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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2004-10-10

Text: 1 Chronicles 13

As Life B-P Church will turn 54 next Lord's Day, we certainly must give all glory to God for making the church what it is today. Whatever success we have had as a church is all through His doing alone. In God's kingdom success is not measured in terms of size or attendance. Neither is it measured in financial assets nor the number of ministries and mission outreaches a church has. 

Success is Doing God's Work in God's Way

In the kingdom of God, success is only evident when lives are genuinely saved from sin and eternal death, walking in the love of God, delivered from the sinful influences of the world, and nurtured through the teaching of God's Word into Christ-like men and women. Success is evident when sinners are thus transformed by the power of God into witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such success can only be achieved by observing an important principle: God's Work must always be done in God's way. 

One event in biblical history that demonstrates this well is the moving of the Ark of the Covenant by King David. The Ark was the most important piece of furniture in Israel. It was a gold-covered boxlike structure that had a solid gold 'mercy seat' on it, with statues of two cherubim whose wings formed an arch over the Ark. When the Israelites traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Ark was carried before them, to symbolize God's leading His people there. And when the people settled down in any place, the Ark was kept within the innermost chamber of the Tabernacle, and a pillar of cloud rested on it to show that God was present among His people. Hence the Ark became the symbol of God's presence. 

During the times of the Judges, when Israel turned away from God, God allowed His people to be oppressed by neighbouring nations. There was a time when Israel was oppressed by the Philistines who lived along the coast on the west. After years of oppression, the Israelites attempted to overthrow them, and so they gathered for war. In their second battle against the Philistines, they decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield, confident that this would assure victory for them. But they suffered an even worse defeat, and the unthinkable happened: The Philistines captured the Ark and brought it back with them as a war trophy!

However, the Philistines soon realized that in every city where the Ark was placed God vented His wrath on its inhabitant with a terrible plague. They finally returned it to Israel by placing it on a driverless ox-cart. The animals that pulled the ox-cart mysteriously made their way to an Israelite village. From there the Ark was moved to Kiriath-Jearim, where it was kept in the house of Abinadab for 20 long years. This was the setting for King David's attempt to move the Ark to Jerusalem to have it properly installed in the place of worship there, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 13. 

David's intentions for doing this were clearly commendable - he wanted to honour God by using the Ark to enquire of Him. Thus he said to the people, "And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul" (1 Chronicles 13:3). As a man after God's own heart, David sought to restore the Ark to its place of honour - the place where Israel could once again seek to know the specific will of God (We do not need the Ark of the Covenant to know God's will today, because we now have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to guide us.) How wonderful it would be if every child of God today is like David - earnestly desiring to please God and to do His will!

Like David, we should seek to put God first in everything that we do. God's work must be more important to us than our own works. His glory must be our chief pursuit in life so that whatsoever we do, we will do it all to the glory of God! (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Success is Not Just Having Good Intentions

Despite David's good intentions, his attempt to move the Ark met with disaster. While it was being transported, an Israelite named Uzza noticed that it was about to fall off its carriage and so he did a noble thing: he held the Ark to keep it from falling. But when he did that, he was instantly struck dead by the Lord.

Uzza shared David's high regard for the things of God. He cared enough to preserve it from suffering damage. He was unlike the men of Beth Shemesh who had also been struck dead earlier on because they disrespectfully opened the golden cover of the ark to look inside it (1 Samuel 6:9). And yet, despite his noble intentions, Uzza was struck dead like them! The joyful mood of this great event was marred by this unexpected death. David aborted the whole procession and the Ark was kept in the nearby house of Obededom.

The important lesson to learn from this is that godly intentions are not good enough. We may have the very best of intentions to glorify the Lord, to do His will and even to protect His work from danger, but we may still displease God and fail miserably in His work. Why? Because God requires His work to be done in His way and not in our own way. 

Placing the Ark in a new ox-cart driven by two men was not the divinely prescribed way for transporting it. One may reason that earlier on when the Philistines had sent the Ark back to Israel, they had done nearly the same thing and yet nothing disastrous happened. But it must be remembered that the Philistines were Gentiles who did this in ignorance. As an Israelite, King David should have known that using an ox-cart was not God's way at all. That is why the Lord's anger was kindled, and a very joyful event was turned into a sad, disastrous one. 

