Posts Tagged 'Ark of God'

GOD’S ANOINTED, Doing the right thing the wrong way!

2 SAMUEL 6:1—16

In this chapter, we learn a very valuable lesson. In the Kingdom of God, there is only one way to approach God:  God’s way.  Our motives may be pure and we may be the kindliest of saints, but if we dare approach God any way other than His prescribed way, if we presume to do God’s work in any manner other than God’s manner as taught in the Bible, we might as well be playing a game of Solitaire for all the good it will do.  In fact, as we will see, one man paid the supreme price for his ignorance of God’s will; his life was forfeit.  Doing the right thing in the wrong way is no way to serve God.

1.  A noble mission, 1 Chronicles 13:1—4

David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.  He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the LORD our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our people throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us.  Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.”  The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.

David, the warrior-king, wanted Jerusalem to be, not only the military and political capital of the nation of Israel, but the religious center as well.  In order for that to happen, the centerpiece of Judaism, the Ark of the Covenant, needed to be brought to Jerusalem.  The Ark, as you will recall, was the visible symbol of the presence of the invisible God, and a type of the Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh.  Because Israel used it in a wholly inappropriate manner, dragging it into battle in hopes that it’s presence would bring victory, God allowed the Ark to be captured by the Philistines, a story recounted in 1 Samuel 4.

Arrogance, presumption and sin will always separate you from God, as Israel learned the hard way that day.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.  (Isaiah 59:2)

Once the Ark was gone from Israel, so was God’s presence.  David was determined to get it back, and he made a plan that paid lip service to God.  Notice what 1 Chronicles 13:2 says—

He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the LORD our God

I say David’s plan paid “lip service to God” because, as we shall see, the plan had very little to do with God.  He was about to do the right thing in the wrong way, a decision he would very much regret.  In 2 Samuel 4 we discover the attitudes of various kinds of men toward the Ark.

2.  Those interested in form, verse 3

They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart.

Though not explained, there was a reason why the Ark was placed on a new cart.  First, new cart or old, this was not how the Ark was to be transported.  The Ark had staves but no wheels for a very good reason:  it was meant to be carried personally by the priests, not transported on a cart.  Numbers 7:9 describes the precise way to treat the objects dedicated to God—

But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.

This should have been known by David’s priest, Abiathar, but apparently either he forgot or was not consulted.  But why did David use a new cart?  Why not an old cart?   Where did he get that idea?  He certainly did not get it from inquiring of the Lord!  God’s rules were spelled out in the Law.  The only other time the Ark of God was transported on a new cart was when the Philistines moved it, according to 1 Samuel 6:7—8—

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up.  Take the ark of the LORD and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering.”

Remember, David spent considerable time slumming with the Philistines when he was hiding from Saul.  That was probably where he learned the wrong way to move the Ark.  The application here is obvious.  When a believer spends too much time where they shouldn’t be, they will pick up bad habits and bad worldly habits have a way of being baptized into our Christian lives, sometimes with the best of intentions.  David motives were pure, but instead of doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way, he tried to do it in a way that was first in his mind.

The Church of Jesus Christ cannot be treated in a purely mechanical, formal fashion, whereby its leaders baptize worldly ideas of leadership into it, hoping they will somehow work.  Singing songs in hopes of ginning up a sense of worship is a worldly idea designed to appeal to the flesh.  Engaging in all kinds of histrionics to manifest God’s presence is a worldly idea.  We may invent new contrivances and implement new ways of “doing church” and put our faith in them, but if the burden of the Lord does not find a place in our hearts, then our cause is hopeless and we are on a fool’s errand.  Better to stay home and cut our lawns and wash our cars than vainly attempt to drag God into our assemblies on a new cart.

3.  Those who have too much confidence, verses 6, 7

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 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.

The Ark was picked up and the two sons of Abinadab, in whose home it rested, walked along side.  The procession started out in great joy and worship of God.  We can only imagine the spectacle that day.   The Ark was finally on its way to its permanent home in Jerusalem, David and all the people that were with him were singing and praising the Lord, accompanied by all kinds of musical instruments and all was now right with the world!

But that joy was short-lived.  The oxen stumbled along the way and the Ark tipped and Uzziah did the first thing that came to his mind:  put out his hand to steady it.  Who wouldn’t do that?  But the result of doing what appeared to be the right thing was sudden death, for human hands were never, ever to touch the Ark of God under any circumstances (Exodus 25:14—15; Numbers 4:15, 20; 7:9).

