Intro: Does God care about how we do things? There is a common debate, even among Christians as to whether or not there is a pattern in scripture for doing God’s work. Although we are not going to deal with every aspect of that debate today, I do believe that we can conclude from the scriptures that… “God cares about “how”
I. An O.T. story that makes a point about proper and improper methods
A. 1 Samuel 4:1-2 1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. 2 Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field.
- Israel is in battle against its archenemy, the Philistines, but the Philistines gained the upper hand. How could Israel access the power of their God to fight for them? Looking for a solution.
1. 1 Samuel 4:3-5 – 3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook.
- Notice their assessment – God had defeated them before their enemy. If they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the battle the ark (“it”) would save them. The people certainly supported the idea.
- This is a typical sacramental view of religion and life. There is magic & power in the elements of religion. If God had told them to take the ark into the battlefield then that would have been different. Then it would have been a matter of faith. (Rom 10:17 – Faith comes by hearing the word of God) But In the absence of God’s word it is simply superstition and is in opposition to true faith.
B. 1 Sam 4:6-10 – Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. 7 So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.
- The Philistines responded to the superstitious fear imposed upon them with courage and strength. They defeated the Israelites and took the ark to the house of their god, Dagon.
1. After God brought affliction on the Philistines they finally decided the Ark was more trouble than it was worth and placed it on a cart hitched to two cows. It finally arrives at Kirjath-jearim & stays there for several years.
II. David’s Good intention: Fast forward several years to 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 – READ THESE VERSES: having captured stronghold of Jebusites & gaining a capital city, David decides to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.
A. Notice David’s motive – 1 Chronicles 13:3-4 3 and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul.” 4 Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. There is nothing to fault about David’s motive; wanting to restore the Ark to its rightful prominence in Israel; David wanting to do right, led people in wanting to do the right thing.
B. But his plans go awry when Uzzah is struck dead by the hand of God. David’s failure is not arbitrary. Even David immediately recognizes that God has “broken out” against Uzzah. The text tells us that God punished Uzzah because he touched the ark, which was forbidden by God’s law.
1. God’s action here may surprise us, or even perplex us, but there was more to this than just the punishment of Uzzah’s actions. It was a judgment on David as well.
2. There is not a problem with what David was doing, but rather how. 1 Chronicles 13:7 – 7 So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio drove the cart.
3. It does well for us to consider what had God spoken? Did it matter how the Israelites carried the ark. Exodus 25:12-14 – 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. 13 And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. Numbers 4:5 – 5 When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it… vs. 15 – 15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. “These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.
- But is the method of transportation such a big deal? Isn’t it the end that concerns God (e.g., that He be praised, worshipped, glorified, etc.) and not the means we take to the end?
- God’s response leaves little doubt about the seriousness of this chosen method. It was a sin for Uzzah to touch the ark and it was a sin for David to transport the ark in a manner other than the manner commanded by God.
E. What was David’s reaction to Uzzah’s death? – 1 Chronicles 13:11-12 – 11 And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; therefore that place is called Perez Uzzah to this day. 12 David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” – David has a two-fold reaction
1. First, anger – God rained on his parade, and he probably is baffled by God’s response to His well intentioned activity.
2. Second, fear (had enough sense to know something had been done wrong; afraid to make another move lest someone else die)
3. Later, when David decided to make another attempt at bringing the ark home he analyzed what had happened before.
- 1 Chronicles 15:1-2 1 David built houses for himself in the City of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.”
- 1 Chronicles 15:11-13 – 11 And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites: for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. 12 He said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. 13 For because you did not do it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”
a. David spoke about a “Proper order” – “we did not go about it the proper way” (Moffatt). This implies a right way and wrong way to do something (i.e., a pattern). It also implies that we can know what the right way is through God’s revelation.
b. When the Ark was transported by the Levites -it got to where David wanted it to go & God was glorified. 1 Chron. 15:14-15
II. Lessons to be Learned – the Proper Order…
A. God cares about how…
- God’s Work must be done by God’s people in God’s way. Good motives, popular support and even supposed success do not legitimize an activity.
- Matt. 7:21-23 – doing the will of God matters more than prophesying, exorcising demons, or doing good deeds.
B. Some Conclusions:
1. Problem wasn’t that the oxen stumbled or cart shook,
2. Problem was there should never have been a cart/oxen in the first place.
3. So the solution is not to build a better cart or get more sure-footed animals (mountain goats) – but to do God’s things God’s way. There was a proper order.
C. Churches have frequently divided, not because of disagreement about what should be done (preaching Gospel, helping needing, building up the saints, etc.), but about how it should be done (this has often been ridiculed as though God didn’t care how it was done.)
- Being content to do the work just as it is found in the biblical precedent – direct support of preachers, saints-only benevolence, all sufficiency of the church (local congregation), etc.
- Presuming to do things without Biblical authority or precedent -sponsoring church, missionary societies, orphan homes, etc. These are unmentioned methods of men, presupposing that God doesn’t care.
Conclusion: God expects us to follow what He has revealed. His blessings have always been attached to the complete obedience to His word. 1 Peter 4:11 – 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.