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Lowell Brueckner

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The Right Motive, the Wrong Method


 The end justifies the means, right? Not in the case, at which we are about to look. Related to the misuse of the first statement, is the misuse of Paul's statement, "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life". I have run into people, who find it very easy to quote Paul's statement, but I suspect an element of pride hidden behind their quote. They speak of those, "who know a lot of Scripture" (meaning more than they do) and yet "they are not living it" (as they profess to be living it). They think that "too much Bible study" can make you a dead religionist, so they put the enphasis on "living Christianity", rather than an in-depth study of the Bible. In a sense, they are proud of their ignorance. We are about to learn that ignoring the letter can also kill. God has a scriptural way and means to carry out His purposes, and we had better not ignore the way in a zealous desire to fulfill the will. Only the right means will lead to the right end. Please study carefully...

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. 1 Chronicles 15:2

here is no more important symbol in the Old Testament than the Ark of the Covenant. It represented the glory of God among His people, His gracious and merciful presence, and His powerful and favorable blessing. It was lost to the Philistines during the priesthood of Eli, who trembled, fell backward and broke his neck, upon hearing the news. The top priority in the new government of David was to bring the ark into Jerusalem. It was the secret behind the success that followed, which made Israel a powerhouse among the nations of the world in that day. So, in the presence of the priests, with the backing of the leadership and in the company of all the people, David intends to set the ark in its proper place. It was the right thing to do (1 Chron. 13:4), and the people rejoiced in the fulfillment of the act (13:8).
  Fully conscious of the importance of his mission, David overlooked the equal importance of the method. Such carelessness can easily follow on the heels of success. It is a presumption that people with vision often have, assuming that “the end justifies the means”. Take for an example the following argument concerning Christian music: “If the words are gospel, it doesn’t matter what kind of music carries them.” I recently read that a lie is okay, if it is uttered in order to further the Kingdom of God. Not so long ago, someone told me that Jesus Himself deceived, in order to carry out His purposes. Can these people be serious? “The end” will be death, instead of life, if “the means” are not in line with God’s unyielding Word. If man’s authority begins to override the absolute authority of Scripture, it is a sign of arrogance that can lead to spiritual shipwreck.

  We find it easy to quote Paul’s declaration, which he learned through past experience as a Pharisee, “The letter kills, but the Spirit brings life.” The story that we are considering teaches, as well, that death will result, if we carelessly ignore the letter. God had ordained that the ark be carried on the shoulders of priests (Numbers 7:9). It was constructed with poles on each side for that purpose (Exodus 25:14) and they were never to be removed. The priests carried the ark this way through the wilderness for forty years.  With the ark before them on the shoulders of the priests, the waters stood aside as Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. The ark, carried by the priests, led the Israelites around the walls of Jericho until the walls fell.

  However, one degree in the wrong direction will eventually carry things far from the intended goal. Carrying the ark in a cart pulled by oxen was a pagan method, invented by the Philistines. The fatal mistake of David was to assume that if this process worked for the Philistines, it was good enough for God’s people. So he had a new cart built specifically for his noble and high purpose (13:7). New or old, it cannot gain God’s approval, nor carry out His delicate, eternal purposes. The ways of God are organic, not synthetic. They pulsate with life and God is provoked to intolerant jealousy, when men substitute their inanimate constructions. He will have direct contact with a holy priesthood and rule, work and bless upon their shoulders!

  Uzzah puts forth a hand, not only to steady the ark, but in effect, he is fulfilling his responsibility in defending the king’s way of conducting God’s business (13:7). Never mind his good intentions, God in holy, jealous anger smites him dead on the spot (13:10)! Bold, presumptuous people pass God’s limitations for human involvement, laying a hand of control upon the very essence of his presence and power. “Presumptuous are they,” says Peter, “self-willed ... which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray ...”  Never fear, the Ark will go forward, but Uzzah is out of the picture. Somebody said, “You can’t break the law of gravity, but you can break your neck in the attempt.” You can’t twist the truth of God’s Word, but you can twist yourself into a pretzel, trying to make it fit into your personal theology and mentality.

  David learned his lesson the hard way, but at least he learned. My concern is for a church, which misinterprets the judgment of God and can find a way to justify direct, obvious signs of His disapproval. David knew a paralyzing fear (13:12) that hindered blessing for a while, but at least he feared. There is hope for a man who fears God and eventually, he decided to go back and start over. He humbly confessed, “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” (15:13).

  The priests sanctified themselves; set themselves apart for the high privilege of serving God. This was the reason for their existence (1 Peter 2:5, 9). They gave glory to God, not only in worship, not only in their good intentions of basking in His presence and enjoying his mercy and blessing, but also in performing their service the Bible way, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The way of death is abandoned and, with a new passion and zeal, the plan goes forward safely, as the first step towards a powerful demonstration of the Kingdom of God, working through His people. If you long to see this, then open your ears to His counsel, your eyes to His judgments, soften you heart to His correction and, above all else, “humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” 


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