In Aesop’s fable of the Fox and Lion, we learn the valuable lesson that “familiarity breeds contempt,” and that was the lesson David and all Israel learned that day.  Poor Uzziah; the Ark of God had rested in his home for years.  We wonder how familiar his family had become with it.  Obviously it held no fear if he wasn’t afraid to touch it.

Many of us today have become that familiar with the holy things of God, and when we become that familiar, we often lose our reverence and appreciation for Him, or His Word or His Church.  And familiarity inevitably leads to contempt and presumption.

The Ark of God did not need Uzziah’s hands to steady it any more than God needed Moses’ help to part the Red Sea or Jesus needed Mary’s help to raise Lazarus.  Many Christians today are feebly trying to “do God a favor” by serving Him in a manner of their own invention.   Romans 10:3 should serve as a powerful warning to us—

Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

The result of Uzziah’s actions proved that he had not submitted himself to God’s righteousness.  He may have thought he was doing the right thing, but what he had in his mind did not reconcile with the mind of God.

4.  Those who are seeking, verse 9

David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”

The Lord’s anger in verse 7 caused David to react first in anger in verse 8 then in fear in verse 9.  The Psalmist understood this well—

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  (Psalm 111:10)

David may have started out indignant over the seeming harshness of God’s judgment, but that soon gave way to a proper fear or reverence.  David was most anxious to have the Ark back in Jerusalem, just as many people today are anxious to call themselves “Christians,” but the awesome holiness and power associated with the Ark and his own sense of unworthiness, made David fearful.

Today there is such an emphasis on the “love of God” that many preachers have painted God as a doting old man who will tolerate even our most perverse sins because He “loves us!”  Many “seekers” are attracted to that off-balance message because to their warped way of thinking God’s love means that they can have Him and their sin at the same time.  But that is not how it works, and David understood this, finally.  He realized that a “cooling off” period was necessary before he considered what to do with the Ark.  Psalm 111 teaches a mighty life lesson if we care to see it.  While wisdom begins with fear, it is the Word of God that leads to understanding.  Right now David is full of fear and that leads him to a measure of wisdom.  As he learns the precepts or the teachings of God, David will have understanding of God’s holiness.

4.  Those who humbly believe, verses 10, 11

He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.  The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.

So what to do with the Ark of God?  David is afraid and so is all Israel.  He decided to put the Ark in the home of Obed-Edom.  David was afraid that the Ark would harm him, but apparently he thought nothing of giving it to Obed-Edom for safe keeping.  Who was this man, Obed-Edom?  He is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:18—

Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel, the gatekeepers.

He was one of many “gatekeepers.”  That was a very humble position; his only job was opening and closing a door.  And yet, he wasn’t afraid of the Ark!  In fact, he apparently received it with great joy because we are told that God blessed Obed-Edom’s entire family!  What a stark contrast:  David and all of Israel celebrate while they manhandle and mishandle the Ark of God, but little Obed-Edom the door keeper and his whole house is blessed because the Ark is placed under his protection.  Those who are humble and contrite have nothing to fear from either the Ark of God or the Son of God.  Some people are fearful of having Jesus Christ come into their hearts; not because of who He is, but of what He will demand of them.  Jesus Christ needs to be the Lord of our lives; He’s no gate keeper!   We can learn a great lesson from Obed-Edom; we may accept Christ in faith, humbly acknowledging our unworthiness and hoping at most just to be safe in His presence.  But with Christ, as with the Ark, when Christ comes in to a dedicated heart, blessings are sure to follow!

5.  Those who have learned their lesson, verse 13

When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.

Eventually David learned about the blessings that had fallen on the house of Obed-Edom because of the presence of the Ark.  Believing it was now safe to bring the Ark up the rest of the way, David proceeds with that plan.  But, this time his plan is different because he learned his lesson.  He did not invent another “new cart” with elaborate decorations and all kinds of pomp and ceremony to move the Ark; neither did he pay others to do the work.  He went personally with the proper men for the task to be in the proper way.  The Ark was born by men who were separated for just such a task.

The work of the Lord is to be done only by those who have been sanctified or set apart.  God was not pleased when oxen moved the Ark and He is not pleased when those who don’t know Him try to do His work.

If we look at verses 14 and 15, we can sense the great joy and probably relief as the Ark entered the city without incident.  Things always work out when they are done in accordance to God’s will.

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

When God is worshipped and served in HIS way, extravagant joy follows.  The reason is simple:  when we approach God on His terms our worship will be based on Him and who He is and therefore our joy will be pure because God is pure.  We can’t manufacture that by singing songs or banging our tambourines.

