When we get it right and walk in the joy of the Lord with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ it will always be in submission to Him and all those around us. Pride is banished. Meekness rules. This is what we do when we abide in Christ (John 15). We can only serve the Lord on these terms. Outside of these terms, we are on our own and that is an ugly, inconsistent, casual place to be. It is devoid of the joy of the Lord and we will find that our worship here is all emotion with no substance. On the other hand, when we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling we will have the joy of the Lord no matter what our circumstances. We will have success at the altar and, therefore, success in the field as did Able.
19 Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve Yahweh, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20 If you forsake Yahweh and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” Joshua 24:19-20 (LSB)
One of the products of the growing apostasy of the Church in our time that is especially tragic is the loss of the understanding of God’s Holiness. Several years ago I wrote a post about our great need to walk in fear of God. Some of the comments I received on that post were heart breaking. Some insisted that Jesus was their buddy or their homeboy or their ‘bro’ and he loved them so much that it really did not matter how they lived. My brethren God has not changed. He is immutable and perfect. He neither changes nor has any need to do so.
The lie that has inundated and corrupted the Church causing this casual and carnal approach to being a professing Christian goes something like this, “God is love and by His grace we do not have to worry about offending His Holiness now that we are on this side of the Cross…” The concept is that God’s Love, mercy (not receiving the judgment you deserve), and grace (receiving good things you do not deserve) trump God’s Holiness, Righteousness, and, Justice. Since Christians are saved by grace then there is no need to be concerned about that… This is a lie my brethren. If it was true then why have all of the exhortations and commands all through the New Testament for Christians to live holy and pure lives?
When Joshua told the Israelites (above), “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.” he was not being peevish nor was he stating something that is only Old Testament for God has not changed. His point is that serving a holy and jealous God cannot be done casually or without divine assistance. What does it mean that God will not forgive the transgressions or the sins of those who fail to serve the LORD as He has commanded? This isn’t talking about an exception to God’s mercy, but is talking about the reality of apostasy. When apostasy reigns in the midst of those who are called by God’s name then the reality is that those in unbelief and rebellion within have crossed a line of no return. This is true because no one can walk in repentance and faith outside of the grace of God and when He withholds His grace then all that those who have forsaken Him have to look forward to is God turning to do them harm and to consume them.
19 Then He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of Yahweh. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because Yahweh had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20 And the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of Yahweh; come down and take it up to you.” 1 Samuel 6:19-21 (LSB)
The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant in battle. Plagues came upon them until they realized that they were dealing with the Holy God of the Israelites. They sent the Ark back to the Israelites on a cart pulled by two cows. When the men of Beth-shemesh discovered it, they rejoiced until some of them opened it to look inside.