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Scripture(s): 1 Chronicles 13:1-12, John 14:6
For this final lecture I chose I Chronicles and if you do have a Bible feel free to turn there with me. In I Chronicles we have a story about the ark. It's actually written down twice. You also find it in 2 Samuel with exactly more or less the same words, at least for a few verses.
It's a story where David got established in Jerusalem and with his kingdom, but the ark was kind of forgotten. It was out in a shed (like this probably) and basically forgotten. And then they have a great idea to bring the ark back to where it belongs in the midst of his people. And so in 1 Chronicles, chapter 13, they all have a good idea, I think so, to bring it back. Now let's see the story how it went.
1 Chronicles 13:1 - David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds. 2)He then said to the whole assembly of Israel "If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send the word far and wide to the rest of our brothers throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their own towns and pasturelands, to come and join us.
(What for?) 3)Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul." 4)The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people. (By the way, that's democracy.)
5)So David assembled all the Israelites, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. 6)David and all the Israelites went with him went to Baalah of Judah(Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubim--The ark that is called by the Name. 7)They moved the ark of God from Abinadab's house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8)David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets. 9)When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10)The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. 11)Then David was angry because the LORD's wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day this place is called Perez Uzzah. 12)David was afraid of God that day and asked, "How can I bring the ark of God to me? "
This is one of the stories I never appreciated when I read the Old Testament. There are several stories because if any story is unfair, unjust-it is this one. Because Ahio and Uzzah, these two faithful men, they lead the cart on which contains the covenant of God, the Holy of Holies is sitting on and at one point the oxen stumble and The holy of holy's is falling off and Uzzah reaches out and puts out his hand to keep it from falling onto the dirt and when God sees this he strikes him dead. That's not fair. I never understood this for the longest time. So what is so interesting here is that David assembled all the people and said "Let's do this" and they said "it's a good idea." Democracy. And it seemed right to everyone. And then it's so interesting in verse 12 David says "How can I bring the ark to me?" You know people always ask how. People always ask for methods. How can we do that? Get me a method, God.
By the way, it's also interesting, why didn't David ask this question a little bit earlier? How can I bring up the ark? It seems like it's true of men that first a disaster must happen before we finally come to the point where we turn to God and ask God how to go about it. It seems that we try to cope in our own strength, with our own mind, with our own fantastic ideas and only until we totally collapse, a disaster happens-there is a divorce, there is a fight, there is whatever and then when we are at the very end we come to God and say "Well God, by the way, what did you think about the whole thing?" Why don't we start with that?
It's my strong conviction, in the meantime, that people only learn by experience, by our mistakes. What do we teach our children? We teach our children this and this and this but when do they learn it? After they haven't done what we told them. It seems to be true. It doesn't have to be that way but looking at life, looking at myself, those lessons I know by now are those where I failed.
Now what did David do after he failed so miserably in trying to bring out the ark to himself? Well, he did one good thing, he read the Bible. That's not bad for a start. And he actually read the book of Leviticus, which as you know, is not the most exciting book, but he did.
It says in, 1 Chronicles 15.
1) After David had constructed buildings for himself in the city of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2)Then David said "No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God."
What is the price? How come he knows all of a sudden? "-because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord to minister before him forever."
Why did he know now? Well, he had read the book? He read the book that God gave to us as a revelation of himself. And in verse 12 we read: "He said to them "You are the heads of the Levitical families. You and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the Lord the God of Israel to the place I have prepared it for. 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."
There is a lesson to be learned and it is this: God loves to be with us, he longs to be with us but according to his ways. Not according to ours because there is only one way. This is not New Testament theology, that's in the Old Testament. We see it here when the Lord Jesus Christ said "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There is no other way. You need to come to God on his terms not on yours. And his terms is his own Son. That's questioned very often and I love one passage in Mark 14 where Jesus on Gethsemane, the night before he was crucified, he prayed three times: "My God, if there is any other way to save human kind, do not let me drink this cup. Let it pass by me." He prayed it three times. I have a question. Did the Lord Jesus have to drink the cup? Yes or no? Yes, of course. You know what this is this telling us? There is no other way. The Lord himself prayed three times, "If there is another way, don't let me do this." And God said, I'm sorry, Son, there is no other way. You must drink it."
By the way I have news, if there is one other way to the Father except Jesus, I have bad news: God does not listen to any prayers. Why do I know that? The Lord himself prayed three times to his own Father. He turned to him in prayer, "Don't let me do this if there is another way."If there is another way God the Father. did not listen to the prayers of his only Son and he will certainly not listen to yours.
So if you believe there is another way you can stop praying at this moment, it will not make sense for the rest of your life.
Now what was the prescribed way of carrying the ark? Well, let's go to the most exciting book. It's Leviticus but another one is Numbers. Numbers is a little better actually in that it tells a little more stories. Go to Numbers chapter 4 please. Numbers chapter 4 tells us how to carry the ark. And who must carry the ark. The point is not so much how it's again more who. Numbers 4:1)The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2)"Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3)Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting. 4)This is the work of the Kohathites in the Tent of Meeting: the care of the most holy things. 5)When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. 6)Then they are to cover this with hides of sea cows, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place."
Now what do we learn from here? Who is to carry the ark? The Kohathites a branch of the Levites. Only them. They are to carry the ark. Not only that, they had to be between thirty and fifty years of age. Not only that they had to carry the ark on the two wooden sticks which were put in place on their shoulders. It says in Numbers 7:1 When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it and all is furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar in all it's utensils. 2)Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. 3)They brought has their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen-– an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle. 4)The Lord said to Moses, 5)"Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the Tent of Meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man's work requires. 6)So Moses took the carts and the oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7)He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, 8)and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. (Now listen) 9) but Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, (Why?)...because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.
How many things in here...you try to do this in your church: "you get two oxen, you get four and you get none." People scream out "we are all the same. We are Christians, we must be treated the same. If he gets two oxen- I get two oxen. That's unfair! It's democracy. Never meant to be. Now in church today everybody has to be treated alike. Everybody must do the same thing. Everybody must be mentioned. And if I only have two oxen, well that's unfair and I'll leave the church and try to find another one. Well some got two, some got four and some got none for a very good reason. The ark must never be put on a cart. The ark was only ever to be carried on the shoulders.
By the way, do you know where David got the idea to carry the ark on a cart? Don't you remember? Somebody else did it just before him. Anybody remember? The Philistines.
They put the ark on the cart because it caused trouble in their own country. So they sent it back on a cart. David got the idea from the world. Our churches are like that. We get all the great ideas from the world and try to copy it. And everybody says "That's great, very good! Democracy. Everybody agrees "good idea". What was David's sin? And that's the point. Do your know what David did? He took away the work from the Kohathites. He copied the world and took away the work from the Kohathites.
Now, you know what's fascinating? Our Lord Jesus (remember in the Old Testament, only the Kohathites, the priestly descendants, they were allowed to do that. Now one title out of 285 of our Lord Jesus is mentioned in Hebrews chapter 4:14 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess."
Who is the high priest, the Levitical descendent,so to speak, Jesus Christ. The Kohathite.
In Luke 3:23 we read this: "Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry." And in John 8:57, the Pharisees come up to said to Jesus and say "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him,"and you have seen Abraham! " How old did the Kohathites have to be? You hear it four or five times in the Old Testament "between thirty and fifty years, thirty and fifty years, thirty and fifty years. Why does Moses repeat himself? To make a point. Our high priest is for eternity between thirty and fifty years of age. Kohathite.
And by the way, how did they carry the ark? On two wooden sticks. I know somebody else, a Kohathite between thirty and fifty years old who carried two wooden sticks up on a hill. On his shoulder.
What is our sin today? You know what it is? We constantly take away the job from Jesus. That's our sin. Just like David took away the work of the Kohathites, so we Christians today try very hard to take away the work from Jesus. It's very dangerous. As we have seen in David's case, it had very severe consequences. And so it does today.
I'm kind of excited about Greek mythology for a reason because it is fascinating but there is one poor guy...where did all these ideas come from? From the Bible. Fascinating. There was a poor guy, Atlas. He did something severely wrong, so he was punished and had to carry the world on his shoulders. And that was a punishment. It was not a virtue. But you know today in our world especially among Christian leaders, if someone is strong and says "We will evangelize the world. We can do it!"
It is seen as a virtue. It's a punishment. Because by doing so we take away the work of Jesus. We do it very often and easily.
How do we do that? You can say well I see that and it's kind of interesting but how do we take away the word from Jesus? In a very subtle way we do that. And we sometimes don't even recognize even when we pray. One prayer that I hear every day, now don't feel guilty if you pray this way. That's not the point really. We pray every day "Lord please be with us."It's a very subtle thing. I know sometimes we just feel down, depressed. We feel so unworthy and say please God be with us. That's OK. I have nothing against that. So don't misunderstand me when I say this. As we pray, theologically it's a completely wrong prayer. To pray Lord please be with me. Please bless me today and go before me today. Especially this "be with me". This is a point that is a subtle one. Go with me to John chapter 12. I want to show you what I mean by that. When we pray go before me that's pretty good but when we say go with me that's something a little different. John 12:25)The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26) whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am my servant also will be."
And in 2 Chronicles 15:2) he went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Listen to me...The Lord is with you when you are with him."
The Lord is with you.The question is not "Lord, please come with me today". The question is: Are we with the Lord?
Jesus says: My servant will be where I am. He doesn't say: I will be where my servant is. But we have changed it and what we may say is "Lord, you see I have my plan. Here is the schedule: 1-2-3-4-5...that's for today. Lord I've worked it out well. It's all well done. Now you know what would be good Lord, please come with me and help me a little bit and do your job."
Now you know what happens. I am the master and he is my servant. All I ask him is to help me. Here I have exchanged a role, but of course we know that is not the way it is. He is the Master and we are the servants. "Where I am my servant will be." So we need to look at Christ and follow him rather than telling Christ what is on my agenda asking him to follow me.
This is a very little, subtle way that we do that unconsciously but it creeps in. Not all the time, but sometimes watch how you pray. Listen to the words that you use in your prayer because we should pray intelligently.
I remember when I joined prayer circles years ago. I prayed as the first one because by the fifth one all the good phrases were used up. You know, it's just evangelical phrases and I catch myself sometimes in the evening especially when I'm tired, I say something and I must admit I did not even think about what I was saying. Now I don't know if this really is what God intended as prayer. I think prayer is supposed to be intelligent conversation. And so it's good to check our own prayer life to see where we stand. One other very subtle thing. The obvious thing you will find easily yourself, that's a subtle one.
How we take over the work of Jesus.You see, one is I go ahead and you follow me Jesus. I'm taking the word out. I'm taking the responsibility. I'm the Kohathite.
What are the ways to "dedicate" our lives to God? You know, we should not "dedicate" our lives to God. It's a very subtle thing. Let me try to explain what I mean by that. We can pray " God, I want to serve you. I dedicate my life for mission work or as a pastor or whatever it may be or a mother for three or four children. I dedicate my life for you, Lord, to do this.
It sounds very right. It sounds very spiritual but it may be wrong in a sense in that I am taking over. When I dedicate something to someone it means I have something to offer. And what I have to offer I dedicate to somebody. That's very generous. That's a general thing that we do in the world. Somebody dedicates his money to build a highway or a bridge. You know he dedicates something he has to a good cause. And we sometimes as Christians think we dedicate our gifts, our personality, our availability over to God. Now, it says in Joshua 24, you see this verse in many houses for a very good reason.
"But as for me and my house household, we will serve the LORD." And Joshua says a little later to the people "You are not able to serve the LORD." How can we dare serve the LORD? We are not able, in a sense, our strength from our capacity to serve God – you are not able to do it.
1 Corinthians 4:7 "For Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"
You see, if I have something, I can dedicate it to someone but you know what God says: everything you have you received from me, so in that sense we can never really dedicate something to God because he has given it to us in the first place. You know what we can do? We can submit ourselves to God.
It's not a play on words. It's very very important to understand this because when I dedicate myself to God, now you may or you may not have used the word "dedicate" and you have meant submission. That's perfect. Don't worry about specific words. I'm speaking about an idea, a concept that lies behind it. You may not be aware of that so if you say "God I dedicate my life and you meant it in the right way. Great! I don't care about words. I'm speaking about a concept. You see when I dedicate something I dedicate me, my ability, what I can do for God. When I submit, I simply say God you are Lord. All I want to do is submit to this Lordship. I in you and and live out of your resources. See this is the difference between dedicating and submitting. Now we have a choice. How do we live?
Please put on the overhead, please. (pictures of boats)
There are a few different ways to live the Christian life. One way is rowing and I'm afraid it's not a small number of Christians who row. I don't know if you've ever been rowing. You know it's a sport of course. Australians are really good in it by the way as far as I know. You know, it may be a sport but really in rowing all progress depends on self effort. If you don't row you stand or you just go along with the wave or whatever it is. Rowing also is very exhausting. I did it some time. Now my muscles are not trained for rowing so I get very tired quick. You may be a bit more trained and you cope a little longer but not forever. No matter how strong you are. I go rowing with you and I just sit there and I get the pace, I will see you exhausted after a while. It's an exhausting and continuous effort.
This is like when I dedicate my life to God. I help you, God. I do it for you. I give up my life for you like Peter says. It's so painful. I noticed that too when I took out my kids and their rowing on our little lakes in Austria. It's painful. I'm not used to that. And it's effective in only calm conditions. You had pretty high waves last week when I flew down. I saw it on TV. You try rowing. You won't get very far as I can guess and I'm not an expert, I know nothing about it but I assume it won't work. That's one way to live our Christian life.
There is another way. It's called sailing. And I believe that's the way God intended us to live our Christian life. To put up the sail, submit to the wind and enjoy the ride. When you sail you notice a few things. The power comes from outside the craft. It's not you producing the forward motion. It's the wind in the sail that drives your boat. You are active, yes I did a sailing course but on the lake in Austria, so forget it, you know if you put me in the sea i'm probably lost after five seconds. But I know a little bit how to sail, they taught me. I'm even a sailing instructor assistant but don't ever ask me how to sail. I don't even know how it works anymore but for a week we got taught how to sail. It's quite active you know, you move back-and-forth and you do certain things.It's fun but it's relaxing. And the resting doesn't slow down the forward progress. You can even rest sometimes. Just have a Coke or whatever and you can still go forward. And it's effective even in rough conditions. I know Australia is one of the leading countries and with the states in the ratings and competitions here. You have the right conditions here. I read in the newspaper here about the American Cup. So you know more about it than I do. Australia and New Zealand have it now. But it's effective in rough conditions.
But that is our choice. We can be a Kohathite, dependent on ourselves and try to do it in our own strength or we can simply submit and let the Lord do his job. In submitting to him be available and follow him.
There is one other way and one or two are sitting in here I don't know. And that's the hardest way to live. If you are rowing tied to the pier. Of course there is no progress regardless of the effort. If you try to come to God anywhere else but through Christ, if you try to find fulfillment anywhere else but in Christ, there will be no progress at all. It's exhausting and it's a totally futile activity. Apart from Christ you can be as religious as you want and it will be absolutely futile because you are tied to the pier. And it's a waste of effort for you regardless of conditions. That's the situation with the man and a woman who does not know Christ. Doesn't go anywhere. And we have a great responsibility and a great joy ahead of us and the responsibility is to abide in Christ. To remain dependent on him each and every day of our lives. To say Lord "I can't do it. I dig a few holes and I'm looking forward to how you will fill them."
To abide in him is our great joy. To walk with him, to walk with God and stand on the sideline and watch him at work. It's great to hear testimonies. I heard some testimonies this weekend of how you came to know the Lord. Fascinating. To just stand here on the sidelines and say ya, great, that's great and to be part of that plan, to be part of that kingdom. It's the most fascinating thing.
Father, I thank you so much for the incredible privilege of being yours. I thank you so much for the freedom that we have gained in knowing you, our Lord. You're the only one who has ever paid on the cross for us, nobody else not even Moses could do anything like it, however perfect, however godly a person may be, we can never stand in the place of somebody else. Only you can and you did. And thank you Lord Jesus that you did not remain in the grave but you rose again. That you came to life in order to rule your own kingdom. You're the Head of the church Lord, not any pastor, not any bishop, not any preacher. You are the Head of the church. And from you the whole body is held together and Lord sometimes looking at the church--it's chaos. Just chaos.
And yet Lord you're not turning back with a chip on your shoulder. You're stepping right in it making something very beautiful out of it. Lord, it's such a privilege to live in the relationship with you in this way. I want to thank you for these people here. I want to thank you for those for those you gave a vision to reach people with Christ, that you gave them the strength and the joy to organize, to work, to be available with hands and feet and mouth to make something like this happen. Thank you for that, for the obedience of those people. Because yes Lord, you do it all and yet you need people who give in. People who make themselves available. People who obey and trust. I thank you for these people. It's a great privilege Lord and so Lord we commit our lives into your hands and we know that same Lord Jesus who is here now is with us tomorrow, next week, next month. there's no changing with you. You are the same yesterday, today and forever and we can rely on you more than anything else on this planet.
Thank you that we don't have to carry the world and that you don't punish us like Atlas who was punished to carry the world. All you said is "come ye unto to me all you who are heavy laden and burdened and I will give you rest." It's so amazing to stand in that rest, the rest in you. I thank you for that privilege and may we never give that rest away to anyone and to any teaching and to anybody else but defend this rest.
It's my prayer that we may never lose that. And it's all available in you, exclusively. Thank you for this hour we had now. Thank you that you speak. Amen