“And when they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.” (1 Chronicles 13:9-10)
To be sure, from the TEMPORAL perspective, it is a more serious thing to know God and yet not regard him as holy, for those who know God are judged by him in a more serious manner than those who do NOT know God, so that reproach may not fall on God’s name. In other words, people are looking at us, and God takes that very seriously. Therefore, from the temporal perspective, God will judge his people when they sin to a greater extent than he will judge non-believers when they sin, because his name and his reputation “rests” with believers, not with those who do not believe.
One good example that comes to mind is when David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba. God said, “… because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:14) This is true discipline. David felt it. And all Israel was silenced. No one could then mock God, for they then knew (because of the child’s death, and that God was angry with David) that God took sin very seriously indeed. So then, when God disciplines the church, the world is silenced. It is the same thing. We should be glad when God comes down hard on us. We should be glad, because it will lead to the fear of God among the nations.
Other passages seem to abound. Take, for example, the sin of Achan, in Joshua 7. Here, Achan — again, a believer — sins against God and against Israel by disobeying God’s command. The result? “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.” (Joshua 7:25) This, in fact, was God’s command — not just the decision of the people.
Again, in Leviticus 10 we see the same type of thing. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” (Leviticus 10:1-2) Again, these were two men who knew the Lord — they were the sons of Aaron, the priest (Moses’s brother).
This type of “strict penalty” for sinning does not stop in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we are reminded of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, again, two believers, who did what they should not have done. As a result, they are severely disciplined. ” … why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.” (Acts 5:4-5) Later, the same thing happens to his wife (Sapphira).
What should (must, can) we learn from all of these things? Being a believer may provide us with eternal life, but it certainly does not spare us from the discipline of God while we are on this earth. Because we are believers, we are God’s representatives. It is imperative, as such, that we be holy at all times. For God himself is holy, and, as his representatives here on this earth to others who need to know what God is like (so they will be convicted of their sins and repent), we are obliged to be like him. Should we not want to do that, God will discipline us — for the sake of his own name, and for the sake of those whom we are called to be a living witness to — to the point of death, if necessary.
Does God take sin seriously? Yes he does. As Peter has written, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
May the Lord bless you as you consider these things today.