"Is It Constitutional?"
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 12, 2001
Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.
Then David was angry because the LORD's wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?" He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.
Now King David was told, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God." So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would."
David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel--I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."
And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
2 Samuel 6:1-23
In the United States of America we have a constitution. The church of Jesus Christ also has a constitution, which is the word of God. Whenever a human constitution conflicts with the church's constitution of God's infallible word, we must obey God rather than men. As Christians we are to ask only one question: "What does the Scripture say?" which, in reality is, "What does God say?" because the Scriptures are the very word of God.
We come under the power of this heavenly constitution by obeying it. God speaks powerfully and emphatically to us in the Holy Scriptures, promising, commanding, rebuking, correcting and instructing us. It is through the unchanging words of the Bible that God tells us how to live. In Psalm 119:89 we read, "Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." Isaiah 40:8 tells us, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." In Psalm 119:105 the psalmist wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
The question we are considering today is whether we are living according to this constitution. We are living at a time when not only the world mocks at the Bible, but the church herself is rejecting the standard of Scripture in favor of changing cultural norms. Christians increasingly refuse to tolerate faithful preaching of the word of God. They do not want to be told how to live their lives; rather, they want to be entertained. The apostle Paul spoke of these times when he said, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus also said, "At that time many will turn away from the faith" (Matt. 24:10).
What should those who love God and his word do in such times? Let the world mock the word of God! Let the majority of professing Christians turn away from the word of God! May we remain faithful to the faith of our fathers and live our lives in accordance with the constitution of the kingdom of God. May we read it and meditate upon it daily. May we believe the word of God, affirming, "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it."
Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem
An incident from the life of David described in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13 and 15 illustrates the truth that God's blessing will come upon our lives only when we order them according to the word of God. In these passages we read that it was David's desire to bring the ark of God to Zion, the city of David, which he conquered from the Jebusites. As the earthly throne of Israel's God, the ark was the sacramental symbol of the presence of God and the most holy object in the whole system of Mosaic worship.
At that time the nation Israel was beginning to develop a mechanical view of the ark-that it was, in essence, God in a box. The Israelites had taken the ark from Shiloh into the battle against the Philistines. When Israel was defeated, the ark was captured by the Philistines. This holy object gave considerable trouble and pain to the Philistines, so they began to send it from one city to another. After seven months, the Philistines returned the ark to Israel. We are told that it stayed in the house of Abinadab for over eighty years in Kiriath Jearim.
As an unregenerate person, King Saul had no use for the ark. But once David became the king of all Israel, he desired to honor God by bringing the ark to his city of Zion. By bringing the ark to Zion, David would be publicly acknowledging that Israel's true king was the God of Israel, and that David and all of Israel wanted to be ruled by this God and King.
The passage we are considering today speaks about David's bringing the ark to Jerusalem. There are three things we want to examine: First, zeal without knowledge, or confused worship; second, the source of confusion; third, constitutional or proper worship.
David's Zeal Without Knowledge
In 2 Samuel 5 we learned that David, unlike Saul, was a man of prayer. Like Saul, David fought battles against the Philistines, but unlike Saul, David always prayed before he fought. He did this the first time the Philistines came and subsequent times (2 Samuel 5:19, 23). But in this very important matter of bringing the ark to Zion, although David was careful to consult with all sorts of people, including the leaders of Israel, as we read in 1 Chronicles 13:1, David failed to consult with God.
David himself acknowledged this failure in 1 Chronicles 15:13. Why did David neglect to confer with God? He was probably too busy consulting with everybody else. This is also our problem. When we are faced with a decision, how many of us seek counsel of other people but fail to pray to God? But by doing so we are choosing to act on the basis of man's word, not God's. The result is that we often make crucial decisions based on man's philosophy and our own understanding rather than on God's word. Such decisions ultimately turn out to be disastrous, and the end result is that we will be frustrated and will not experience the blessing of God upon our activities. Like David, we then may even get angry at God and blame him for our troubles. But the truth is, if we do not pray, we are just doing what we want to do without any reference to our Head. We call such actions Christian convulsions.
Not only did David neglect to pray, but he also neglected to study the word of God so that he could discover the will of God from that ancient document. It was David's duty as Israel's deputy king to always have a copy of God's word in his possession so that he would read it and live in accordance with it. It was the constitution for every king of Israel to use in governing God's people.
