I have been reading the biography of Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China who founded the China Inland Mission. This man was a remarkable example of faithfulness to God. Commenting on his life, E. M. Bounds remarks:
“Men [and women] are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. What the church needs today is men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men.”
The truths in this quote are very impactful. I discovered that the story of David bringing the ark to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6 illustrates some of what E. M. Bounds is talking about (Read it now if you are able). In this story, Uzzah dies while trying to steady the ark. This can seem quite perplexing if the context is not explored.
In 2 Samuel 6:3 it says that they carried the ark on a new cart, a cart made specifically for this purpose. But this was not God’s commandment. The ark was meant to be carried by the Levites using poles put through rings on the side of the ark (Ex 25:14-15). In Numbers 4:15 there is a warning that those who touch the holy elements will die. Verses 5-6 even say that the ark was to be covered in three layers of material – such incredible reverence. What we can glean here is that although the intentions of David and his men were pure, there was still disobedience. They had created a method that they thought was best (even consecrating a new cart for the event), yet God desired His ark to be carried by consecrated men. His presence (in the form of the ark) was to dwell upon men, not upon good ideas and intentions.
Now, of course, God does look at the heart. But it is a heart that desires to follow Him and what He says that pleases Him. The Lord is seeking those who will walk faithfully before Him and are wholly given to His work. We often spend so much time working on a method, pouring resources and energy into it. This is not to say that we must throw our methods out of the window but God is looking for faithful men and women who He can anoint with His wisdom and power.
Returning to the story, the men are on their way when the oxen stumble. This was unexpected. Uzzah had to reach out, surely fearing that the ark would fall to the ground. What happened here? The method failed. The method that the men had constructed came apart; Uzzah had to trust in his own wisdom and was found mishandling the presence of God. We cannot say if God made the oxen stumble, but sometimes God will obstruct the method to turn us back to what is truly important. The point here remains: The method failed because God dwells upon men (the Levites), not upon methods (the ox-cart).
Our trust in the method is then exposed. Uzzah is struck down and dies. What is the response? David goes through a variety of emotions because he doesn’t agree; because surely this was meant to work out. David first expresses anger towards the Lord. How could God do this? How dare He? He accuses the Lord. Next David is struck with fear; a holy God is not to be mocked. His fear causes him to cease the entire event and leave the ark for another three months.
Because David’s heart was hardened he lacked the understanding. But we see that his heart becomes tender again, and he is able to see the Lord and His ways. This time, David makes sure
things are done the right way. Although it is not explicitly said that Levites were carrying the ark, we are told that there were now “those who bore the ark,” revealing God’s presence was now being carried by men (see verse 13). Every six steps, David sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal, rejoicing and worshipping God with shouting and music – what an incredible display of a tender and devoted heart. Interestingly, the method used in the first part of the story (the oxen) has been sacrificed in worship to God (quite literally).
It is time to release our methods and make sure we are the men and women pleasing to the Lord. Not all methods are wrong, but God is pleased when we sacrifice our methods to become the right people.
Questions for reflection:
- Think about the different spheres of your life. Where are you holding onto methods that should be sacrificed?
- How do you respond when your method doesn’t work? Ask God to show you examples from your own life.
- Are you investing into methods or are you investing into men?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to fall upon you in a fresh way today.