The gospel of grace is beautiful because it sets us free from needing to earn our place in God’s presence.
1 Samuel 6:19-7:2a
19 But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them. 20 And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?”
21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” 7 1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.
The gods of the Philistines are temperamental and petty deities. They’re prone to unpredictable outbursts of rage, which means the people live in constant fear that the gods will suddenly turn against them. It takes careful practices and religious rituals to appease the gods, and to keep them from unleashing their wrath.
When the Philistines captured the ark, they believed they’d captured God. They had God in a box! Like a fish caught in a net or a tiger in a cage. They thought they could tame God. But God can’t be tamed. He can’t be contained. And God is not pleased with human devised “religion” to try and earn his favour. The Philistines ask a good question, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? (1 Sam. 6:20).
Our best human efforts will not give us security in his presence. Our good deeds and our religious practices count for nothing towards making us right with God. But sometimes we think about God just like the Philistines did, “If I do THIS for God…then surely God will do THAT for me!”…In other words, “I give you my religion, and you give me your blessing”.
I’m thankful our God is not like the gods the Philistines imagined. God does want us to dwell with him in his presence. And he wants to give us his blessing. But it is not earned. Not by us anyway. God himself bore the cost so that we could receive his blessing. He gave up his only Son, and now through him we can approach God with freedom and confidence. We can come into his presence anytime. We don’t have to tip-toe around the edges. God’s grace frees us from fear and gives us confidence – there’s no rules to keep, there’s no fees to pay.
“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.” Hebrews 4:16
Head: What stops you from approaching God’s throne of grace from that place of confidence that we have, only through Jesus?
Heart: How do you feel knowing that Jesus’ precious blood, of infinite worth and value, covers us even when we’re feeling weak, frail, and unworthy?
Hands: Do you sometimes live from a place of fear? How might you live today from that secure place that we have in Jesus?
Thank you for your grace that covers my sin and shame. Thank you that I’m set free from needing to earn your favour, or to earn my place with you. You have raised me up with Christ to the highest place – there’s no higher I can go. So help me today to draw strength from you, so that the security that I have in Jesus might bear witness to others who desperately need to hear your gospel of grace.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
A song to listen to: Only a Holy God
Josiah Wilson – Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Springfield