By Barbara Wilhelm
There is one other essential factor that must be entered into the equation: Is the action done in accordance with His Divine will and His stated commands as found in His Word. If it is a clear violation of His commands, it will NOT please Him no matter how sincere and well-intentioned it is! To prove this premise, let's look at 1 Chronicles 13 and 15 and 2 Samuel 6.
Here we have David's pious proposal to bring up the ark of God to Jerusalem that God would be honored. He consults with the people to see "if it seems good to them" and if they think that the idea is "of God" (1 Chron 13:2). 2 Sa 6:1 and 1 Chron 13:1 tell us that these were all the "chosen" ( meaning excellent) men of Israel. These were the leaders and elect of the people whom he consulted. And what was proposed seemed "right in the eyes of all the people" (v.4). It was unanimously agreed that this was a "good" thing. And they performed their task with the greatest joy, in fact they solemnly "celebrated before God with all their might" (v.8).
There is no doubt that those involved held the Lord in the very highest esteem: "the ark of God, Whose Name is called by the Name of the Lord of Hosts, Who dwells between the cherubim" (2 Sam 6:2).
So, we have pious, well-meaning, sincere men of God - His very elect - attempting to perform a service to their God with their only purpose in mind being to honor Him "with all their might." Surely, God will be thoroughly pleased with them...but He was not! So displeased was God that "He smote Uzzah" and killed him!
Let us study more thoroughly that we might "rightly divide the Word of Truth"(2 Ti 2:15) and that we would understand that a good intention will not justify a bad action. God had, in His Word, given specific instructions as to how the ark was to be carried and who was allowed to touch it. He will never leave us ignorant of His Divine will, if we will but seek it out.
Nu 1:50 " ...appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony and over all things that belong to it. They shall carry the tabernacle."
Yes, Uzzah was a Levite...BUT that was not all...
Nu 7:9 "...to the sons of Kohath (one of three divisions of Levi) were assigned the care of the sanctuary which had to be carried on their shoulders".
Yet, David had the ark put on a cart. Perhaps, the Philistines were allowed to place the ark in a cart (1 Sa 6:7) but they were not His chosen people who were supposed to be well-versed in His commands. To place the ark on a cart - even a new cart - was against God's specific written command. This was God's holiest thing - the ark of the covenant - and He would determine His holy commands over it.
Was God's righteous judgment against Uzzah a rash and unrighteous act? No indeed, for He had already given the Israelites the warning that "the sons of Kohath shall carry (the ark) but they shall not touch the holy things, lest they die" (Nu 4:15). Again, He repeats it in Nu 18: 3 " ...only they (the Levites) shall not come near the sacred vessels of the sanctuary that they...die not."
Matthew Commentary states:
"The priests must instruct the people and admonish them concerning the due distance they were to keep and not allow them to break the boundaries set before them." For to break through those boundaries results in death, as it did for Uzzah. (Lindsell Bible Commentary) "David disregarded God's specific instructions and however pious his intention, disaster followed his disobedience."
If we find fault with God's reaction to all this, we become like David; we become "offended with God" (1 Chron 13:11). The word offended here means "blazed up in anger", blazing anger against God for what God had done! Instead, David should have humbled himself under God's mighty Hand, confessed his sin, acknowledged God's righteousness, sought His exact Will as found in His Word, and then gone on with his actions. Because of David's "offendedness" at God, the ark was delayed three more months from entering Jerusalem. (How often does God try to get our attention and chasten us in His love and we become offended with Him instead of seeking His Truth?)
1 Chron 15 shows us that seeking God's Truth as written in His Holy Word was exactly what David finally did:
v.2 "Then David said, None should carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him for ever."
CONCLUSIONS: Yes, they were the elect, the excellent, the chosen people, the leaders of Israel. Yes, what they did they did with a heart's desire to glorify God. Yes, they were well-intentioned. BUT...GOD HIMSELF WAS NOT PLEASED BECAUSE THEY DID NOT SEEK HIM AS HE HAD ORDAINED! OUR ACTIONS IN ORDER TO BE TOTALLY PLEASING TO GOD MUST BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REVEALED TRUTH OF HIS WORD!
Is 8:20 states:
"Direct (them) to the Word and the testimony: if their teachings are not in accord with this word, there is no light in them."