We find this command given to kings in Deuteronomy 17:18-20:
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests who are Levites. It is to be with him and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
But David neglected to read the word of God and learn what God's will was, especially in this situation of how to bring the ark of God back to Jerusalem. David himself speaks of this failure in 1 Chronicles 15:13, saying, "We did not inquire of him about how to do it. in the prescribed way." God had prescribed a certain way, as David discovered later and as we read in verse 15: "And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord." The word of God is the constitution, the prescription, the road map for our lives, but David had been too busy to read it.
hen David first decided to bring the ark to Zion, he consulted with all Israel and made a plan. They went together in a great procession to Kiriath Jearim, about eight and half miles from Zion, took the ark from Abinadab's house, put it on a new cart pulled by oxen, and assigned a priest named Uzzah to walk behind the ark to keep an eye on it. Everyone was worshiping with all his might, singing, shouting, and rejoicing before God in great celebration.
But this was not acceptable worship. In fact, it was confused worship. God could not bless this worship because David and his people were not worshiping according to the divine constitution. They had not prayed or consulted the Scriptures. They were like the Pharisees, zealous without knowledge. They were simply convulsing.
At one point in the procession the oxen stumbled and the ark of the Lord began to fall off the cart. Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark so that it would not fall to the ground. I am sure Uzzah wanted to help God out. In fact, the name Uzzah means strength. But God does not need our help. It is his hand that holds us and fights our battles. Uzzah had the mistaken idea that he could defend and help out this God in a box. He did not have any idea of God's holiness.
God became angry at Uzzah "because of his irreverent act." His wrath broke out and Uzzah instantly died before the Lord in the presence of all the people. What irony! Uzzah came to worship; instead, he died. Rather than being a blessing, his worship became a curse to him because he was acting unconstitutionally.
In 2 Samuel 5 we read that God's wrath broke out against the Philistines, but in 2 Samuel 6 we read that his anger broke out against an Israelite, a priest. Of course, this action of God put an immediate end to all the celebration and worship. Angry, frustrated, and afraid, David lost all desire to bring the ark to Zion. He did not know what would happen next. All he knew was that God was angry.
David arranged to have the ark taken to the house of a Levite named Obed-Edom, where it remained for three months. Then all the people of Israel returned to their homes, confused and sad.
The Source of Confusion
The second point we want to examine is the source of the confusion concerning worship and how David took care of it. During the three months the ark remained at the home of Obed-Edom, David apparently spent much time reading the word of God, praying, and seeking God. We can imagine what he was praying: "O God," David would say, "truly you are King of kings and Lord of lords. You must rule me and rule Israel. We need you. What went wrong with our plan to bring the ark to Jerusalem?" Let me tell you, when trouble comes, it is a good idea to go to God and ask, "What's wrong? What happened, O God?" Rest assured, God will tell us what we need to know. Whenever we come to God in honesty and sincerity, God will tell us what is wrong.
In his desire to know the cause of God's anger, David took his old copy of the Scriptures, dusted it off, and started reading it very diligently. David was scared. Why was his God angry with him? He read the Book cover to cover. At the same time he was praying earnestly. In time God showed him from his word the prescribed way of moving the ark.
We must always keep in mind that, as Christians, our constitution is the Scriptures, not culture, modernism, philosophy, psychology, paganism, or worldliness. The church should never imitate the world. Jesus told us the pagans run after the things of the world, but God's people must seek first his kingdom and his ways. The Bible says that those who were once darkness are now light in the Lord. Why should we ever return to darkness?
One of the teachings of the Reformation was sola Scriptura, which means Scripture alone. By this we mean we must study the whole Scripture to be regulated by it. Additionally, we must not add anything, whether psychology, science, philosophy, tradition or anything else, to the Bible. Scripture alone is the constitution that we must study, meditate, believe, and act upon.
Where did David get the idea of putting the ark on a new cart pulled by animals? From the Philistine priests, as we read in 1 Samuel 6:2, 7. During the time of Samuel, the Philistines captured the ark of the Lord in battle. But soon they began to experience certain problems. The Philistines came to their priests and asked, "What can we do with this ark? It is giving us so much trouble and we are full of pain, trouble, and disease." The priests told them, "Make a brand-new cart pulled by two cows and send it away." This seems to be the pattern David was following when he first set out to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem.
How many of us pattern our lives after secular Philistine philosophies and ideas, as David did! How many people refuse to consult the word of God, yet wonder why they are frustrated! At the end of their lives they may ask, "Why are my children crazy? Why don't they love God?" Let me tell you why: It is because they lived their whole lives in the light of Philistine philosophy. Yes, they paid lip service to the word of God, but for all practical purposes, they lived by the philosophy of the new cart of the Philistines. At the end of the day, they are frustrated. (PGM) Oh, the minister may have told them not to do certain things. They heard it, yes, but they didn't really hear it and do it, and now they are frustrated. God's will for us is to live according to Scripture, not according to worldly ways, no matter how modern and sophisticated they are. God's word alone is eternal.
