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What Does It Mean to Fear God? (1 Chronicles 13:9–10)

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“And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”
-1 Chronicles 13:9–10

What a story of a man who’s walking with the ark in the middle of a people who had become casual with the presence of God, who had lost reverence for God and his presence among them. And as the oxen, who are carrying the ark, stumble, Uzzah reaches out and touches the ark, which God had expressly, specifically, explicitly said, “Do not ever do.” Uzzah does so, and he dies before God, just like that.

God, I pray that you’d forgive me for not always fearing you and revering you, and God, for the way I can be so casual with your commands, with sin and temptation.

This picture of a lack of reverence for God, awe of God, a casual approach to God and a casual approach to God’s commands, can I just pause there and encourage you to ask: Is there any sense in which you have grown casual with the presence of God? Obviously, yes, God is our father and we’re even called God’s friend in the Bible. So yes, there’s an intimacy there, but it’s an intimacy that should always be marked by reverence and awe and fear. That’s a word we see over and over and over again in the Bible, to fear God.

When you think about Isaiah in the presence of God, trembling, he’s so overwhelmed by the holiness of God, in whose presence he is standing, are you and I prone to grow casual with God and with the commands of God in such a way that we might disobey his command with a thought here or a word there or a desire or action? And then we think, “Ah, that wasn’t that big a deal,” when one sin against God is worthy of death, is worthy of eternal death. That’s what 1 Chronicles 13 is shouting here. All of the Bible is shouting the seriousness of sin.

God help us, we pray. We just pause right now and confess before you a tendency to be casual before you. God, I confess that in my own life, for sure. God, I pray that you’d forgive me for not always fearing you and revering you, and God, for the way I can be so casual with your commands, with sin and temptation. God, please, please, please give me a reverence for your word and hatred of sin. God, I pray for this in my life. We pray for this in each of our lives. God help us all to fear you. Help us to revere you, to stand in awe of you, even as we’re praying right now, not just to go through motions, God, but to realize who you are, who we’re speaking to, who is listening to us and who has given us your word to obey and the seriousness that goes with that.

Even as we think about Uzzah’s sin here, we know we deserve far worse. We’ve committed far more sins in our lives. Jesus, we praise you for paying the price for our sins. We glorify your name for taking the just punishment upon yourself that we deserve, for dying in our place. Jesus, we praise you for your grace that makes it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins, saved from death, to experience life in you. So God, please help us never to take that for granted. Help us never to be casual with that. Help us to live in the fear of you and the comfort of your grace at the same time, and to walk in obedience to you and your commands. God, we pray for that in each of our lives at every moment. Keep us from Uzzah-type moments, where we lapse into being casual with you and casual with your commands. God, help us to walk in obedience to you at every moment in light of your holy presence in us and with us at every moment. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.
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