Can you be too close to God? To our modern ears, this might seem like a blasphemous question. One of my goals in ministry is for women to know God more and draw closer to Him. We are exhorted in Scripture to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. Certainly an intimacy with God is a critical element of the Christian walk. It has been a precious thing to me.
And yet, can we become too close? I am talking about something that extends beyond the glorious knowledge that God is always near, beyond the peace that comes from Immanuel–God with us. What I am talking about is a familiarity with our holy God that causes us to be so close that it kills us.
In 2 Samuel 6 there is a story that causes many of us great distress. A man, Uzzah, was chosen for a very important job: leading the cart that the ark of the covenant was placed upon.
He [King David] and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. (verse 2)
This ark was symbolic of God’s presence, and even though it was symbolic it had very real power. About 400 years earlier, when the Israelites, led by Joshua, crossed into the Promised Land, the ark was placed in the Jordan River and allowed the people to cross safely upon dry land where the overflowing waters were restrained. God’s mighty power caused the waters to “stand up in a heap” so His people could safely take hold of the promise He had given them so many years before.
Back to Uzzah. This ark, this symbol that held very real power, was now his and Ahio’s responsibility to carry to Jerusalem. There was much celebrating going on while suddenly the leading oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to the ark to steady it.
The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:7)
And if you didn’t know this story before, maybe now you see why it causes so many people great distress. Uzzah got too close. Maybe we read this and cry, “Unfair!” but we need to remember some important truths about God and His presence. When the people crossed the Jordan River with Joshua all those years before, they were given specific instructions. They were to consecrate themselves–set themselves aside for something holy–and they were to maintain at least 2,000 cubits (about a half mile) distance from the ark. This was a very big deal and the Israelites were not to take it lightly!
There are so many things for us to consider here. Do we fear God properly? Do we rightly consider the magnificent grace of Jesus so we can approach the throne of God with bold confidence? How can we draw closer to God and yet also keep a proper distance?
Before considering these questions, perhaps first we, like the Israelites, must consecrate ourselves. In doing this, our hearts will reveal our motives and desires. When I study the Bible or serve, is this about me? Am I looking for self-glory? If so, I am being a glory-robber and I better back away. Is giving God the first of my day or my money drudgery? If the answer is yes, then I may be denying His power while holding on to an appearance of godliness. Is Jesus my “homeboy”; do I sing about Him like He’s my boyfriend? If this is true, maybe I don’t know His character.
How can we ‘go through the motions’ when we are standing on holy ground in the presence of a glorious King?!
When I wake up each morning, I get the opportunity to witness the power of God and to be in His holy presence. This is not commonplace. Do I eagerly set myself aside for this undeserved gift…or do I roll over and catch a few more zzzzzz’s? Growing ‘too close’ to God, holding a light view of His holiness and power, will result in sin…and sin that is full-grown will result in death (James 1:15).
Consecrate yourselves! The holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty has condescended to your level. Don’t take that lightly. Keep your distance for His power will consume you. Draw near for Jesus has made this possible. What a challenging tension.