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What the Bible says about Deviating from God's Plan
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Chronicles 13:9-11

I Chronicles 13:1-3 introduces an episode containing a presumptuous act, immediately followed by a sobering display of divine justice. However, this time, one of the most respected names in Israelite history is directly involved. It is the story of Uzza's sudden death while moving the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred and revered of Israelite objects. The Ark, representing the throne of God and containing the tablets of stone Moses received from God on Mount Sinai, normally resided in the Holy of Holies.

David desired to move the Ark to Jerusalem to continue to consolidate the kingdom under himself. As they were moving it on an oxcart, the oxen stumbled, and the Ark appeared to be toppling to the ground. Uzza, in what may have been pure reflex, put out his hand to steady the Ark, but upon touching it, he was immediately struck dead (verses 9-10)! At first, David was angry that God ruined his party (verses 8, 11) - as the whole atmosphere of the Ark's transfer was celebratory - but shortly after, he became extremely fearful (verse 12).

The Bible shows God to be longsuffering and slow to anger. Why did they not hear His voice from heaven saying, "Thank you, Uzza, for keeping the Ark from getting damaged and dirty"? Instead, He exploded in anger and slew Uzza on the spot! However, God had given strict instructions for transporting the Ark, found in Numbers 4:4, 15, 17-20:

This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy things: . . . And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry. . . . Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "Do not cut off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; but do this in regard to them, that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things; Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint each of them to his service and his task. But they shall not go in to watch while the holy things are being covered, lest they die."

The Bible nowhere indicates that Uzza was a Kohathite. If he was, what God did is even more understandable. Everyone in the whole procedure from David on down was guilty of disobeying God's instructions regarding the most holy things. David failed to consult with the High Priest - or any priest, for that matter - regarding how the Ark should be moved. Evidently, no priest protested that proper procedures were not being followed.

The Kohathites were not even supposed to look on the uncovered Ark. To God, when Uzza reached out and touched the Ark as it seemed about to topple off the cart, it was no act of heroism but the final act of desecration, arrogance, and presumption. The last thing presumed was that Uzza's hand was less defiling than the earth that he feared would contaminate the Ark.

God's instruction in Exodus 20:24-25 regards building Him an altar. An altar made for His worship had to be constructed of earth or unhewn stones. No altar defiled by man's sinful hand was suitable. Dirt cannot sin; it always follows the nature God established. God did not want the symbol of His throne contaminated by the evil that manifested itself in a whole string of rebellions against His specific instructions. There was nothing arbitrary, capricious, or whimsical in God's action.

Jesus teaches us to address God as "Father," a title suggesting familiarity, yet we are also to pray, "Hallowed be Your name." God shows in these two incidents that, if reverence is due to the symbols used in His worship, how much greater reverence must be given to the realities of the New Covenant?

Those involved in this incident were well-intentioned, but it illustrates for all generations that God still requires conformity with His directives concerning holy objects. Deviation from orthodoxy can be deadly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)

1 Timothy 6:20

In Paul's letters to Timothy, he urges the young evangelist in the strongest of terms to stand firm and to hold fast to the doctrine that the apostle had given to him (I Timothy 6:20). Paul needs to warn him because, by about AD 65, the church is already sliding away from the truth that Jesus Christ had entrusted to the apostles.

Why is doctrine so important to God? Why does He not want his people to deviate from what He spoke in His Word? The answer is basic and simple: Deviation from orthodoxy will not produce the right fruit in fulfilling His purpose.

God makes allowances, of course, for minor variations. Not everyone will have the same level of obedience or understanding. Not everyone is equally wise or educated. However, His people will have a strong belief in the doctrines most important and central to His purpose. If these central doctrines are missing, then the deviations that are present will endanger the purpose He is working out.

Perhaps the analogy of following a recipe in the baking of a cake will suffice to show the principles involved in keeping doctrine pure. If in baking a cake, a baker left out certain ingredients, or if he added others that the recipe did not call for, or if he used the right ingredients but in the wrong proportions, it is entirely possible with any of these combinations not even to end up with a cake! Obviously, to produce a perfect cake, one must use the right ingredients in the right proportions.

Though this is certainly an ideal, God wants His people to aim for it because of His purpose. One may never hit such a high target, but that does not relieve one of the burden of striving to develop the right proportion of the right ingredients in every part of life. Ephesians 4:13 says, ". . . till we all come . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

The called of God have a tremendously high purpose and hope: to be gods! The Bible unequivocally states that we are to be like Him, that is, like Jesus Christ (I John 3:2). It follows that the ingredients that produce that potential be as close to perfect as possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

Hebrews 4:1-2

Perhaps the hardest thing for us to do is to keep on track spiritually. Deviating from the path to God's Kingdom is not that difficult, making it a constant peril. God's experience with Israel demonstrates that an entire generation died in the wilderness, a stunning witness! A review of the Israelites' conduct shows that, though they initially promised to obey all God commanded, their faith wavered over time, and they chose not to go into the Promised Land.

What a powerful warning this is to us, who have our eyes open and take God's Word seriously! One can make a case from the New Testament that many of us will not enter God's Kingdom because, like Israel, we will fritter away our chance. Does not Jesus warn that only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13)? Does not Peter warn that even the righteous are scarcely saved (I Peter 4:18)? Does not Jesus also warn that the broad way leads to destruction and many take it (Matthew 7:13)?

Rather than frighten us, this should stir us to push on! God has not left us alone. He who releases us from our bondage and sets us on the path to His Kingdom also empowers us to make it. He gives us gifts (I Corinthians 12:1-11) and access to Him to receive help in time of need (Romans 5:1-2). This access, through prayer, is without doubt one of the greatest gifts that He can give a human being. He allows us into the very presence of the sovereign Creator and Lord of all, in whom is all wisdom, power, and love. He can do far more for us than we can even think to ask.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight

Revelation 22:18-19

Though these words were written specifically about the book of Revelation, the principle is significant in light of today's church. Christ's concern at the very end is that His people do not deviate from what is written in the book. To remain in His safety, a Christian must be submissive to Him, worshiping Him in every aspect of life, continuing to develop in Christian freedom, not enveloped by an attitude that may prove to be spiritually fatal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 




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