But there is another powerful application here; the Ark of God was as powerful in Obed-Edom’s house as it was in public.  It blessed a family in private and moved a nation to worship in public.  Shame on members of the Body of Christ who keep Him all to themselves; Jesus is Lord of our all our lives, not just on Sunday, and He deserves to be seen in our lives all the time.

6.  Those on the outside looking in, verse 16

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

The exuberant worship that followed the Ark into town must have been something to behold!  But not everybody got into the spirit of the proceedings.  Michal, daughter of Saul and now wife of David was not at all impressed with spectacle of David’s worship.  She is the perfect picture of one on the outside looking in, criticizing the Church of Jesus Christ.  The things of the Spirit of God seem like foolishness to the worldly person—

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 2:14)

This sounds a lot like what happened on the Day of Pentecost, doesn’t it?  When the Spirit fell and the believers began to worship God on the streets of Jerusalem and speak in other tongues, some onlookers thought they were drunk!

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  (Acts 2:13)

Of course, we expect that kind of criticism from the world, but sadly many people who are supposedly part of the Church say things like that about their fellow members.  Any fool can be a fault-finder.  Michal was a spectator, not a participant.  Most criticism of the Church comes from those who just look in once in a while without ever joining in and taking part.

Those who stare at the Church or at other Christians from behind their windows and make judgments are as foolish as Michal.  It is better to be a “fool for Jesus Christ,” though, than just a fool.  Those who just look on see no beauty in Christ, or in our worship of Him, or in what a consecrated life looks like.  Michal did not like to see anybody who was in love with God and there are people just like her today.  Some of them even call themselves Christians!

Conclusion

So, what kind of person are you?  Are you:

  • The person who wants to do something for God, talks about doing it according to God’s will, but then ends up doing it your own way?
  • The person who is only interested in what the form of worship looks like instead of being moved only by the Spirit of God?
  • The over-confident person who thinks you can approach God in your own way with no regard to His Word or will?
  • The person who is mildly interested in the things of God but the closer you get to Him the less you really want Him?
  • The person who is genuinely humble and willing to serve God in a lowly position; who is thrilled just to have the presence of God in your home?
  • The person who learned their lesson and is now living and serving God His way?
  • Like Michal, who had no regard for the things of God because she was on the outside looking in?

Be part of the God’s family.  Serve Him with all your heart and mind and you will be graced with God’s presence all the days of your life.

 

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

In the Hands of the Enemy

The ark of the covenant 2

1 Samuel 5, 6

Chapters 5 and 6 form a sort of subplot in the story of Samuel; they describe the problems the Philistines experienced because of the Ark of the Covenant.  These enemies of God’s people were positively jubilant that they had scored such a coup:  stealing the precious and, in their minds, powerful Ark of the Covenant.  They stole it and carried it away like a trophy, little knowing that in doing so, they were about to face real power:  fierce and unrelenting judgment from God.

Meanwhile, Israelite morale was at an all-time low.  Remember, the Israelites have already had to put up with a now deficient religion, made so by its morally licentious administrators.  But to lose the visible symbol of their whole belief system would have crushed the people’s spirits.  To add insult to injury, they had just lost some 30,000 soldiers in a single battle.  Thanks to the sad state the people of God, the Philistines now controlled vast areas of the land.  Israel, living in the land God had promised to Abraham over a thousand years earlier, had literally squandered God’s blessings time and again and now the mighty Philistines were threatening to absorb them completely.

The arrogant Philistines, by capturing the Ark of the Covenant, were about to brought into contact with the very presence and power of which the Ark was the visible symbol.  The power of God is something most people don’t understand; the Philistines certainly had no idea what was about to unleashed on them.  1 Samuel 2:6—8 gives us a glimpse into what the power of God is all about—

“The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.  The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;  upon them he has set the world.”

The Ark was just a box, just like the Bible is just a book, but in the hands of the Holy Spirit, the Bible becomes a double-edged sword.   When God manifested His presence, the ungodly Philistines found out what God’s power was.  When the Word of God is preached with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the mere words from the preacher can strike fear in the hearts of the ungodly, unconverted sinner as his words, become capsules of God’s presence, lodging in the hearts of those hearing him.

1.  God’s presence upset their religion, 5:3—4

When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place.  But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.

