In 2 Samuel 6, we see how even good intentions cannot save us from missing God’s will, if we are not exact with God’s Word. David was taking the ark back to Jerusalem – which was a good thing. But he didn’t do it the way God had commanded in the Law. God had commanded the Levites to carry the ark on their shoulders; but David modified that command and placed the ark on a cart and let the oxen pull the cart. There he was imitating the Philistines who had adopted that method a few years earlier (1 Sam.6:8-12).
There are Christian leaders doing the same thing today. They run their churches according to the management techniques of worldly businesses rather than according to the teachings of God’s Word.
As the oxen carried the ark, they stumbled. When Uzzah saw that, he reached out his hand and held the ark to prevent it from falling. And God killed Uzzah, immediately, “for his irreverence” (v.7). It is sad, but true, that when God’s shepherds make a mistake, the sheep suffer too. David had made a mistake and Uzzah suffered for it. And David learnt there that God is very strict with His servants. Uzzah had the best of intentions. Yet “the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah” (v.7). Uzzah had been taught from childhood that only the Levites could touch the ark; but he took God’s commandment lightly in that moment and suffered for it.
The error of Uzzah can be repeated today. When we see things going wrong in our church, we can reach out our hands “to steady God’s ark”; and God may smite us, because even though our intentions may have been good, we went outside our “boundaries”. We may have done what our reason told us was right; but we did not wait on the Lord to find out His will. We acted in haste.
Jesus said, “I will build my Church” (Matt.16:18). Building the church is the Lord’s business, not ours. He has never delegated that task to any of us. So when we say, “I am building the church in such-and-such a place”, that is arrogant conceit. If ever we begin to think that the Body of Christ is our own private business, we will certainly make the mistake that Uzzah made, one day or the other. If we see the church shaking, let us go to God and tell Him, “Lord, YOU are building the church, not me. Preserve Your church.” And when we feel that things are not going as they should, let us ask ourselves whose work it is and who is in charge of it. Is it the Holy Spirit or we? At times, we may feel that something has to be done immediately. But if we act without listening to the Holy Spirit, we will always act in the flesh. And our actions, even if done with good intentions, will cause more confusion than if we had done nothing. So we must say, “Lord, You are in charge here. The government is on Your shoulders. And I want to listen to You. Tell me what YOU want me to do.”
There are many types of fools described in the book of Proverbs. But finally, the greatest fool of all is described thus, “Do you see a man who is HASTY in his words (or his matters)? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov.29:20).
The one who is hasty – hasty to say something or to do something – feels absolutely confident that he knows what is best for any situation. He doesn’t have to consult God at all. He can act on his own. Such a man is the greatest fool in the world.
It was prophesied about Jesus that, “He will delight in the fear of the Lord and He will not judge by what His eyes see or His ears hear” (Isa.11:3). Jesus could not avoid seeing many things because His eyes were not blind. Neither could He avoid hearing many things because He was not deaf. But He feared His Father so much that He would never make a judgment or form an opinion merely on the basis of what He saw or heard. As He once said of Himself, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father doing” (Jn.5:19).
When the Pharisees came to Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus did not reply to their question for some time. He was waiting to hear from His Father. When He heard, He spoke. It was just one sentence: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (Jn.8:7). That accomplished more than an hour-long sermon would have done!
When someone comes to us with a complicated problem, if we give him advice based on our cleverness and our past experience, the problem may only become more complicated. But one word of wisdom from the Father can work wonders.
And so, the next time we see “the oxen stumbling and the ark about to fall”, let us not be eager to put our names at the top of the list of fools!! Let us not be quick to judge by what our eyes see and what our ears hear, and act in irreverence. Instead, let us put our faces in the dust before the Lord and say, “Lord, I lack wisdom here. What do You want me to do?”
It is so difficult to acknowledge that we lack wisdom, especially when we know that the others in the church are younger and more immature than us. But if we humbly acknowledge our need, God will give us wisdom in abundance.