There is another aspect that bears study in relation to the problem with good intentions: good intentions sometimes may "sound religious" but they aren't what God has commanded. 1 Samuel 15 relates the command of God that King Saul slay all the Amalekites and all they owned. Saul, however, did not do this but destroyed only what was inferior, keeping the best part from destruction. He uses as an excuse for this lack of obedience that it was done with a good intention, for the religious sounding idea that he was going to use these things (v.21b) "to sacrifice to the Lord thy God." His intentions looked and sounded good, but they were not the command of God. Matthew Henry's commentary detailing the conversation between Saul and Samuel is very explicit on this matter:
"It was with a good intention: 'It was to sacrifice to the Lord thy God.' He is thy God, and thou wilt not be against any thing that is done, as this is, for His honor." This was a false plea, for both King Saul and the people designed their own profit in sparing the cattle. But, if it had been true, it would still have been frivolous, for God hates robbery for burnt-offering. God appointed these cattle to be sacrificed to Him in the field, and therefore will give those no thanks that bring them to be sacrificed at His altar; for He will be served in His own way, and according to the rule He Himself has prescribed. Nor will a good intention justify a bad action" (emphasis mine).
It sounded and look so holy, so religious to offer sacrifice to God. But what God required was not sacrifice but obedience to His commands.
"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sa 15:22-23).
Such harsh words Samuel used! He called this "religious-sounding, good-intentioned" sounding action rebellion, witchcraft, stubborn-ness, idolatry! Why? Because God has given specific commands that were to be fully obeyed in their execution. God gave His commands; anything less than full obedience to those commands is sin. No matter how good-intentioned it sounds.
A Modern-day Application: Promise Keepers Stand In The Gap Rally
While I feel that this principle is basic to our understanding of God's ways and, therefore, can stand on its own, I would like to make some modern-day applications to it. There are those who are sincere in their desire to please God, who are well-intentioned and who say that we are to covenant with all those who "name the Name of Jesus" BUT Ps 138:2 says that God Himself "has magnified His WORD above that Name." So we must seek His Word to see if that union would be God's intent.
These same people say that the unity of all those who "name the Name of Jesus" is the ultimate goal of the church and that it was Jesus' ultimate prayer in John 17. BUT v.17 in that same chapter also quotes the rest of Jesus' prayer : "Sanctify them by the Truth. Your WORD is Truth." Unity can only come about when it is done in accordance with His express Word. God's express Word says that " we are to separate ourselves from idolaters and not even eat with them" (1 Cor 5: 11-13). Therefore, since Roman Catholicism is seeped in idolatry, how can we unite with them? They might "name the Name of Jesus" but is it the same Jesus Who in John 17 placed such a high esteem on His Word? 2 Cor 6: 14-end warns us to not be "unequally yoked with unbelievers...and to touch not the unclean thing." Idolaters are unbelievers. Why are men being asked to yoke themselves with those the Bible warns against?
Uzzah was killed because he touched the ark against God's express warning. The New Testament warns us against "touching" too. We are not to touch the unclean thing - and idolatry is, most decidedly, an unclean thing.
When David gathered together all the elect, the excellent men of Israel, was not that in essence a most Sacred Assembly? They were all well-intentioned and sincere. But what they did was not in accordance with God's Word and He was sorely displeased even to the point of fatal judgment.
In 1 Samuel 15 we have a repetition of these principles. God gave a most explicit command as to the exact way that He was to be worshipped. That way was the way of obedience ONLY to His words, not to any notions of men. When Saul and his men participated in a religious ceremony that, though looking and sounding good, was not in total agreement and obedience with God's Holy Word, God was justly and righteously angry.
There was a recent event that fits all the above criteria as well. There was a Sacred Assembly of men called for on Oct. 4, 1997 by Promise Keepers and all the elect, the excellent men went with good intentions, with a sincere desire to please and honor God. BUT what they did at that Promise Keepers rally was not in accordance with God's Holy Word: they covenanted together to be yoked with unbelievers, to touch the unclean thing that His Word expressly forbids.
One last point: 1 Chron 13: 2 states that "all the priests and Levites" were in attendance on that fateful day: all those in leadership who surely knew the Word of God and who surely knew that the actions David proposed were in direct violation of that Word. Why did they not speak up and stop him and all the people gathered with him from an action that God, ultimately, found to be so totally displeasing to Himself?