than overwhelming ourselves with confusion or disagreement over the battles and deaths in the Old Testament, may we be overwhelmed by every provision God made, by His affections for the lowly, His favor for the destitute, and His patience for the wretched. God doesn't require us to like His choices, but He does desire our faith in His choices.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.“For as heaven is higher than earth,so my ways are higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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