The BEST of Intentions

The Best of Intentions
Good intentions are not enough in our worship. Obedience is!  In an intriguing story from King David’s adventures, we catch a glimpse of an awesome God, in the most frightening sense of the word. David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of the Presence of the LORD among His people, back to Jerusalem. In ancient Judaism it was the most sacred piece of furniture (dare I label it so casually?) in the tabernacle of God.  When Moses received the directives for proper handling of this holy thing, God said it was only to be carried by men of the holy tribe and in a very specific manner. (see Exodus 25) Rings were built into the sides of the ark through which long poles were to be passed. When it was necessary to move the Ark, priests were to carry it on their shoulders with these long poles.  Between the time of Moses and  David’s reign several hundred years passed and these directions apparently were forgotten!
So, when David set out to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem, symbolically returning God to the center of the people’s attention in his royal city, he did what seemed to be reasonable and appropriate. He even built a new cart to honor this holy thing before going to retrieve it.  After a proclamation, they set out to do this thing. (1 Chronicles 13:7-8) Uzzah and Ahio were tasked with guiding the oxen pulling the cart. David was celebrating before God with all their might, singing and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets. It must have been quite a parade/worship celebration. Until…  “they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah put out his hand to steady the Ark. Then the Lord’s anger blazed out against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.” 
Right there, in the middle of trying to do a good thing, tragedy struck;  David didn’t know why! First, he grew angry at the Lord.  “I try to honor You, and this is Your response?  You kill a good man?”   Then, on further reflection, he became fearful. He trembled in terror and he wondered how he could ever please the Lord if even his best intentions failed in such a spectacular manner. Only after time and research did he learn the proper way to move the Ark and thus to show reverence for God.
Good intentions are admirable, but they are not enough for a holy God.  We all wrestle with our will and His, with what ‘seems right’ and what ‘is right.’ As much as we might think that just ‘doing our best’ is acceptable, our holy God indicates that His desire is that we revere Him sufficiently to submit ourselves without reserve. When we argue with Him, resist what we know to be His plans, or take our lives into our own hands – we invite His displeasure.  Sobering, isn’t it? This little story from David’s life helps me to understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to ‘serve’ God. I realize that I am giving aid and comfort to those who ‘sanctify’ a certain worship style or to those who are bent on writing rules and regulations for others in the name of God. That, however, is a shallow misuse of the principle of this story.
My intent is to point us beyond such legalities to our own relationship with God, where we know better in our heart, but where we choose to go our own way believing that God will ‘cut us some slack.
This IS true. If we fail to listen with an open heart and mind for the Spirit, plunging ahead with our ‘best intentions’ we will likely plant seeds that will produce an eventual harvest of alienation, fear, and ultimately death. He is a wonderful God who is worthy of our reverent, submitted, entire obedience. When the conviction of the Spirit comes ( and thankfully He doesn’t strike us dead in this era!) let’s have the humility to confess our failure and to accept the Spirit’s grace. Then, in His will, let’s walk joyfully into the full, rich life found in total obedience!
Here’s a word from the Word.  Read it prayerfully, thoughtfully, honestly.  Move beyond your own best intentions and learn to ‘keep step with the Spirit.’  
“How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.
– Micah 6:6-8, The Message

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