Bring Your Own Sacrifice Part 3: Sincerity and Enthusiasm are not Enough
Today’s church places certain priorities on the worship service. We want worship to be “engaging”, “relevant”, “anointed” and my personal favorite “powerful”. I’m going to use the umbrella term “energy”. We want energy in our worship team, sonically and visually. I have played at churches and seen pastors coach their team from off stage saying, “Don’t forget to smile!” They implore their worship teams to be warm, welcoming, and energetic, as if the rest takes care of itself. I submit we may want to reconsider.
In 1 Chronicles 13, David plans to bring the Ark of the Covenant back from Kirath-jearim to Jerusalem:
“They carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets.” 1 Chronicles 13:7,8 (emphasis mine)
Then it goes sideways in verse 9:
“When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, because the oxen nearly upset it. The anger of the Lord burned against Uzza, so he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before the Lord.”
David stopped the parade in terror and took the ark to Obed-Edom’s house. It stayed there for three months, and God blessed Obed-Edom’s house and everything he had.
By today’s standards we would say that God was being harsh with Uzza. After all, Uzza was just trying to help. But when God gave Moses directions about the tabernacle and the proper way to worship He was clear. Only the tribe of Levi were allowed to carry the Ark, and they were to carry it on their shoulders at all times. That’s how they carried the Ark when they crossed the Jordan River, and when they marched around Jericho. God’s presence was carried on the shoulders of the priests.
David in his gusto gathered all Israel and had a huge procession. They had singers, musicians, laser lights, the works. It says explicitly they were “celebrating with all their might”. They had sincerity of heart. They had enthusiasm. But they disobeyed God’s commands. As a result a man lost his life and the party was called off.
Today’s worship music certainly has energy. Most churches have fresh faced, earnest singers and musicians leading worship on Sundays. Those that don’t wish they did. But are they worshipping in obedience? That’s not for me to say, but we sure better be asking the question.
Now I have not heard of God striking down anyone lately, but that doesn’t change His Holiness. In His mercy He may decide not to come. Sadder still, we may be so busy with our sincerity and enthusiasm we don’t notice His absence.
David realized his sin. The second time he went to move the Ark he did it correctly.
“Then David said: No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.” 1 Chronicles 15:2
Now for my favorite part.
“So it was David, with the elders of Israel and the captains over thousands, who went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with joy. Because God was helping the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams.” 1 Chronicles 15:25,26 (emphasis mine)
The Lord helped the Levites carry His presence. What an amazing thought. When they acted in obedience God wasn’t just pleased, He was so pleased that He helped them carry the ark. Who wouldn’t want to be filled with the strength of God to give Him praise?
The procession ended up being quite a party: singing, shouting, horns, trumpets, cymbals, harps and lyres, and even free food! (1 Chronicles 16:3) But the difference was obedience. David and Israel had learned to worship in the proper way, and it brought blessing.
Sincerity and enthusiasm are not the enemy. The second procession of the Ark had all of the same outward signs of energy, but they were a heartfelt response to God's blessing. When we coach for the outward signs and neglect an attitude of obedience, we put the cart before the heart.
God may not stike us down, but He isn't obligated to bless our hard work either. We end up carrying a heavy load, suffereing burnout, and resenting God in the effort. But when we obey God in true worship we have the honor of carrying His presence with His help.
Try praying in this way:
“Lord God, I confess Your Holiness. I repent for offering improper sacrifices to You. Holy Spirit, search my heart and reveal anything You don’t like. Clean me out and teach me how to obey. God, give me a new taste for obedience. May I love your laws and your statutes. May my worship be pure and pleasing to You In Jesus’ name,