From the battlefield at Ebenezer, the victorious Philistines took their prize, the Ark, back to their capital city, Ashdod, a distance of some 30 miles.  They thought they had something very special, something very powerful.  Curiously, they placed their new religious token beside Dagon, their national god.  They foolishly thought they could have both the Ark of God and Dagon at the same time.  They soon learned something Jesus Christ taught thousands of years later—

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

When Christ comes in, the foolish, false notions of man have to go out!  Many Christians think like the Philistines did; they can have Christ and the Dagon of self.   Every time the Philistines set the Ark beside Dagon, Dagon would fall down.   When the presence of God comes into the temple of our hearts, He upsets all our old ideas, He makes living the way we used to live uncomfortable, sometimes painful.   God will have His way with His children as He did with the Philistines.  God smashed Dagon, rendering him useless.  God showed Dagon for what he was; something useless and out of date.  Until the god of self is broken to pieces, God cannot remake us into the kind of people He wants us to be.

People think they still have to do many great things to merit God’s free gift of salvation; but when they come into the presence of Christ, the Ark of God, their high and lofty thoughts and arrogant imaginings must fall prostrate before Him.

2.  The were severely punished, 5:6, 12

The LORD’s hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors.

Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

Besides having their national religion made to look impotent and foolish, the people were afflicted with “tumors.”  Some scholars see a reference here to something much more serious:  bubonic plague.  The Ark of the Covenant brought not power to the Philistines, nor did it bring the Israelites begging for it to be returned, it brought destruction upon God’s enemies.   This whole incident reminds us of what Jesus said in John 16:8—9—

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.

The Philistines were beside themselves; they shipped the Ark to another location, but nobody wanted anything to do with it!  We can hardly blame them.   As has been noted, the Gospel will be the savior of death where it is not the savior of life.  The Ark of God was a dreadful possession to the unsaved.

3.  They were totally confused, 6:2

[T]he Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.”

Chapter 4 tells us of the Ark’s capture, chapter 5 of its movement from place to place, and chapter 6 of its return to the Israelites.

These poor people, shuffling the Ark from place to place, were trying to find a place to ditch it where it could do no harm, yet they found the opposite happened:  their suffering continued.  Years and years later, people didn’t know what to do with Jesus Christ, either.  It was Pilate, who not knowing what to do with Jesus, asked the people—

What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?  (Matthew 27:22)

There are a lot of people asking that same question today.  They may believe in God, they may know all about Jesus Christ, but they don’t know what to do with Him.  When Jesus Christ comes into the sphere of human existence, He confronts man right where he lives and forces a very simple choice upon that man.

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Joshua 24:15)

When Christ came and stood before Saul on the road to Damascus, Saul cried out,

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  (Acts 9:5)

That is the most profound question a man can ask of Christ:  “Who are you?”  There is no more urgent question a man can ask himself than;  “What am I going to do with Jesus?”  What have you done with Him?  Have you submitted to Him?  Have you denied Him?  Have you moved him around your life, trying to placate Him, to find a place for Him?

4.  They got rid of the Ark, 6:7—8

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up.  Take the ark of the LORD and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way.”

Suppose we changed the wording of these verses a little bit:

They made a new cross, put Him on it, and as a trespass offering they sent Him away.

The Philistines would not allow the Ark to rule over them, so they sent it away as quickly as they could.  Christ, like the Ark, was delivered up at the behest of the religious leaders of His day.  Religious leaders of every generation never know what to do with God or His Son, just like the religious leaders of the Philistines were utterly in the dark.  Religion is the fastest way to Hell.

Here where the Philistines with the very presence of God among them, yet instead of repenting and submitting to Him, even to save their very lives, they tried to control Him, they tried to get rid of Him so they could get back to their former blissful, pagan existence.  That’s what man has to do with God; either submit to Him or put Him away.

[H]ow shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  (Hebrews 2:3)

5.  The Philistines saw the wonder of God, 6:9—12

Send it on its way, but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance.”

So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves.  They placed the ark of the LORD on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors.  Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.

Here was one more proof of the presence of God in their midst.  The way the Ark went home was another demonstration of God’s presence.  Do you recall what was said at the foot of the Cross?

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”  (Mark 15:39)

The Word of God is still like the Ark of God among people today.  It manifests the presence of God in the midst of the Church.  It has changed countless lives throughout the centuries, it still convicts sinners of the wrong in their lives.  By its works, the Word of God asserts its own divine nature, and yet despite the incontrovertible evidence, people, even those who claim to be Christians, still treat it like the Philistines treated the Ark.  They refuse to submit to its teachings, and politely send it away with the offering and remain on the outs with God.

How foolish, when so-called Christians have more in common with people like the Philistines than they do with Christ.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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