Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paved with Good Intentions

We all know the saying "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."  We mostly dismiss that statement, but there is some truth to that.  Today we will see that when we act out of our own intentions, even if those intentions are "good" in our own eyes, we usually fail God.  As Christians, we should never act on our own intentions, but we should seek the will of God and act in His intentions.  Today we will see a tragic story of someone acting on his own intentions, ignoring what God has said.  Today our study takes us to the book of 2 Samuel.
Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim.  2 Samuel 6:1-2 NKJV
First let's start with a little background.  About 50 years before this point, the ark was stolen by the Philistines after a battle with Israel.  The ark brought great calamity on the Philistines and so it was set on a cart and it returned to Israel.  There it sat for 50 years.  Fast forward to where we are at in 2 Samuel, David just won a great victory over the Philistines and wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. 

David gathers thirty thousand choice men of Israel and they all went to Baale Judah (about 8 miles from Jerusalem) to bring back the ark.  So far, from man's point of view, it sounds really good.  David gathered tens of thousands of men to accompany the ark back to Jerusalem.  And why to Jerusalem?  So there would be a central place to worship the Lord.   What wonderful intentions! 
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.  2 Samuel 6:3-4 NKJV
Here it gets even better.  They put the ark on a brand new cart.  That's right, no used cart for the ark where the Lord dwells.  Then two choice men drive the cart.  It still sounds like they are honoring God.  They have a parade of thirty thousand men and a brand new cart accompanying the ark of God.  What great honor they are showing the Lord!
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.  2 Samuel 6:5 NKJV
Now as if a brand new cart with good drivers and a parade of thirty thousand men were not enough, David adds a giant worship service to accompany the ark back to Jerusalem. Note it says "all the house of Israel played music before the Lord."  The whole country was worshiping the ark as it returned to Jerusalem.  It was like a gigantic nationwide ticker tape parade to herald the ark of the Lord back to Jerusalem.  This kind of honor goes way beyond even what we do for sports teams today!  I am sure God is pleased at their wonderful intentions. 
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.  2 Samuel 6:6 NKJV
Now the roads were not exactly paved in that day so there came a time when there was something in the road causing the oxen to stumble.  It looked like the ark might fall off the cart and so Uzzah put his hand to save the ark of God from falling.  Uzzah had every good intention that his heart could muster in trying to save God's dwelling place on earth from falling off the cart.  Surely God was pleased.
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 6:7 NKJV
Wait a minute.  What happened?  How was there any error?  There was a parade of thirty thousand choice men, a brand new cart, the whole country praising God in song, and Uzzah was only trying to stop the ark from falling.  Why was God angry at so much done just for Him? 
And David became angry because of the LORD's outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of O^bmed-edom the Gittite.  2 Samuel 6:8-10 NKJV
That's it, party over.  David abandoned his plans and left the ark.  He was angered over God's reaction and afraid of the Lord.  He was scared to bring the ark to him at this point.  He did not understand God's anger and instead of repenting, he just gave up. 

So where did it all go wrong?  Why was God not pleased with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the return of the ark?  Why  did Uzzah die when he was just trying to help?  The problem is that they failed to seek God and his Word regarding the ark.  They had the law available to them and instead of following it, they followed the plans of their own hearts.  They acted in their own wisdom and it resulted in tragedy.  The Word is very specific on the transporting of the ark.
At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.  Deuteronomy 10:8 NKJV
The tribe of Levi, the priests, were specifically charged with carrying the ark.  Priests were not carrying the ark.  No one was really, it was on a cart.  The Bible is even specific on that.
"Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it." Exodus 30:4 NKJV
The ark was to be carrying on the shoulders of the priests using the poles that were not to be removed from the ark.  It was not to be carried on a cart, not even a brand new one.

As for unfortunate Uzzah, his death was again caused by a lack of obedience to God's Word.
"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." Numbers 4:15 NKJV
Touching the holy things of God results in death. The Word is clear. Uzzah touched the ark and per the law, he had to die.  His intentions were good in his own eyes, but he trusted in his own wisdom in making sure the ark of God did not fall instead of trusting God to take care of His own dwelling place.  He acted out of pride for himself and out of not embarrassing the king should the ark fall.  He did not act in faith nor did he respect God's word.

That story is a great illustration of how our good intentions are meaningless when they are not God's intentions.  We are not to decide what is good in our own sight , but to seek God first and see what He thinks is good.  So many times we come up with what we think are great plans and then ask God to bless those plans.  That is what David did.  We get frustrated and give up, questioning God when those plans fail, as David did.  We should only be frustrated with ourselves as we should seek God first.  We should ask God through prayer and His Word to see what His plan is. 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
That passage sums it all up.  We are not to lean on our own understanding.  If we trust in the Lord with all our heart, that leaves no room in our heart to trust in ourselves or our own intentions.  If all is given to God, none is left for us.  We are to acknowledge Him in all our ways.  All means all and so in everything we do we need to seek God first.  So, if we do not lean on our own understanding, trust God entirely in what we do, and acknowledge Him in everything we do, He will direct our paths.  David leaned on his own wisdom in how the ark should be brought back. David trusted in the new cart and a large parade to get the ark back, he did not trust God to seek His ways.  And David did not acknowledge the Lord until he was already on his way back and his acknowledgment was a celebration of something God never promised.  This led to tragedy.  This led to death.  May we not be so prideful as to trust in our own wisdom and intentions and pray that God will bless what He never ordained.  May we never fail in such a tragic way. 

If you want to see God working in your life, seek Him first. If you want to see God bless your plans, seek His plans and make them yours.  If you want God to bless your ministry, make sure you acknowledge Him and make sure He is in it.  Our victorious life in Christ comes from a place of surrender to God and not one of presumption.  Surrender puts God first, presumption puts us first.  May we all truly surrender to the Lordship of Christ and He will lead us on the path to victorious living in Christ.  The road to Hell is paved with good intentions because those intentions come from our own heart.  In other words, if we follow ourselves we will lead ourselves to failure.  In Hebrews, as in other places, Paul likens our life as a Christian as a race.  He exhorts us to run the race set before us and looking unto Jesus.  Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith and so in order to find our way through this race, we must follow after him.  Otherwise, we will get lost.  Otherwise, we will go astray.  Follow God, read His Word, and find that path God has laid out for you.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

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