Success is Fearing the Lord

1 Chronicles 13:11 tells us, "David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzza." The word 'displeased' here actually means 'angry'. David was probably angry with himself as he realized that Uzza's unfortunate death was due to something that he had done or not done, although he did not know yet what it was. Toward God, David's attitude was not anger, but fear, as the next verse indicates "David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?" Through this event he had gained a proper holy fear of the Lord, a fear that would help him well in his second attempt to move the Ark.

This fear caused David to search the scriptures. During the three months that the ark remained in the house of Obededom, David probably did some extensive reading of the Old Testament scriptures he possessed to find the answer to his question, "How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?"

Success is Following the Lord's Prescription

He finally found what he was looking for in Deuteronomy 10:8 "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 unto Him, and to bless in His name, unto this day." Here were clear instructions that the Ark was to be hand-carried by Levites when it was transported. Now that David had found the answer, he implemented it in his second attempt. This is described in 1 Chronicles 15:2  "Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto Him for ever."

From his research David also learned that the Levites who carried the ark of God must first be carefully prepared and consecrated for this holy task. Thus he said to them: "sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order" (1 Chronicles 15:12,13). Here again we can see the principle that God's work must be done according to God's own prescribed order. We must therefore always seek to know God's prescribed order, and be careful to carry it out. This is the only way to succeed in God's service.

David�s success is clearly evident in verses 25 and 26 "So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the house of Obededom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams."

Instead of God's fiery wrath, the Levites who carried the Ark now experienced God's wonderful help! Nothing can be better in the Lord's service than to have God's help. When God helps us, nothing can go wrong. Success is fully assured, for He will see to it that everything will turn out well. There are several important applications of this for us.

You Need to Know God's Way to Do His Work

Without this our efforts will fail, even if we are most zealous and fervent in serving Him. The Apostle Paul testified that before he was saved he was the most zealous Pharisee of his times: "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." (Philippians 3:6). And yet for all his zeal and efforts, the Lord gave him not a word of commendation, but a word of rebuke, saying "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" (Acts 9:4) How shocked he must have been to learn that all his efforts to please the Lord were actually displeasing to Him! 

Paul later wrote in Romans 10:3 concerning his fellow Jews "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." He knew this well, because he was once exactly like them. Dear Reader, please understand that without the right knowledge, all your best efforts to do good for mankind and even for God Himself are nothing but filthy rags in His sight. Whatever zeal or sincerity you have would be misdirected if they are not according to the knowledge that God has given in His Holy Word. 

Do Not Devise Your Own Ways to Do God's Work

One good example of this is the way that churches conduct their worship service. Many man-made innovations have been introduced today into the church at large, to make the worship experience more appealing to the senses. But the worship service can be improved only within the limits defined by the Scriptures. Thornwell wrote, "Christianity in its living principles and its outward forms is purely a matter of Divine revelation. The great error of the Church in all ages, the fruitful source of her apostacy and crime, has been a presumptuous reliance upon her own understanding. Her own inventions have seduced her from loyalty to God, and filled her sanctuary with idols and the hearts of her children with vain imaginations."

According to the Scriptures a church worship service should include the singing of praises to God, corporate prayer, the cheerful giving of offerings to the Lord, the reading and faithful preaching of the Word of God. The use of musical accompaniment for worship is based on the heavenly worship which is accompanied with the playing of harps (Revelation 14:2). Our worship is to be in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24), without the use of any idol or image of God or Jesus. The solemnity and reverence of our worship service follows the pattern set in the heavenly visions of worship recorded in the Bible, where God's servants were filled with a sense of awe and of their unworthiness to stand in God�s presence. 

Let us therefore be careful not to introduce unbiblical attitudes and practices in our service to God, even if we think that they will be very helpful. Let us also observe one final application of doing God's work in God's Way:

You Need to Have a Consecrated Life 

This personal application comes from the injunction that King David gave to the Levites who were to carry the Ark, to first sanctify themselves for their task (1 Chronicles 15:12). 

Dear fellow Lifers, as we remember the Lord's goodness at our anniversary next week, let us be ready to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service." (Romans 12:1) May all of us prepare our hearts to consecrate ourselves anew to serve the Lord acceptably with reverence and godly fear, so that we may experience His wonderful help to render service which is most pleasing unto Him.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25