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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am Service, 2006-03-12

Text: 1 Chronicles 13:1-14,15:11-15

The topic for our message this morning is: 'Truth versus Technique' This is meant to addess a trend in the church at large to do God's work, not in God's way, but in Man's way. There was a time when a church's existence was based on its doctrinal statement. But today, many churches are no longer based on doctrine, but on methodology. The watchword now is innovation! Pastors are studying business marketing strategies in order to derive new innovative methods that can increase the size of their congregations much faster. 

Because of this, the training curriculum in many seminaries today no longer emphasise Biblical studies and theology, but marketing techniques and church growth theory. All this is being done to make the church more relevant to the changing world. The result is that drama, contemporary music, recreation, entertainment, self?help programmes, and similar enterprises are given greater emphasis in churches. Preaching from the Bible is reduced to minimum, because it is regarded as boring. Our worship services which emphasise the solemnity of worship, prayer, reading and exposition of God's Word are analysed as not being user-friendly or attractive enough.

To make the church more 'user-friendly' the music used in church should be familiar to their ears. Hence hymns are out and fast beating music should be in - better still to use the same tunes as worldly music but just change the words to give them a spiritual slant. Instead of calling this a worship service, they call it a celebration of praise, and Clap offerings are freely given to God. Whatever biblical truth the people receive must be given only in small, diluted doses. And there are only certain things from the Bible they should be given. 

According to church growth experts it would be a great mistake to tell people that they are sinners because that would destroy their self-esteem. Don't ever mention the wrath and judgment of God in a sermon because it only creates fear in people. Don't talk at all about hellfire and brimstone, because it will scare people away. If you want to see your church growing, preach only those portions of the Bible that are upbeat, positive and inspirational, because the preacher's duty is to dish out chicken soup for the soul!

By employing all these techniques some churches have actually been able to fill huge auditoriums with thousands of people several times a week! When we see the amazing and quick results produced by these churches - growing into huge megachurches in a short time, and compare that with our own slow church growth, we might be tempted to think like this: Since the techniques work and produce the desired results, we should change with the times we live in, and not cling so hard to our conservative ways. Let us have less preaching in our church - Why not keep our sermons short and sweet - only 10 minutes long, so that we can have time for more interesting activities, and people will have more to look forward to in the worship service?

Dearly beloved, let us not be fooled by whatever growth or increase such methods may bring, as they are only superficial. All these man-made 'user-friendly' techniques can only bring superficial results. After all this has been done, there is no real change in the hearts of sinner, and no accompanying change of life; no holiness and fervent obedience to God that distinguishes the people of God from the people of the world. 

Why is this so? Because of an important eternal principle: In order to be successful, God's work must always be done according to God's prescribed way. This morning, we want to study an event in biblical history that provides a powerful demonstration of this principle: The moving of the Ark of the Covenant by King David to Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was a box-like structure, covered with gold that had a cover made of solid gold on it, with statues of two angels (called cherubim) whose wings formed an arch over the ark. 

It was used as a storage place for the Ten Commandments which were written on two stone tablets. The ark itself had two poles attached to its sides which were used for carrying it. When the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land, the ark would be carried before them, to symbolize God's leading His people there. And when the people settled down in any place the Ark of the Covenant was kept within the innermost chamber of the Tabernacle - the place of worship for Israel. A pillar of cloud rested on the ark to show that God was present among His people. Hence the ark became the symbol of God's presence to the Israelites. 

Now, during the times of the Judges, when the Israelites turned away from God, God allowed the Philistines to capture the Ark of the Covenant and to bring it back to their city as a war trophy. However, in every city where the Ark was placed, God's wrath was vented against the Philistines there. So they finally returned the Ark to Israel, by placing it on an ox-cart that had no driver. The oxen mysteriously pulled the cart till it arrived at an Israelite village. From there the ark was moved to a place called Kiriath-Jearim, where it was kept for 20 years in the house of a man called Abinadab. This was the setting for the event that we want to focus our attention on now - How King David moved the Ark from this house to Jerusalem to have it properly reinstated into the place of worship there. Let us turn our Bibles now to 1 Chronicles 13. 

I. David Moves the Ark With Human Technique (Chapter 13)

A. His Good Intentions (vv.1-4)

The first 4 verses bring out the very first important fact about David - He was truly a man after God's own heart. This is shown in two things - Firstly in v.2 we observe that David conditioned his bringing up of the ark on the Will of God. He said, 'If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the LORD our God.' That implies that if God should at all indicate that the ark should not be brought to Jerusalem, David would not do it. It is always good for us to have this important condition in all our planning 'If the Lord wills, we will carry out what we have planned.' 

