In an ongoing discussion with a brother in another forum (here) I was reflecting on the importance of Holiness in the Church and how it is affected by our theological constructs. There is a telling incident in 2 Samuel that gives us a lot to dwell upon. King David, recognizing that the Ark represented the earthly throne of God devoted himself and Israel to returning it to Jerusalem. His motives are good but his actions turn out bad, as we will see:
David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. He and all his men set out from Baalah of 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 that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill.
Oops, a small detail catches our attention. The ark is set upon a new cart for its transport back to Jerusalem. God should be pleased with our motivation and the way we decided to move it. After all, our hearts are in the right place. But, if we refer back to God’s instructions for handling the ark ( Exodus 25:12-15 ) we find that it is to be carried on poles balanced on the shoulders of the Levites. Why would David make such an error? Not because he was ignorant of importance of the ark or the instructions of the Lord but because he was affected by the culture. He saw the Philistines transport the ark by cart with no ill effect and he followed in their footsteps. Perhaps David thought that the ‘rules’ could be overcome by the charismatic worship of the Lord that surrounded the movement:
Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
We stand warned that worship that we deem worthy of God is not always so.
Neither are all of the actions that we take on behalf of God. It is easy for us as sentient beings to feel that if our motivations tell us we are doing the right thing that it will be perceived by everyone as being the right thing. This may work on an interpersonal level but our Lord is stickler for detail. Watch His reaction when we substitute what we think is right for what He says is right:
When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, 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.
Uzzah had the purest of motives in keeping the holy ark from touching the ground but this purity still conflicted with God’s clear instructions. How often do we substitute our ideas for what is right for the clear instructions of our Lord? For myself, probably far too often. When the consequences of our actions visit us, do we repent or do we get angry with God? David himself gives us a clue as to what usually happens:
Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
Perhaps beginning today, we reexamine the things we do to please God. Are they in line with His expectations or do we expect Him to fall in line with ours?