“It’s the thought that counts.”
That is often the phrase I fall back on when I attempt something with good motives only to find it fell short of it’s expected goal or crashed altogether. My intentions are what I want people to see even if the outcome was not favorable. Motive and intent are huge pieces of the puzzle that explain the why and the what of all we do. So can I possibly do something with good motives and intentions that can be very wrong? That is the question I want to delve into as we look at a passage of scripture from 1 Chronicles 13.
Many of you have read this story. You will find it in two places in scripture. The first place is 2 Samuel 6, and then here in 1 Chronicles where we have a little more insight into the story. The narrative speaks of David, who has recently been crowned king over Israel, coming up with a brilliant plan to bring back to Israel the Ark of the Covenant of God that had been stolen by the Philistines during the reign of Saul. David’s intent was to restore the glory of God to the people of Israel, and to show once again that God reigned over His people and was present with them. Verses 1-4 of Chapter 13 show us David’s idea and how he communicated it to the people, with verse 4 telling us that “The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.” David’s motives and intent were understood by the people as being right and pure and in keeping with their convictions, so the plan proceeded.
Here is where the story becomes full of energy. There is such excitement about going to get the ark, that people make a parade out of it with music, dancing, and celebrating. They built a brand new cart to transport the Ark on, so that it would look magnificent as it wound its way “home”. This was supposed to be a festive, God-honoring event, but something happened: One of the oxen pulling the new cart stumbled and the cart began to tip. Uzzah a man with good intentions reached out to steady the Ark, and instantly was struck dead. The parade came to a dumbfounded and sorrowful halt as the realization of Uzzah’s death settled on each of them. Confused, hurt, afraid and angry, David asks the question, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God to me?”
God seems so unfair. So unpredictable. He seems to make goals unattainable, and consequences dire. He is unjust if we leave the story right here. Sadly, many people do leave the story right here. But let’s press on further.
David is angry and hurt, but David takes that pain to God and inquires of God about the reason for Uzzah’s death, and what David discovers is the lesson that I need to remember. David finds out that God had a prescribed method for transporting the Ark of the Covenant and it did not involve carts, or exhibition. God takes David back to His instructions from Numbers chapter 4 where the specific, detailed instructions of Ark transport were recorded. The Ark was only to ever be transported by the priests of the Levitical clan. They were to wrap the ark in the shielding curtain of the Tabernacle, then cover that with the hides of seals, then put the transporting poles into the rings attached to the side of the Ark. After that was completed, they were to wrap all of that in a blue cloth. (Numbers 4) Never at anytime were they to touch the Ark, or have anyone else come near it. As David inquires of the Lord, he realizes something: God is always right and just.
David has a choice in his anger to do several things: 1. he can justify himself and his motives and accuse God of being cruel; 2. he can run from God and choose to no longer try to attempt anything for God’s glory; and 3. he can re-calibrate his heart to God’s desires and designs. David chooses to align his will with God’s. We see this in verses 11-13 of 1 Chronicles 15. David recognized that God had already given instructions on this issue, and David’s sin was that he did not inquire of God about those instructions. David repented, did it God’s way, and succeeded and bringing the Ark back to Israel.
So how does this story apply to you and me?
We have a host of scriptures that give us instruction on many areas of our lives. Without gray areas or shadows, God gives us His intents and His design for much of our life. Somehow or another, however, we allow ourselves the ideas that God is all about our happiness. We let this idea rule our decisions. We think, of course God would be okay with this because it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and it makes me happy. This idea is a costly one. If I disregard what God has already said in order to accommodate my desires, I have become the plumb line that God must adjust to. He is now on my terms. Interesting to note, however is the fact that God does not regard my standards as His. Like Uzzah, I can reach out with good intentions to do what seems right at the moment, but if it is something I have already been instructed about, I cannot accuse God of being unfair when He keeps His word and I suffer consequences.
My prayer is to be like David, who when confronted by his sin, changed his direction, re-calibrated his heart and intentions with God’s desires, and saw the fulfillment of his dreams doing it God’s way. God will not always bless what we are doing, but we are always invited to “do” what God is blessing.
**My thanks to my Pastor Rick Wise for teaching on this subject and giving me God’s perspective.”