T. Pierce Brown

In 2 Samuel 6:1-16 there are some valuable lessons about David restoring the ark that should be especially relevant for those who are interested in restoring New Testament Christianity. There are those connected with the Lord’s church that think there is no relevance in the concept. They either think there was not any pattern to restore, of it were restored it would not matter. For those who take seriously Paul’s admonition in 2 Timothy 2:2, the thoughts of this article may be of some value. “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach other also.” There was a pattern. There was specific doctrine that needed to be passed on to others. Since the things written before were written for our admonition, let us learn some principles suggested by the story of David restoring the ark to its proper place.

First, notice that national, family and individual interests suffer when proper respect and worship to God is not carried out. For almost 70 years the ark had been allowed to remain forgotten and in enemy hands, so all it represented was downgraded. It is still true that “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs14:34). One reason our nation became great was its recognition of the sovereignty of God. Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence were not ashamed to speak of “the laws of nature and nature’s God” entitling us to certain things. They were not afraid to say, “We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”  To the degree that our leaders are ashamed or afraid to make such assertions today, to that degree our nation has lost its greatness and power.

Note the mistake of those who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:1). In 2 Samuel 6:3, re find, “The set the Ark of God upon a new cart.” The ark as designed of God had staves by which it was to be carried, but no wheels. The religion of the Lord is not to be carried on in some mechanical fashion. We may invent new machinery and organizations and put faith in them, but if the awareness of God’s will does not rest on our shoulders and in our hearts, we will fail.

I can almost hear their reasoning, “Would it not be a wonderful improvement on the old style if we had a new cart?” “We could save this burden on the shoulders of the Levites.” “This new cart is to be admired for its beauty and commended for its utility.” “We know that God specified another method, but are you trying to suggest that a cart is somehow an abomination to the Lord?” Do these sound similar to some arguments you have heard used about instrumental music or other devices of men?

One hears in some congregations, “Our old order of worship is flat, stale and unprofitable.” I confess that in some cases they are probably right. To improve it, they decide not to bring in the instrument of music–yet. Many are not properly (or improperly) conditioned for its introduction. Get a group of talented musicians who only sound like instruments and entertain us with their novel sounds. Mix the usual order up a little and get people sitting on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next. When we take the Lord’s Supper, turn out the usual lights, and have a strong red light focused on the table to suggest the blood of Christ. Instead of having a sermon, let the gospel be seen through a dramatic production, which can involve both sexes. After all, women have God-given talents and they should be used.

I am not implying that we must have two songs and a prayer or some other traditional order in order to be pleasing to God. I am saying that the idea that something new and different will automatically increase spirituality is wrong. We have the right and responsibility to change some method or ritual if that change conforms to the principles and commandments of God.

Our problem is often like theirs. They meant well, but instead of doing it as God commanded, they followed the Philistine method (1 Samuel 6:7). They wanted a king like those around them, and were more interested in finding how their enemies did things than in the way God said to do them. We need not make the opposite mistake. That is, just because denominations go in the front door, we should not think we must crawl through the window.

Although they may have had the right motives, they had the wrong actions. This brought God’s displeasure. “Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark and took hold of it, and God smote him for his error” (vss. 6-7). No unauthorized person was to touch it, no matter what the occasion (Numbers4:15). Neglect of God’s ark and proper worship for many years may have led them to be careless in dealing with sacred things. It is possible that Uzzah had grown more familiar and disrespectful by having it in his home for some time. No matter what the reasons may have been, they were not good enough to disregard God’s order.

There are at least 9 lessons to remember in this story. First, right things must be done in the right manner, with the right motives to be acceptable. Second, although God demands good intentions and right motives, they are not sufficient. Third, big crowds do not insure nor indicate God’s approval. Even in the Lord’s church, we have noted a tendency to assume that large numbers responding proves an action to be right. “They are baptizing far more than the average. they must be doing something right.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and Mormons may be baptizing far more than we, but what does that prove? Fourth, enthusiasm is no guarantee of acceptance. It may be true that many of our “worship services” are far more like a funeral service than a joyous fellowship and remembrance of Christ’s resurrection. That does not prove that some lively service is any better, just because it is livelier. They may have danced and played like David did, “with all his might” (v. 14), but that did not change God’s displeasure. Fifth, we must never presume to carry on god’s work in a way he has forbidden, or in a way he has not authorized. Worship is to be in spirit and in truth. Sixth, we must have a reverent fear lest we mishandle the things of God. Some ate the Lord’s Supper to condemnation (1 Cor.11:27-29). We are to handle aright the word of truth (2 Timothy2:15). Seventh, no assumed or apparent danger to the Lord’s church can warrant an action that is not authorized. “They cannot carry a tune, so will aid with a mechanical instrument” has been heard. “They are not carrying out the great commission through the church, so we will form a Missionary Society to do so” was a common argument. All such reasonings are vain.

There are several other lessons in the story, but another may be found in thinking of why it was a blessing to Obededom, yet had been in the house of Abinadab for 40 years, and not a blessing to him. First, there is a difference in giving mere lodging to one, and giving appreciative and proper hospitality. One may assemble with others and go through a ceremony that is considered a duty, or he may do it with joyous anticipation of a feast and fellowship with God and man. When one is baptized, it may be an act by which he joyously welcomes Christ into his life, or it may be a mere ceremony by which he “comes into the church.” One may read the Bible as a dead letter, or it may be a living letter from a loving Lord. Some connected with the church are suggesting that the Bible is merely a love letter, with suggestions for a happy life. That is a tragic error. It has commands to be obeyed. Paul said, “These things command and teach (1 Timothy4:11). To look at it merely as commands, or merely as a “love letter” or merely as a group of historical facts is to do great disservice to it.

The fearful rejection of David, contrasted with Obededom’s faithful acceptance of the ark suggest that all the things we experience in life may be a blessing or a curse, depending on how we accept and use it. When Simon said to Mary in Luke 2:33, “This child is set for falling and rising of many inIsrael” he emphasized that. He may be for us a living stone, or a stone of stumbling and rock of offence. The poverty of one person may be the occasion of his faithless or irreligious failure. The poverty of another may help him to be steadfast, strengthened, and to look beyond the material things in life. The gold of one may seem to get into his veins and give him yellow jaundice, destroying all that is noble and generous, puffing him up with a sense of his importance, and being the root of all kinds of evil. Another may use it as a steward of God, laying up for himself treasures in heaven.

We can take these lessons from a loving Lord, absorb and practice them and become more Christlike. Or we can reject them and become more callused and hardened, determined to follow our own inclinations and will. How is it with you?

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