Does Familiarity breed contempt?

Have you ever been so familiar with someone, that you crossed a line, and you didn’t even realize you had done it, until you saw the look on their face and knew, you had gone too far? 

Perhaps you’re not sure what I’m talking about, so I’ll give you an example in my own life. Many years ago, when I was just a young woman I became pregnant with my second child. Twenty six weeks into the pregnancy my son died and was stillborn. Understandably, I was angry and grief stricken. I remember a friend telling me that God was big enough to handle my anger and that I should talk to Him about it. I listened to her advice and I did. But then I crossed a line. In my familiarity, I told the Lord that He owed me. And I went on to tell Him how He could make it all up to me. I told Him my demands. I cringe even now as I tell this story, because I realize how incredibly impertinent I was back then. I demanded two things from the Lord, two very big things, that only He could provide. I demanded another child that same year, and I demanded that He move us to this country, America. Oh the mercy and graciousness of our loving Father. He answered my demands. In the Fall of that year, we moved to America and on New Year’s Eve, another son was born to us. In the midst of my childish insolence, He answered my prayers. He remembered my flesh, my frame, that I am but dust. It humbles me to remember this story because it shows me once again, what an incredibly kind and loving Father He is. But it also teaches me to never, ever treat Him with that much familiarity again. 

There is a story in the Bible that speaks to this issue as well. In 2 Samuel we read about King David who finally, after many years of running from King Saul, and fearing for his life, becomes King of Judah after Saul is killed in battle. David, who is so familiar with the Lord, that he is called a man after God’s own heart, surely knows the fear and reverence of God. Surely this man, who could slay giants, knew the Holiness of God. But in chapter 6 we are told a story that would say otherwise. In this chapter, we are shown that sometimes when we become so familiar with God that we feel we know and understand Him, we can cross a line. We can become too familiar. When you look at the definition of familiarity, you notice a pattern, a slippery slope if you will that goes downhill.  

Familiarity:

close acquaintance with or knowledge of something.

-the quality of being well known; recognizability based on long or close association.

-relaxed friendliness or intimacy between people.

-inappropriate and often offensive informality of behavior or language.

Do you see how familiarity can breed contempt? 

When I read this story in chapter 6, I realize that David was about the same age I was when I also found myself too familiar with the Lord. After David became King of Judah, he decided to bring the ark of the covenant back from the house of a man called Abinadab, and take it to the City of David. The story is as follows:  

So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6: 3-7)

When you first read the story, it might seem strange that God strikes down Uzzah, for what appears to be no reason at all. From all appearances, Uzzah’s intentions were good and genuine. So why did he lose his life? Apparently David had a similar question, because it tells us that  “David became angry because of the LORD’S outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day”. (2 Samuel 6:8) We are not told what went on in David’s mind that day, but the passage continues by telling us that David’s attitude changed the same day from anger, to fear. David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me? (2 Samuel 6:9) 

Obviously something made him realize that he had become so familiar with God, that he no longer feared him. I’m going to venture that perhaps David went back to the Scriptures that day and looked at protocol. Did God have any requirements about the Ark of the Covenant? Actually, He did and He told them to Moses in Leviticus 16: 2 The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the veil in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.  God then goes on to tell Moses the requirements: Aaron is to enter the most holy place in this way: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. (Leviticus 16:3)

The Bible does not tell us David’s thoughts, at least not in so many words, but it does tell us what David did differently the next time he brought the ark of the covenant to the City of David. After Uzzah died, David left the ark in the house of Obed-Edom and it stayed there for three months, all the while blessing that house. When David found out that God was blessing Obed-Edom he decided to bring the ark out with gladness. But this time he did things a little different. 

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. (2 Samuel 6:12-15)

There is still worship and dancing going on but this time, David sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep every 6 paces. Why? Because he recognized the holiness of God and the sinfulness of himself and those around him. He learned to fear the Lord. 

Proverbs tells us over and over again to fear the Lord. Solomon tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the beginning of wisdom, that it prolongs life and that to fear the Lord is to hate evil. (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 10:27, 8:13)

How do we learn to fear the Lord? By recognizing His holiness. I think sometimes we have the idea that Holy Spirit is a first and last name. You know, Holy is His first name and Spirit is His last. But that’s not what it means. God’s spirit is Holy! And we also are told to walk in holiness. The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12 verse 14 to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. Let me repeat that, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord”. He goes on to tell us in verses 28 and 29, “therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. 

So I would suggest that although we can now approach God’s throne with boldness, for again the writer of Hebrews tells us so in chapter 4:16: 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”, we must also approach His throne with godly fear. That means that we can approach His throne with confidence through the righteous blood of Jesus, but we must never take that blood for granted and approach Him casually. We live in a very casual society. It seems that nothing is sacred and everything is familiar. Even God. We must learn to once again approach Him with humility and fear. He is God, and we are not. How do I know this? Because the Bible makes it very, very plain. And don’t let anyone, not anyone, tell you different. 

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