The second thing we notice is in v.3 where David explains his intended purpose for bringing up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He said, 'for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.' In the earlier times of Israel's history, whenever a leader or king had a very important decision to make and did not know what to do, he would go to the high priest of Israel, who would then enquire God's will for him at the Ark of the Covenant. During the reign of King Saul however, the Ark was not used at all, because Saul was not a good king, but a man after his own heart, not God's heart. Now David wanted to restore the Ark to its rightful place of honour - the place where Israel could once again seek to know the specific will of God. 

Today we do not need to find the Ark of the Covenant to know God's will, because we now have the written Word of God and the Holy Spirit to guide us. But the important thing that we want to observe about David's stated purpose in v.3, is that he wanted to enquire of the Lord. His intentions were truly very good and glorifying to God. Even though David was king of Israel, he recognized that he needed to put God first in his life and in his kingdom. And so there is no doubt at all that David had the best of intentions in bringing up the Ark of God to Jerusalem. Dearly beloved, let us also seek to put God first in everything that we do. God's work must be more important to us than our own works. 

Thus we have seen how David earnestly wanted to do God's will and wanted to glorify God by enquiring of Him for every decision he made. These were the things that caused him to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And he really deserves to be commended for these godly intentions. How wonderful it would be if every one of us here is like that - earnestly desiring to please God and to do His will. 

B. His Unexpected Failure (vv.9-10)

But now we are going to see that despite all these good intentions, David's attempt to move the Ark met with disaster. Although the procession went well at first, According to vv. 9,10 while the Ark was being transported, someone by the name of Uzza noticed that it was about to fall down from its carriage and so he held on to the Ark to keep it steady. But at that moment, he was struck dead by the Lord!

Now Uzza, like David, touched the ark with good intentions. Like David, he had a high regard for the things of God. He cared enough to preserve it from being damaged. And yet he was struck dead! The joyful mood of this great event was terribly marred by this unexpected death. David stopped the whole procession, and the Ark did not reach Jerusalem but was kept in the house of Obededom nearby.

The important lesson for us to learn both from David, as well as from Uzzah who died, is that in the Lord's service, having godly intentions is 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 harm and danger. But we may still end up displeasing God and failing miserably in His work. Why? Because we are not doing the work according to the Truth He has prescribed. 

The reason why David failed so badly in this first attempt to move the ark is that he did it entirely in his own way. According v.7 the Ark was placed in a new ox-cart which was pulled by oxen and driven by two men. But this was not the divinely prescribed way for transporting the Ark of the Covenant. 

Verses 11 and 12 of our text tells us how David reacted to this. Firstly, he was displeased. The word 'displeased' here actually means 'angry'. That does not mean that David was angry with God for striking Uzza dead. 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. David's feelings toward God was not anger, but fear, as v.12 tells us 'David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?' That event filled him with a proper, holy reverential fear of the Lord, a fear that would now help him tremendously in his second attempt to move the ark.

II. David Moves the Ark with God's Truth (Chapter 15)

A. His Careful Search (vv.2,12)

This fear of God caused David to search the scriptures. For three months, the Ark remained in the house of Obededom. During that time, David probably did some extensive reading of the Old Testament scriptures to find the answer to his question, 'How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?' He finally discovered 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 in the Law of God are clear instructions that the Ark of the Covenant was to be hand-carried by Levites when it was transported. And now that David had found the answer, he implemented it in his second attempt to move the Ark to Jerusalem. 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.' And David also learned from his research that the Levites who carried the ark of God must first be carefully prepared and consecrated for this holy task. This is why he said to them in v.12 'Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: 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.'

In the next verse (v.13), David admitted his mistake of not seeking for God's Truth and using it to transport the ark. He said to the Levites '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.' Once again we see the important principle - God's work must be done according to God's prescribed order, and not according to any other order. We must therefore seek first to know God's prescribed order and be careful to use it whenever we do anything in the Lord�s service. This is the way to success in God's service.

B. His Joyful Success (vv.25-26)

Because David was now very careful to do everything according to God's order, his second attempt to move the Ark of the Covenant was very successful. The end of the event is recorded in vv.25,26 '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.' What a contrast we see here to the first attempt. Instead of receiving God's anger life Uzzah, the Levites who carried the Ark experienced God's help! Nothing can be better in the Lord's service than to have the help of God Himself. When God helps us, nothing can go wrong. 

Success is completely assured, for God Himself will see to it that everything will turn out well. We have just studied a powerful demonstration of the principle that God's work must always be done according to God's truth and not according to Human techniques. Let us consider how we should apply this.

