God’s holiness is the reason why the Fall was so devastating. God’s holiness is the reason why Nadab and Abihu were consumed at the altar. God’s holiness is the reason why the earth opened up and swallowed the complainers. God’s holiness struck down Uzzah when he touched the ark.
When the ark returned to Israel after the Philistines had captured it in 1 Samuel the men of Beth-shemesh were elated to see to ark coming back. 1 Samuel 6:13, “Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it.” But do you know what happened? Just a few verses later: “And [God] struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow.”
The ark, in God’s amazing providence, returns to Israel on an oxcart. The people rejoice and offer sacrifices and praise to God. And as they’re sacrificing, and worshiping, and praising God, a man drops dead. Then another. And suddenly there’s something like an epidemic—and seventy men die. Why? Because they looked at the ark. A direct violation of Leviticus 16:13.
In the Bible, some of the most profound insight comes after a person, in some way, experiences God’s holiness. This clash between God and man causes the men of Beth-Shemesh to ask one of the most important questions a person can ask: “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (1 Sam 6:20)
That’s the human dilemma. Anyone who as ever really experienced God asks the same question. In fact, this is the question that all sinners ask before they grab hold of the grace of God in Christ. Until the dilemma haunts you with its stone-faced reality, you wont’ find any need for a Savior.
If God were not holy, we would have no hope because though he’s sovereign he wouldn’t be good. But because God is holy, we are doomed, because when the unholy and the holy meet, someone has to die. And it’s not going to be God.
Or is it?