In Genesis 4 we read about Cain, the brother of Abel. After God did not accept Cain's sacrifice, he was downcast, depressed, and frustrated. In verse 7 God spoke to Cain, saying, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" In other words, "Do what is right and you will be happy. Offer blood sacrifice by faith, as your brother did." What did Cain do? He refused, and became a restless wanderer on the earth.
There is a right way to worship God. It is the way of the Bible, not the way of the Philistines. In Exodus 25:40 Moses was told to build the tabernacle according to the pattern that was shown him on the mountain. He was to build God's way, not man's. In Jeremiah 6:16 we find God's counsel to a sinful nation who abandoned the word of God: "This is what the Lord says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." I believe that this is what Jesus was referring to when he said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . . . and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus is the way of rest.
Constitutional worship results in rest, but those who pursue Philistine philosophy will have only misery, confusion, and frustration in the end.
Building According to God's Word
We must order our lives according to God's word. In John 4:24 Jesus Christ declared, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth." Remember also what Peter said when Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and cast the nets: "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything." In other words, Peter was telling God, "God, it is no good. It is not going to work. We are professionals." But then he said something else. "But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
Perhaps you are encountering frustration in your own life. I urge you to consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24: "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock." In other words, Jesus is saying that at the end of our lives, if we build according to his word, what we have built will not be washed away but will remain. We will not encounter frustration, but will be able to die in peace and full assurance that God will receive us.
After the death of Uzzah, David learned what God's wonderful plan was of how to carry the ark. In Numbers 4:15 and 7:9 he read that the priests, the Kohathites, must carry it on their shoulders. That was the prescribed, constitutional way, and it was not to be deviated from. The ark was not to be carried on a cart, no matter how nice and new it was. We must never "improve" upon God's direction. That is sheer arrogance.
Dr. Eta Linnemann is a New Testament scholar who will be speaking here in the near future. She lived her entire life for the purpose of destroying the Holy Scriptures by writing scholarly works against the authority of Scripture. Then the Lord apprehended her, and now she is writing books, asking people not to read the old ones. She is truly saved and committed to declaring the gospel. We must never try to improve the word of God by imposing upon it our own sinful, corrupt ideas. No psychology, no philosophy, no Philistinism must be added to God's directives for our lives.
Then David read in Numbers 4:15 that even the priests were not allowed to touch the ark, and that if they did, they would die. In Numbers 4:20 David read that no one was to look inside the ark, lest they die.
God says, "Be holy, for I am holy." God must be revered, and we show reverence by doing all things according to his word. You cannot tell me that my son honors me if he disobeys me. The way to honor a father is by hearing and doing what the father says. There is no other way to honor a father or a mother. The word of God is powerful, and you receive it as powerful when you do it.
What happens if we do not live according to God's word? In Leviticus 10 we read about Nadab and Abihu. They were priests, sons of Aaron, who went to minister before God in the tabernacle. But they were not acting according to the Book, and God killed them. The same wrath of God that had broken out against Uzzah broke out against Nadab and Abihu.
In Joshua 6 and 7 we read about Achan. He was also told how to live, as we read in Joshua 6:18-19. There Joshua said, "But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury." What was Achan's response to the rules given by God? "Forget about it. I like gold, I like silver, I like style, designer garments." He stole a gold wedge, two hundred shekels of silver and a beautiful robe from Babylonia, covered them up, and went about worshiping as if nothing was wrong. What happened to Achan? Both he and his family were killed by God.
In 1 Samuel 6:19 we read that when the ark came to Beth Shemesh from the country of the Philistines, some Israelites looked into it, contrary to Numbers 4:20. What happened to them? They found out this ark was not just a box. Seventy Israelite men were killed--all who had looked inside it. And in 2 Samuel 6 we read about Uzzah, who took hold of the ark to steady it so it would not fall, and paid with his life for his irreverent act.
We must honor and respect God. Remember when the disciples were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. They woke Jesus up and asked him, "Don't you care if we all perish?" Not only did they think they would perish, but they thought Jesus could perish with them. What did Jesus say? "Where is your faith? Do you understand who I am? No storm is going to kill me, and because no storm can kill me, you are safe."
In Acts 5 we read about Ananias and Sapphira. God killed them in the church because they were not living according to his word. We must respect this God, for he is holy. We must worship according to his constitution.
What, then, is constitutional worship? David had wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem as soon as he could. Not seeking God and making proper preparations, he tried to bring the ark in the wrong manner and suffered serious consequences. Now, after three months, David had learned a few things from his serious study of the Scriptures and prayer, and so he made plans to bring the ark the right way. In 1 Chronicles 15-16 we observe David putting great emphasis on making the proper preparations and showing proper reverence.