III. Applying This Principle

There are 3 important applications we can make. Firstly, when we do the work of the Lord we ought to ensure that we 

A. Always Seek to Use God's Truth to Do His Work

Without God's Truth, all our efforts will fail. Even if we are most zealous and fervent in serving the Lord, it will all be wasted effort if carried out without it. 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 efforts, the Lord gave him not a word of commendation, but a word of stern rebuke, saying 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?' How shocked he must have been to learn that all his efforts to please the Lord were actually persecuting Him! 

Paul later wrote in Romans 10:3 concerning his fellow Pharisees 'For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.' He knows this so well, because he was once exactly like them, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Dearly beloved, let us understand that without the right knowledge, all our best efforts to do good are but filthy rags in God's sight. Whatever zeal or sincerity we have would be misdirected if what we do is not according to the knowledge that God has given to us in His Holy Word. So let us always seek the knowledge of God's Truth which He has prescribed for doing His work. Another application that we can make is: 

B. Do Not Use Human Techniques to Do His Work

We must observe this even when the human techniques may seem to be better to us that what is prescribed in God's truth. For instance, in the moving of the Ark of Covenant, it would seem to make very good sense to use an ox cart rather than to have it hand-carried by the Levites. In our own human thinking, the new ox-cart is a more efficient, faster and more impressive mode of transporting the Ark -Something like using a Rolls Royce to transport an important dignitary. 

It uses less manpower - only 2 skilled drivers are needed instead of the 4 Levites. The oxen are strong enough to keep pulling the cart without a break for the 14 km journey to Jerusalem. The Levites would probably need several rest stops before reaching Jerusalem, not to mention the sore shoulders and blistered feet they might have after that ordeal. 

So why not spare these poor Levites from enduring such great physical stress and go for ox-power instead? Doesn't the end justify the means? Well if it was to transport anything else, Yes! - the end would justify the means. But this rule cannot be applied to God's work. In God's work, the end cannot justify the means because success depends entirely on God Himself and He determines the means. If He blesses the work, it succeeds. If He does not bless the work, it can never succeed no matter what means we may use to make it succeed!

One good example is the church worship service. As I mentioned earlier, many human techniques have been introduced into the church at large today. These techniques are supposed to make the worship experience more appealing to the senses - shorter and inoffensive sermons, worldly music, special light and sound effects. One large church in the southwestern United States installed a special effects system costing - million dollars that can produce smoke, fire, sparks and laser lights in the auditorium. The church sent its staff to Las Vegas to study live special effects used in its entertainment halls. And after they implemented what they had studied, one of their worship services ended by having the pastor ascending up to 'heaven' by invisible wires that drew him out of sight while the choir and orchestra added a musical accompaniment to the spectacular smoke, fire, and light show!

Dearly beloved, these techniques clearly go beyond the limits that God has defined for worship, and therefore they do not have divine approval. A writer named 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.' Thus, we must never use human techniques to attract more people to come for our worship services. Every thing we do here must have a biblical basis. 

A church worship service must include the singing of hymns, corporate prayer, the cheerful giving of offerings to the Lord, and the reading and faithful preaching of the Word of God. Our worship is to be in Spirit and in Truth, as Jesus said in John 4:24, without the use of idols or images of God or Jesus. The solemnity and reverence of our service follows the pattern set in the heavenly visions of worship recorded in the Bible, where God's servants were filled with a reverential sense of their unworthiness to stand in God's presence. 

We have already considered two applications of the principle of using truth instead of technique in the Lord's work. We will now look at one more application - a personal one:

C. God Requires Consecrated Lives for His Work

Although the ox-cart could have moved the Ark 14 km to Jerusalem more efficiently, it would remove the need for the Levites to be involved in moving it. What the Lord wants to see in His work is not so much efficiency or productivity. What He wants to see is the voluntary participation of His people in His work. Even though it is a lot more tedious to get the right people to give of their time and effort to do the Lord's work together and with the right motives, it is all worthwhile, because the Lord takes delight in the service which they offer to Him from their hearts. Dearly beloved, if you are not participating in any kind of service to God yet, it is high time for you to do so! 

And when you participate in the Lord's work, please do not try to do it in the same way as you would carry out any other kind of work, such as your office work or any work that you may do for your community. To be pleasing to God, His work must be carried only only by lives that are consecrated to Him - this means lovingly offering your life for His use, as a suitable response to the manifold grace He has given to you. Remember that in the account of the moving of the Ark the Levites were told to consecrate themselves for their task of carrying the Ark? Let us likewise consecrate ourselves fully to the Lord, and 'present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.' (Romans 12:1) May the Lord help us to give Him consecrated service which is 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