Saturday, July 28, 2007

July 28, 2007

Have you ever noticed that no matter how much you read the Bible, there is always something that you never saw before? It's almost like God just keeps adding new verses, new characters, new principles! Take for instance Jabez. Up until a few years ago, most of us had never heard of Jabez. I had been in church all my life, heard hundreds of sermons, been in many Bible studies and read a good bit of it more than once. Yet I had never heard of the guy! Suddenly this one little story, only a few verses long, had moved to the top of the Best Seller List and every preacher in town was preaching a sermon on him!! Did God just decide to insert this story into the Bible to get our make a point? No, it was there all the time. It just took someone to slow down enough to mine the nuggets that were there.

Then there are those passages you HAVE read, yet never really understood. In fact, they really caused you to question God, why He would do such a thing, or allow such a thing. It just didn't seem quite fair or right, not quite in line with God's character. One that I have read more than once is found in II Samuel. It is the story of Uzzah. Who? You know, the guy that put out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant, to keep it from falling, and God struck him dead. It always seemed to me that he was just trying to protect the ark, something that was important to God. It just didn't make sense to me. It just goes to show you that it is so important that we not miss a word of God's Word....that we apply the whole counsel of God to a passage. To get the full impact of this story and to understand the significance of it, you must go back to the Law. Max Lucado, my favorite author, has done just that in his book FACING THE GIANTS. I will let Max explain.............

"The ark symbolized God's provision (the manna), God's power (the staff), God's precepts (the commandments) and most of all God's presence.....So we wonder why the Israelites didn't cherish the ark of the covenant. Stunningly, they let it gather dust for 33 years in the house of a priest who lived 7 miles west of Jerusalem. Neglected. Ignored. But, just-crowned David determines to change that. After he settles the city of Jerusalem, he makes the return of the chest his top priority. He plans a....parade and invites 30,000 Hebrews to attend.

They gather near the home of Abinadab, the priest. His 2 sons, Uzzah and Ahio, are put in charge of the transport. They load the ark on an ox-driven wagon and begin the march. Trumpets blast, songs erupt and all goes well for the first 2 miles, until they hit a patch of rough road. The oxen stumble, the wagon shakes and the ark shifts. Uzzah, thinking the holy chest is about to fall off the wagon, extends his hand to steady it. And heaven uzzied Uzzah and 'he died' (2 Sam. 6:7)

David returns to Jerusalem. The ark is kept at the home of Obed-Edom while David sorts things the end of 3 months David returns, reclaims the ark, and resumes the parade.

This time there is no death. There is dancing.

Uzzah's tragedy teaches this : God comes on his own terms. He gave specific instructions as to the care and transport of the ark. Only the priests could draw near it. And then only after they had offered sacrifices for themselves and their families. (See Lev. 16). The ark would be lifted not with hands, but with acacia poles. Priests ran long rods through the rings on the corners to carry the ark. 'The Kohathites will come and carry these things to the next destination. But they must not touch the sacred objects, or they will die...they were required to carry the sacred objects of the Tabernacle on their shoulders' (Num. 4:15; 7:9 NLT).

Uzzah should have known this. He was a priest, a Koathite priest, a descendant of Aaron himself. The ark had been kept in the house of his father, Abinadab. He had grown up with it. Which may be the best explanation for his actions.

He gets word that the king wants the chest and says, 'Sure, I can get it. We keep it out back in the barn. Let's load it up.' The holy has become humdrum. The sacred, second-rate. So he exhanges commands for conveniences, using a wagon instead of poles and bulls instead of priests. We see no obedience or sacrifice; we see expedience.

God is angered.

The image of a dead Uzzah sends a sobering and shuddering reminder to those of us who can attend church as often as we wish, take communion anytime we desire. The message: don't grow lax before the holy. God won't be loaded on convenient wagons or toted about by dumb animals. Don't confuse him with a genie who pops out at the rub of a lamp or a butler who appears at the ring of a bell.

God comes, mind you. But he comes on his own terms. He comes when commands are revered, hearts are clean, and confession is made."

Uzzah died. But this is not the end of the story. Uzzah died but David danced. Why?

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story!

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