David began by pitching a proper tent for the ark, as we read in 1 Chronicles 15:1, 3, and 12, and 1 Chronicles 16:1. Then he discovered which priests should carry the ark and that they should consecrate themselves. David required them to do so, as we read in 1 Chronicles 15:12 and 14. Then David discovered that he should offer sacrifices, demonstrating that he was conscious of his sin and dependent upon divine atonement. He sacrificed before and after the ark was brought to Jerusalem, also showing a proper understanding of who this holy God is.
In 1 Chronicles 15:15 and 26 we are told that the priests carried the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem, while David and all the people were joyously worshiping God. Now their worship was acceptable and everyone was happy because the Lord had helped them. The Lord's blessing was evident, not only in the house of Obed-Edom, but in this biblically informed worship service.
David and all the people worshiped, sang, and celebrated with great joy before the ark of God. The king himself removed his regal clothing and symbols in an act of humility, making himself to be like one of the people. As the people began to worship, God blessed them. Finally, the ark was brought and was placed in the tent. What a time of rejoicing!
The Importance of Constitutional Living
God has given us his constitution so that we might live for him and worship him acceptably. When David had first tried to bring back the ark, he had not studied the God-given constitution, and there were serious consequences. Let me tell you, this problem of not reading and praying before acting plagued David throughout his life. We must examine this failure and take warning, because David's failure is our failure too.
In 2 Samuel 11 we read of David committing adultery with Bathsheba and then arranging to have her husband Uriah murdered. In 2 Samuel 12:9-10 Nathan confronted David with his sin, telling him twice that he had despised God and his word. There we read,
Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.
We must conclude that in those days David had not been reading the word of God and praying faithfully. How else could he have so easily committed adultery and murder in direction violation of God's commandments?
Later on we read that David conducted a census, which was not right, according to the Scriptures. God punished him for doing that also, and seventy thousand Israelites died. How could he have done these things if he had been looking into the Scriptures on a daily basis and living in obedience to them?
But this is our problem too. When we do not pray, when we do not study the word of God and order our lives according to it, we are living disorderly lives and courting disaster. For example, we may think we can live without forgiving someone, but that is not what the Bible teaches us. The Bible says if your brother sins against you seven times in a day, yet comes to you and says, "I repent," you must forgive that brother. You must! What we sow, that will we reap. An unconstitutional life can only bring about divine curse and frustration. The way of blessing is the way of the word of God.
Is Your Life Constitutional?
What about you? Is your life constitutional? The Bible says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." Do you seek first the kingdom of God? The Bible says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength." Is that how you love God? The Bible says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is right." Do your children obey you in everything? The Bible says, "Wives, be submissive to your own husbands in everything," and "the wife must respect her husband." Wives, do you do these things? The Bible says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her," "Be considerate . . . and treat them with respect," and "Provide for your family. If you don't, you are worse than an infidel." Men, are you doing these things? The Bible says, "Pray always" and "Rejoice always and in everything." Church, are you doing these things? The Bible says, "If you love me, keep my commandments." Do we obey Jesus Christ? The Bible says, "Fear not." Are you trusting in God? The Bible says, "Love one another." Do you love one another? God has given us Ten Commandments. We are not saved by keeping them, but we are saved by Christ to obey them. Are you doing that?
Is our worship according to the word of God? Some churches are filled with more pageantry than the word of God. Others are more like business meetings than churches: they only speak about how to make more money. Some churches focus on entertaining rather than preaching the word. Is that what the Bible says you should do? How many of us have thrown the Scriptures out the window and have taken up with Philistinism? The world has come into the church and governs it. But at the end of the day, we will be frustrated, miserable, and unhappy. God is angry when we live disorderly lives.
Let me give you some good news. When we return to God and live according to his word, he will bless us. Even though his curse comes on those who disobey, the Lord of the covenant will bless those who obey him. Therefore, let us look to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David and the Lord of David, and imitate him. Jesus came to fulfill the word of God and lived by it. Rejecting the offer of glory by the devil, he said, "No, it is written that I must live by the word of God." Jesus said his food was to do the will of God and to finish it. The whole Scriptures spoke about his death for our salvation, and he lived by those Scriptures. He became obedient as a man even to the death of the cross. Jesus lived a constitutional life; therefore, God exalted him.
If you follow Jesus Christ in the way of obedience, you shall be blessed every day of your life and in the day of your death. Therefore, I urge you to reject human philosophy, psychology, human standards, paganism, and worldliness of every type and kind! Look into the Book and pray earnestly! Do what God tells you and I guarantee that his blessing and his peace shall be upon you as it was upon Obed-Edom and all his household.
May God help us to put away Philistinism and put into practice his constitution, that we may be filled with the fullness of the blessing of Christ now and forevermore. Amen.
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Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
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