This post is taken from an e-mail to some leaders that I serve alongside, but I thought it could encourage some of you as well. So here you go!
Press on, dear hearts. The Lord has not forgotten you. He is the God who Sees (and we were made in His image, but hey-o, that’s a can of worms for another day).
There has been a passage of Scripture that has consistently popped up in my Bible reading that I feel very, very strongly is a word for us. It’s 1 Chronicles 13-16.
Chapter 13 finds David preparing a place for the presence of the Lord to rest. He wants God to be present in his city, in the places which he has charge and responsibility over, so he makes plans to move God to where he (David) can fit Him in. (bam.) All the leaders think it’s a great idea. So they plan this out, get a new mode of transportation to put God in, and then try to move God (via the Ark of the Covenant). They all thought it was the right thing to do. They celebrated it. But then, the new thing they had appointed to carry the presence of God (the ox cart) to where they wanted it to go, stumbled. And when (it didn’t say “if”) it stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady it. To try to steady God, because He was headed in a direction that they weren’t prepared for Him to go in—down, onto the threshing floor. Threshing is when you separate the part of grain that you actually eat and get nourished from, from the part that blows away with the wind. It’s one of the steps you take after the harvest. It involves beating the grain, and it’s all done on the threshing floor. So, let’s recap: the presence of God is falling off of what the leaders have built to take God where they want Him to be, and it’s falling in a place where you are processing the harvest. It’s falling into the mess, and Uzzah tries to stop it (Him). Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and the Lord struck him dead. Death came to the one who tried to control where and when the Lord moved. And that made the leaders angry at and afraid of God. So David did not move the Ark of the Covenant into the place he originally planned to. He left the presence of God out of his city, and took it to the house of some guy named Obed-edom. That dude’s house was seriously blessed for three months. That dude’s name means “the servant who honors God in the right way” and “one who causes to blush”. Others were embarrassed and ashamed when they saw how Obed-edom hosted the presence of the Lord in his house.
In chapter 14, David realizes that God has marked him and he begins confidently walking in that identity that God has given him. He begins acting like he believes what God says about him. This riles up his enemies, and they come after him, intending to capture him. David’s response is to ask God what to do, if he should fight, or if God will hand them over to him. God basically tells him, “Both”. He says, “Yes, go ahead. I will hand them over to you.” God indeed is faithful to come through after David does his due diligence in preparing for battle and standing up to fight, but after a while, the enemy grows discontent with being defeated again, and David has to fight the same enemy all over again (somebody please tell me they see how applicable the Bible is in today’s world!!!). Once again, David’s response is to ask God what to do. God’s answer is different this time—David can’t keep fighting the battle in the same ways he’s always fought it. God gives him a new strategy, a new perspective. God tells David to circle around behind the enemy and wait until he can hear God moving before him—physically hear it!! David did what God commanded, and the enemy was defeated. David’s fame grew, and God caused the other enemies to fear him.
Chapter 15 finds David having spent time preparing a place for the presence of the Lord, in order to attempt to move the Ark again. This time, David called together priests (1 Peter 2:9) to purify themselves and carry the Ark, the presence of the Lord, to the place he had prepared for it. He tells them, “Because you Levites did not carry the Ark the first time, the anger of the Lord our God burst out against us. We failed to ask God how to move it properly.” The first time, the transport of the presence of God was left up to the leaders, and it resulted in death. The second time, he gathered the priests, the ones who spent time in worship and learning how to bless and celebrate the Lord. (Just because someone was a leader did not mean they spent time worshipping the Lord and spending time in His presence.) The first time, they tried to move God according to what made sense to them; the second time, they asked God how to move. It turned out that God had already told them how to move—the answer was in His word, wayyy back from the time of Moses (imagine that, God’s answer being in His word!). David appointed a choir of Levites, a group of people who had purified themselves to worship the Lord during the process (not just when they saw the end result). It says David appointed them “to sing joyful songs”. Mind you, they’re worshipping in joy before the move is complete, and with the knowledge that the last time they tried this, someone died. Yet they are worshipping with joy. Verses 23 and 24 tell that certain people were chosen to guard the Ark, and some were chosen to blow trumpets as they marched in front of the Ark of God. Remember Obed-edom, the guy from chapter 13 who had the presence of God resting in his house as a result of his leaders’ disobedience? Yeah, so that same guy is one of the four people chosen to guard the presence of God during it’s move. Wow. He had proven himself faithful to steward and host the presence of God, and when it came time and the decision was made by his leaders to try and move the Ark again, he was chosen to be a part of the process. A close and intimate part of it. He was trusted because of his obedience in the midst of others’ disobedience. It says in verse 26 that God was clearly helping them through the process, and because of that, they chose to sacrifice out of gratitude. They chose to celebrate. There were shouts of joy and loud music playing, worshipping with all their might to welcome the presence of the Lord into that place. It doesn’t mention it in as much depth in this account, but in 2 Samuel 6, it expands about how King David danced before the Lord with all his might, leaping and dancing before Him. After the sacrifices and the dancing, he gave every one in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. A multitude of people—I’d imagine an entire city—was fed from his worship. And when he got home that night, his wife hated him. She disagreed with what he had done, was embarrassed at the way he had worshipped, and called him a “vulgar person”. Yet David responded, “Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” Even when his own household tried to mess with his identity and tell him that he was disgraced, he was confident in what the Lord had done for him, was confident of the power of having the presence of the Lord in that place, and knew that the only reasonable response, the only reasonable act of service, in the face of the presence of God, was worship, was to sacrifice everything he had (Romans 12:1). In spite of what others around him said, in spite of how crazy and illogical it looked. He did that in public—not just the private places in his heart.
Chapter 16: David appointed people, Levites, the priests, to lead the people in worship. Obed-edom, my man from before, was one of the ones picked (David only picked ten dudes to lead in worship). David gave them a song of thanksgiving to sing, I’m assuming one that he wrote himself, since he did stuff like that. The whole song is amazing, and since I’m trusting each of you to not just take my word for it but to actually read chapters 13-16, I won’t copy it over here. But, I will share one verse of it that sums up the theme of this entire passage:
“Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.” (That’s verse 11)
(That’s what it says in my Bible, I see other people reading it like “Host the Lord as a temporary guest in your heart in your own strength, look for Him occasionally”, but that is, as one of my pastors would say, leaving the preaching and going in to meddling.)
Once they had God in their midst, they didn’t take Him for granted. They ministered to Him (His heart hurts too!). David set up a group of people to regularly serve before the Ark of the Lord’s covenant, doing whatever needed to be done that day (yes, it says “whatever needed to be done”, not “what they felt like doing”). They continually sacrificed, ministered to His heart, and obeyed His words. Regularly. Daily. Twice daily, in fact. Thanking Him. Using their own methods of worship.
That brings me to the end of those chapters, and I hope and pray you can see the parallel. As leaders—not to mention priests, if we are to believe what the Bible says in 1 Peter 2:9—we have a responsibility to host the presence of the Lord. We have a privilege to. We get to do this. It’s a honor to serve and minister to my King.
This has been powerful and convicting to me the past several weeks, knowing that I cannot just up and move the presence of God to where it’s convenient for me so I can say He’s in it. I want to bring my actions into His presence instead of bringing His presence into my actions. His presence should always come first.
We are honored and we are chosen, y’all. This is a GOOD thing. But it must involve death—death to ourselves, death to disobedience—before we experience His presence resting on us.
Sign me up to die!
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