But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. Then the Lord 's anger was aroused 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. -- 1Chronicles 13: 9-10 (NLT)
There is a dangerous leaven running through the church today (among many). It is the leaven of good intentions. It is the "God knows my heart" theology that is convinced that as long as your motives were pure, your actions bear no consequences. That intentions trump obedience. It is a false notion designed to lead the people of God away from adhering to His Word. Perhaps no greater example of this is found in the Bible than the story of Uzzah. We do not know much about Uzzah as he only appears in this one short chapter and he is struck dead by God before the chapter can even close. Perhaps King David had some special affinity for Uzzah as the Word says that he was angry with God for striking him dead. We do not know. What we do know is that Uzzah represents the end result of not obeying God. A walk through this story reveals so much about what God expects from us and what we need to work on, even today.
The story begins as David has ascended to the throne of Israel. He is now King over all and in the midst of celebrating; he has a great idea for the Lord:
David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army. Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: "If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul." -- 1Chronicles 13: 1-3 (NLT)
The Ark of the Covenant was sacred to Israel and God. It contained the very presence of God Himself. For twenty years in languished until David thought it wise to bring it back to Jerusalem. Clearly David's intentions were pure. He felt the Ark had been neglected for too long. But even how this story starts reveals the tendencies of man to stray from God. Who did David consult? He consulted his officials, generals and captains. Nowhere does it say that he prayed or fasted about the decision or even inquired of the Lord. This is bad habit we can fall into as Christians. We can think that since we have decided already that the decision we have reached is "of God" that we do not necessarily need to consult Him! How much has this permeated the modern church already? Decisions and programs designed with man-made logic and hollow philosophies but wrapped up in pseudo-piety. The seeker friendly heresy in the modern church is defended by those perpetrating it by simply saying they are trying to "reach the new generation for Christ." The Gospel get compromised in the process but who cares? As long as people are reached right? Wrong! Because they are being reached by an incomplete Gospel. Feel good motivational speakers are not going to save us from eternal separation from God! Only the blood of Christ can do that.
Verse two above shows even more modern problems. David now turns to seek the approval of man while paying lip service to the will of God. The truth is if you are in the will of God then you do not need the approval of man:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. -- Galatians 1: 10 (NIV)
But there David goes. Asking the throng for their approval while dressing it up as if he was seeking the will of the Lord. If he was truly seeking the will of God he would have done so in prayer and brought that before the people. We see this too often today in the church. Saying the name of Jesus is not enough. We can cry hallelujah and stretch our hands to the heaven but none of matters if it is bathed in disobedience and we never actually sought the Lord. Realize that the issue is not whether or not the action is the right thing to do:
The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. -- 1Chronicles 13: 4 (NLT)
I do not think there is any theological disagreement about the decision of David to move the Ark to Jerusalem. His intentions were pure. But do not stand before the people and proclaim that the will of the Lord is being sought when it clearly has not been! Do not dress up religiosity as righteousness. We do not need to reach the lost with a comprised Gospel. Do you want a compromised salvation? That is how some will get to the last day and find out God never knew them. Raising your hands for salvation is not any salvation at all. This isn't McDonalds. Do not order your eternal life off of the dollar menu! Regeneration of the heart means you have invited Christ into your heart to LIVE, not to visit. When He lives there then there is no room for sin. Happy Meal salvation is not going to lead anybody into heaven. Broad is the path that leads to destruction. The story continues:
So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. -- 1Chronicles 13: 5-6 (NLT)
Apostasy rarely travels alone. The object of the enemy is as always, to lead as many away from the narrow path as possible. David summoned all of Israel. The modern day false teachers draw thousands to their way. To follow the leaven. It may appear righteous because they know all the right language to use. As discussed last week, they may not even realize their own heresy. Once again, this is not about intentions! They may even dress it up:
They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab's house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. -- 1Chronicles 13: 7 (NLT)
They placed the Ark on a new cart! I bet it was stylish and regal. Befitting the royalty of the God they served. More flash then substance. The bottom line here from God is very plain. You can dress up your disobedience all day long but in the end -- you are still being disobedient. You can drape all the machinations of religion over your apostasy but at the end of the day -- you are still disobedient. The seeker friendly movement is designed on appearance over Gospel. Flat screen TVs and fancy paint jobs over the Gospel. Compromising with the world and defending it as necessary -- "for God." Saying something is for God does not make it so. Praising God while being disobedient does not help either:
David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments--lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets. -- 1Chronicles 13: 8 (NLT)
Can you picture the scene? All the people marching to Jerusalem with the Ark in tow. Praising Him with all their might! Dancing, playing instruments, singing. Anything to cover up the disobedience. They were not truly celebrating God. If they were they would have been obedient. No; they were celebrating their decision. They were celebrating the celebration. Much like this, today we have graduated to the worship of worship. There is enough lip service paid to God to make things appear spiritual but in the end it is about man, not God. You see David knew the Scriptures. He should have known better than this display of the flesh. He knew the Torah and that it was only the Kohathites that were allowed to touch the sacred things such as the Ark of the Covenant. He knew that even the Kohathites had specific instructions on moving the Ark -- that it was supposed to be carried on poles, not a cart; no matter how "new" it might be. He also knew what the price for disobedience was: