Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Rock of Scandal

As we were translating the ninth chapter of Romans recently, we came across this verse:

33. As it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense, and everyone who believes on him will not be ashamed.”

I pointed out to my fellow translators that the Greek word translated “offense” in this verse is skandolon, from which is derived the English word “scandal”.  It is a word used to refer to something that causes people to turn to sin.  Jesus, himself, was the “stumbling stone and rock of offense” that God laid down in Israel.  His doctrine and manner of life became a “stumbling stone and a rock of offense” in Israel.
Religious leaders were the main culprits.  Their slander about Jesus made the people think that what Jesus was teaching was wrong and that what he was doing was evil.  Having found out that Jesus’ mother was pregnant before she and Joseph came together, they claimed that Jesus’ father was one of those despised Samaritans, thus making him what some would have contemptuously called “a half-breed” (Jn. 8:48).  Mary’s pre-marriage pregnancy was probably also the reason for the rumor they spread among God’s people that Jesus was a bastard child (Jn. 8:41).  These well-respected religious leaders also denounced Jesus as demon-possessed (Mk. 3:22; Jn. 7:20), and the slander that Jesus was insane was believed and spread by even Jesus’ own relatives (Mk. 3:21), apparently including his own mother (Mk. 3:31).  Speaking through the prophet, the Son of God foretold of his coming to earth, saying that he would be the butt of public jokes and “the song of the drunkards” (Ps. 69:12).  All that happened, and worse.  Nevertheless, God comforted Jesus so that none of the cruel slander spoken of him discouraged him (Isa. 42:4).
It has always been the case that religious leaders slander true men of God, for the appearance of a man sent by God exposes them as not having been sent by Him, and they want to maintain their status and influence over people.  Their poisonous seeds of slander cause the people’s joy at hearing the truth to wither, and changes that joy into contempt for God’s servants.  The truth of Christ is a rock upon which we may stand to gain a more perfect view of the glory of God, but slander makes people see that rock as a stumbling stone and rock of offense (scandal).
Paul was also accused of being insane (Acts 26:24), and his words were often twisted by leaders of the body of Christ to turn believers away from Paul (2Pet. 3:16).  In Romans 3:8, Paul mentions one false doctrine that he was slanderously accused of teaching.  And in Acts 21:21, James tells Paul of another; namely that among the Jews, including Jews who believed, it was being reported that Paul taught that Jews everywhere should forsake the law of Moses, which Paul never did.  By the end of Paul’s life, sadly, the slanderers had won, and multitudes of saints (Paul said all of them) in the Roman province of Asia, saints whom Paul had labored hard to win to Christ, had turned against him:

2Timothy 1
15a. All they in Asia have forsaken me. . . .

So, just as Jesus said would happen, many and varied lies were spread against Paul.  However, Jesus told his followers to rejoice when men spread vicious rumors about them.  Being spoken evil of, he said to them, is one sign that they were on the way to a great reward in heaven:

Matthew 5
11. Blessed are you, whenever people revile and persecute you, and say every evil thing against you falsely, for my sake.
12. Rejoice, and be glad!  Your reward is great in heaven, for that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This has happened to me, and I can tell you from experience that it requires a lot of faith to obey Jesus and rejoice when it happens.  Slanderous reproaches hurt; Jesus’ heart was broken by them (Ps. 69:20), but Jesus prayed through the pain and received the comfort that God alone can give.  Jesus learned by painful experiences on earth that he could rejoice in persecutions, and Paul learned to do that, too (Col. 1:24), both of them trusting God to have prepared for them a very great reward in heaven.
I paused recently to make a mental list of the scandals that have been spread about me, which have no doubt turned many a soul away from the truth Christ has taught me.  I thought it might be good to list them so that you can see how truly Jesus spoke when he said that men will speak “all kinds of evil against you”.  Here are some of the many different evils that I have been accused of, none of which were true:
  • In my hometown, the rumor was spread by Christians that I and my congregation secretly sacrificed children at night in a field east of town.  (Just so you know, there were no reports of missing children during the time this was supposed to have been happening.)
  • Also in my hometown, a highly-regarded pastor and two members of his congregation spread the rumor that I had molested a little girl.  One of those men even said he had been an eyewitness to it.  (He did not explain why he only watched the purported crime and did nothing to stop it.)
  • Another rumor was spread in my hometown that we have home prayer meetings so that we can use the bedrooms.  (This rumor was spread, in one case I know of, by a man who was repeatedly unfaithful to his wife, and who finally drank himself to death on one of those nights when he was away from home.)
  • By chance, on a remote job site in the middle of the state, a Church of God pastor met a relative of mine, Bob, without realizing that Bob was my relative or that Bob even knew me.  Somehow during their conversation, my name was brought up, and the minister told Bob that three women were living with me in my house.  (Amused and curious, Bob kept asking about the situation until he learned from the pastor that one of the women with whom I was supposedly living was Bob’s wife!)
  • A newspaper in the town where I now live ran a large, front-page article about me that included a Christian minister’s accusation that I routinely break up marriages.  (Ironically, the minister in this case was a brother whose marriage I played a key role in putting back together after his wife left him.)
  • In the same article, I was accused by yet another Christian minister, this one from the other side of the country, of teaching that whoever does not live in North Carolina will go to hell.  (Yes, this actually was printed in the newspaper.  Actually, however, I am not sure that anyone can go to hell from outside of North Carolina, or even inside it, for that matter.  What I teach is that the place from which people go to hell is the place God calls “sin”.)
  • Also in that newspaper article, I was accused of phoning a lady out of the blue and for no reason whatsoever, coldly telling her that she was evil.  (The fact that I did not even have the woman’s phone number and could not have called her even if someone put a gun to my head was not reported.  Nor was it reported that what this woman was really angry about was that I refused her offer of a donation to my ministry because of her filthy conduct, in particular, taking indecent pictures of her own adult daughter and showing them to visitors in her home.)
  • I am routinely accused by Christians of being after money.  (Odd as it is, the three people I know of who have accused me of being after their money are three people whose money I refused because of their ungodly conduct.)
  • A brother who abandoned his godly wife told his relatives that one reason he had to leave my congregation was that he found out I was planning, through my “underground international connections”, to move the entire congregation to a foreign country.  (The only international connection I can remember having at that time was with a man in Australia who has since moved to the United States – which would explain, I suppose, why I am still here.)
  • A brother brought a lawsuit against me for what is called “alienation of affection” because, he said, I had turned his wife’s affections away from him.  That was humiliating for his godly wife and me because “alienation of affection” suggests to the public that there was a love triangle, which was absolutely not the case, as even that brother’s attorney admitted.  (What the public did not know is that just two months after his marriage – and a number of times after that – this brother’s despairing wife came to me, wanting out of the marriage, saying that marrying him was the biggest mistake of her life.  I begged her to stay and try to make it work, and she went back and gave it her best effort, but his increasingly ungodly conduct eventually became more than she could bear.)
  • Besides all this, there has been the usual Christian slander, calling me a false prophet, a heretic, a money-and-power-hungry cult leader, and a manipulator of people’s minds, among other unimaginative things.  The more intelligent and more theological-minded Christians call me such things as a “Pneumatomachianist” and “Binitarianist”.  But don’t laugh.  They will call you those same names if you do not believe their doctrine of the consubstantiality of three co-equal and co-eternal hypostases in the Godhead.  Really, they will.
The list above of the slander that people, especially Christians, have spread about me should give you a good idea of what Jesus was talking about when he said that people will “say every evil thing against you falsely, for my sake.”  Yes, it is embarrassing, and yes, such rumors can hurt the heart, but if we will humbly pray for the Christians and others who spread such slander, and if we seek God’s comfort, we will at some point be able to do as Jesus said and as Paul learned to do, and “rejoice and be glad” for it all, knowing that our reward up in heaven is great – but also knowing that down here on earth, God is using even that slander for our good!
God uses the scandalous slander surrounding His servants in order to keep certain people away from them.  The people who believe the lies of the slanderers are the same people who are a headache to God’s servants whenever they are close to them.  They are a distraction and a burden to God’s ministers, and when slander trips them up and turns them aside, God’s ministers are spared the burden of having to deal with their foolishness.  “God is not mocked,” my friend.  God is so wise and cares so well for His servants that when the foolish are turned away by slander, even that brings glory to Him and relief to His ministers.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Not “Us and Them”, Just Us

“Putting away lying, let each of you speak truth to his neighbor,
for we are members of one another.”
Ephesians 4:25

Daniel was a very great man before God.  When God wanted to emphasize how crafty the coming world ruler would be (the man called “the beast” in Revelation), he said through Ezekiel, “You are wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that can be hidden from you” (Ezek. 28:3).  And when God wanted to emphasize how furious he was with His people for their godly conduct, He said this, to stress that even the prayers of the most righteous men in history would not help them now:

Ezekiel 14
14. Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.
15. If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
16. Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
17. Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:
18. Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
19. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
20. Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

Remember what God thought of Daniel as you read the following prayer from this wonderful man of God:

Daniel 9
1. In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;
2. In the first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
3. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.
4. And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
5. We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
6. Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
7. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.
8. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.
9. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;
10. Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
11. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
12. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.
13. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
14. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.
15. And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16. O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

Other righteous men of God felt the same way.  Consider Ezra:

Ezra 9
1. . . . the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
2. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
3. And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.
. . .
5. And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God.
6. And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
7. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.
8. And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.
9. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
10. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments.

Ezra was, himself, not guilty of marrying a heathen woman.  But with this prayer, Ezra was not being overly pious.  Nor was Daniel being overly pious when he confessed the sins of his people as his own.  These men of God were thinking the way the Son of God thought when he came to earth.  He was moved by God’s love for us to become one with us, to share in our shame, to taste of the death we must taste, and to become sin for us so that we might become his righteousness.  We find prayers of the Son throughout the book of Psalms, in which he is begging God to forgive him, to cleanse him, to deliver him, though he could have cried out for his own deliverance from this world at any time, and angels would have come and taken him away.
This is not just the way a few of the very most righteous men of history have felt.  This is the way the love of God makes everyone feel who feels it.  This is the way every child of God feels who loves with the love of God.  It is a a love that makes you love the family of God so much that you want to share in their destiny; it makes you want it so much that you become willing to take their place if they are wrong.  It makes you want their guilt, if your brother and sisters are guilty; it makes you want to take their guilt on yourself and then go to God with that guilt to get rid of it for them and you.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?  Paul felt this way.  Paul said that he was willing to be cursed if he could just reach the hearts of his fellow Jews with the gospel (Rom. 9:3).
He explained the unity Christ died for us to have like this:

Romans 12
3. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

1Corinthians 12
12. For just as the body is one, and yet has many members, and all the members of the one body, though many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13. For by one spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and all were given to drink of one spirit.
14. For the body is not one member, but many.
15. If the foot say, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it is not a part of the body?
16. And if the ear say, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that means it is not part of the body?
17. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?  If the whole body were hearing, where would the smelling be?
18. But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He was pleased.
19. If everything was one member, where would the body be?
. . .
24b. God has blended the body together
25. so that there might be no division in the body; instead, members would share the same concern for one another.
26. And then, if one member suffers, every member suffers with it; if one member is honored, every member rejoices with it.
27. You yourselves are the body of Christ and, individually, members of it.

If the body of Christ is broken, the man is broken who loves the body of Christ as Christ loves the body.  If the body of Christ is confused, the man is confused who loves the body of Christ.  If the body of Christ is rebellious and disobedient, the man feels rebellious and disobedient who loves the body of Christ as Christ loves the body.  He became sin for us because we were sinful, and he loved us.
Now, do we love the body of Christ they way Jesus does?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

“Much More”

“Much more, then, being now justified by his blood,
we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Romans 5:9

There is something much more than being justified by the blood of Christ, and that is being saved from wrath by him.  In other words, it is greater to be saved from the coming wrath than it is to be justified.  What good is it if we are justified, but in the end, we are not saved from wrath because our lives have not pleased God?  We must be justified, of course, in order to have the hope of being saved in the end, but justification only gives us the hope of salvation; it is not salvation itself.  That’s what makes salvation greater than justification.
It is the same with reconciliation.

“For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Romans 5:10

Being saved by Christ from the coming wrath of God against sin is also “much more” than being reconciled to God.  Just as with justification, we must be reconciled to God in order to have the hope of being saved in the end, but reconciliation, like justification, gives us the hope of salvation; it is not salvation itself.  That’s what makes salvation greater than reconciliation.
Being counted worthy of salvation in the Final Judgment will be greater than anything we may experience in Christ in this life, whether it be justification, reconciliation, gifts of the Spirit, visions, revelations, anointings, or anything else.  For Christ to judge us worthy of salvation at the end of this age, to hear the Lord say to us on the Day of Judgment, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” will be very “much more” than anything in this life could possibly be.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In the Middle

“And to the messenger of the congregation in Laodicea, write:
The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the beginning of the creation of God, says these things:
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.
I prefer that you be either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.”
Revelation 3:14–16

Preacher Clark once told us, “Some people have too much of God in them to enjoy the world, but too much of the world in them to enjoy God.  Theirs is the most miserable spiritual condition to be in.”

I can think of nothing to add to that statement but, “Amen!”

Are You Persecuted or Persecuting Others?

“You can’t grow, or do anything for Christ, 
as long as you persecute any child of God.”
Preacher Clark, 1972

My father, a survivor of much cruel persecution, learned much about the subject.  In his 60-plus years of Spirit-filled ministry, he learned that everyone in the body of Christ either persecutes or is persecuted.  There is no middle ground in spiritual warfare.  And he said that God told him one day that there is one group of people that we can always be sure we are ahead of in the Spirit.  That group which is always on a lower spiritual plane than ourselves is comprised of those who are persecuting us.  “You only persecute those who are ahead of you,” he taught us.  We may think that those we are speaking evil of are less holy than we are, but then, our thoughts are not the standard; God’s thoughts are.
If you are persecuting any child of God, you are blocking your own way to spiritual growth.  They are ahead of you in Christ, and as long as you persecute them, you cannot catch up with them, much less surpass them in the Spirit!  Many of God’s people justify harshness toward others by pointing out how wrong those others are.  My friend, hard-heartedness is never right.  You cannot justify having an unmerciful spirit toward those who are wrong.  If Jesus had been that kind of person, we all would have been lost.
If you see a brother or sister doing what you think is wrong, be like Jesus, and be willing to endure whatever you need to endure in order to make them right again.  And if you find yourself in the wrong, make it easy on those who are over you in the Lord by quickly confessing your fault and receiving the forgiveness they so much want to show you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Your Vision or God’s?

“Be not conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good,
and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Romans 12:2

“For whom He did foreknow,
He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son,
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Romans 8:29

Every person has a future vision for himself in his own mind.  Even young children have ideas about what they want to be when they grow up.  If a person’s name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, however, God has His own vision for that person.  The process of growing up in Christ is the process of having your vision for yourself changed into the vision of you that God has in His mind.
When I was a young man just getting out of college, the world had used me up.  I felt old.  I had no energy left to form a future image of myself.  My images were gone.  Jesus found me the way he said he found Israel (Ezek. 16:5–6): “None eye pitied thee . . . to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.  And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, “Live!”  Yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, “Live!”
Since I had no more no visions, nothing had to be the way I wanted it to be.  There was nothing in me that felt like a leader, or a teacher, or even a helper.  I was a hopeless mess, and I knew it.  Whenever I tried to testify (and I did not often feel worthy to do so), I would cry.  I was desperate to be led and completely willing to do as I was told.  I was a real follower of those who were over me in the Lord, and thankfully, they were worth following.  It hasn’t been that way for other sincere souls.
One of the things I saw was that those elders had a great love for the Bible.  So, I followed them in that love.  I humbled myself to whatever the Bible said just as I humbled myself to my elders in the Lord. (They never demanded that I or anyone else do so; they knew that such devotion cannot be commanded; it must come from the heart.)  And as a result of my submission to the Bible, in not too long a time, I found that I had attained to a knowledge of the scriptures which few other people possessed, including those who were still my elders in the Lord.
I developed an Old Testament course for the local Community College and after several years of teaching, one of my students asked me, during an evening class, “How did you get to know the Bible the way you know it?”  I had no answer, for it was a question I had never considered.  For days, that student’s question rang in my mind until, suddenly, the answer dawned on me.  The reason I knew the Bible so well is that God had pieced it together for me, as the scripture says, “here a little and there a little”.  But He pieced it together for me only because I had surrendered my mind and soul to His mind and soul, as it was revealed in the Bible!
I looked at the Bible the same way I looked at my elders.  There was in me no disagreement about anything they said because as soon as I learned their thoughts on a matter, I began thinking them.  Their thoughts became my thoughts when they were revealed to me.  I brought nothing to the table because I knew I had nothing to bring!  The words and the ways of the saints around me became my words and my ways, and I came to know them better than anybody in this world.
In the very same way, I came to know the Bible well, and finding in me no interfering self-visions, God began to reveal to me “great and mighty things” which I did not know – things I never could have known if I had been clinging to a vision of myself that I had made.  I had no vision; I had no opinion; I had no preference.  I hated my own thoughts and my own ways.  I was, in fact, afraid to have things my way because my ways had ruined my life and had almost destroyed me.  Why would I want my ways any longer when I knew what my ways had done to me?

Do you really know what your ways have done to you?  If so, you have trashed all your self-visions and prayed for God to grant you His vision for you instead.

Listen to this!  You will never know God or the Bible unless you are willing to let go of your self-vision and let God renew your mind.  If you are ever to see the future that God sees for you, if you are ever to become the person God intended for you to be from the beginning of the world, you must come low, as the old saints used to say.  You must have a heart that will believe whatever He says – even if what He says is contrary to what you have always thought, or always wanted, or always judged to be right!
The secret of God is with the humble!  It is with the bruised and battered, and with those who are so beaten down by this life that they are not just willing for God to have His way but they are begging God to have His way.  God’s secret is with those who have discovered how desperately needy they are and who are seeking Him and His will for them, the way some men pursue gold.  The old song tells the truth: “He will not walk with the proud or the scornful.”
When we bring nothing to God’s table, when we are completely willing to eat whatever Jesus puts on our plate, the holy truth that Jesus serves us will create understanding within us as we swallow it.  It will give us the knowledge of God.  The truth of Christ will shape our spirits; it will inform our attitudes and determine our choices.  It will keep us from sin and make us perfect before God – if we don’t bring anything to God’s table.  
Let me give you a couple of examples of how my attitude before God as a young man in the Lord made room for God, through the scriptures, to shape my thoughts.  First, the story of Uzzah and the stumbling oxen.

2Samuel 6
2. And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubim.
3. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah, and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart.
4. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God, and Ahio went ahead of the ark.
5. And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.
6. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it.
7. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
8. And David was displeased because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah, and he called the name of the place Breech of Uzzah to this day.

1Chronicles 13
9. And when they came unto the threshing floor of [Nachon], Uzzah put forth his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled.
10. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and He smote him, because he put his hand to the ark; and there he died before God.
11. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah; wherefore that place is called Breech of Uzzah to this day.

Now, I was designing for the Community College the first Old Testament class that I taught because the school had no Old Testament class before then, and I was actually learning the Old Testament as I was teaching it.  For example, I remember discovering as I was preparing the assignment for the end of the book of 2Kings that the class was near the end of the history portion of the Old Testament.  I didn’t even know that.  So, when I read the story of Uzzah being struck down by God for touching the ark, I did not know why God was so displeased at Uzzah for doing the good thing he did that He struck him dead.  It seemed to be a straightforward matter: the oxen stumbled, the cart shook, the ark appeared to be in danger of falling off the cart, and so, Uzzah reached out and steadied it.

And God killed him.

After reading this story with my class, I told them that it was safest to always assume that God is always right and that if something He did in the Bible did not seem right to us, then either it was because we do not have all the information or it was because our hearts are not pure.  I could not explain to them God’s actions, but I knew in my heart, and I would not be moved from it, that God was right to kill Uzzah.
Studying further, we learned that David, though displeased with God for killing Uzzah, afterward sought God for His reason for killing him, and that God had shown David why He had done it, and that David then decided to move the ark again – this time the right way.  Then David, made wiser by the tragic experience, gave a stern warning to the priests and Levites to follow carefully the instructions for carrying the ark that Moses had given to Israel in the law:

1Chronicles 15
1. And David . . . prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent.
2. Then David said, “No one ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister unto Him for ever.”
3. And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord unto his place, which he had prepared for it.
4. And David assembled the children of Aaron, and the Levites,
. . .
12. And said unto them, “You are the chief of the fathers of the Levites.  Sanctify yourselves, both you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it.
13. For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, because we sought him not after the due order of Moses.”
14. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel.
15. And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord.

God was right to kill Uzzah.  In fact, it was merciful of Him not to kill them all, including David, for bearing the ark in a manner contrary to the holy law He had so graciously given to them through Moses.
There were other places in the Old Testament that contradicted my thoughts, but my thoughts instantly vanished when I read them.  I remember reading that God’s judgment was that kidnapping should be punished by death (Ex. 21:16), and instantly, I thought the same thing!  Do you?  What is your opinion about that?  If you have an opinion about it after hearing God’s judgment of the matter, you are a fool.  Why are you holding on to your opinion after God has spoken?  When I was young, I earnestly prayed to be delivered from my opinion, and God answered that prayer by giving me the kind of heart that gladly abandoned what I thought whenever He let me know what He thought.  The truth made me free from my own opinion, but only because I believed it; the truth make nobody free who does not receive it.
The old man John Clark gladly died when God offered him life, and in time, I was “transformed by the renewing of my mind” because I believed God and surrendered my life!  I believed that whatever God said and did was right, and nothing He said or did displeased me.  Displease me?  Who was I to dare to be displeased with God?  I had no vision for myself, no dream, no plan, no desires for the future that interfered with His work in me.  My heart was soft in His hands, and He molded me.  And I am persuaded that He will do the same for every moldable heart.

Visions for Others

You can have your own visions for others as much as you can have visions for yourself.  What kind of past do you insist on your friends having, or your pastor?  I am certain that few if any of the saints who were Preacher Clark’s sheep when I started in the Lord would ever have chosen him to be their pastor, but they all knew that God had chosen him to be their pastor, and that made all the difference.  Preacher Clark used to ask us these questions: “Would you want a man who was guilty of murder to be your spiritual guide or judge?” or “Would you want a man guilty of adultery and murder to be your pastor?”  Let me rephrase those two questions so as to make it clear what Preacher Clark was asking.  “Would you want Moses for a pastor?” or “Would you want David for a pastor?”  Moses murdered an Egyptian.  He was guilty of that crime.  Given a choice, would you have a convicted murderer as your guide to eternal life? King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her righteous husband in order to cover it up.  Given a choice, would you want David as your pastor, knowing how people would talk?  In their times, the overwhelming majority of Israelites did not want either one of them, BUT GOD DID, and those who had given up their own visions of the right spiritual leader knew that God did, and they were satisfied with God’s choice.
Furthermore, God chose Moses and David, each in his time, to be pastors for His people – but listen – God also chose His people as sheep for Moses and David!  And every person in Israel, whether Moses, David, or anyone else, who was humble, accepted God’s choices, for they were too busy rejoicing that God had chosen them at all to meddle in His business.

What is it that matters to you?  God’s vision of your life or your own vision?  In the Spirit, there is but one vision of you, for there is just one hope.  Walk with Jesus in the Spirit, and that hope will grow brighter and brighter until the Perfect Day when he who is our hope will appear, bringing his salvation with him.