Monday, November 19, 2012

1 Chronicles 13 & 14 The Power of God's Presence

1 Chron 13:7-14 They moved the ark of God from Abinadab's house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets. When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. Then David was angry because the Lord's wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. David was afraid of God that day and asked, "How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?" He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had.

1 Chron 14:9-17 Now the Philistines had come and raided the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of God: "Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?" The Lord answered him, "Go, I will hand them over to you." So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, "As waters break out, God has broken out against my enemies by my hand." So that place was called Baal Perazim. The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire. Once more the Philistines raided the valley; so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, "Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer. So David's fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.

Having God's Presence in our midst means we experience not only His gracious love but also His awesome power. This divine power can bring judgment as much as blessing. In the incident  involving David's attempt to bring the Ark from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem, we see this awesome power of God to bring judgment to Uzzah who died because he touched the Ark and blessing to Obed-Edom for three months because "the LORD blessed his household and everything he had." The Ark was holy because it was the place where the LORD was "enthroned between the cherubim — the ark that is called by the Name." God's name is holy and His presence therefore separates the holy and unholy. Uzzah probably died because he was not from the priestly family: "After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die" (Num 4:15). The Kohathites, though they were from the tribe of Levites, were nevertheless not authorized and consecrated to touch the holy things.

While some have argued that this sort of thing happened only in the OT because Israel was "under Law", but the truth of God's holy presence has not changed--in fact, it is intensified in the New Testament because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We read something of the awesomeness of God's presence in Acts 5:3-5 too: Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

Both Israel and the Church are under grace, which is by definition God's desire to bless all mankind unconditionally with His goodness. And this grace is not limited only to Israel and the Church, but to all mankind. In fact, this grace was manifested from the first day of Creation when God saw that everything He has created was "good." The foundation of God's grace towards Israel is the same as that of the Church, viz., the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Christ's atoning death (prefigured in OT sacrifices & festivals) is an eternal fact, not just an historical event. Its effect is eternal, meaning that it applies to everyone who ever lives, both before and after Christ. Paul explains this truth in 2 Tim 1:9-10, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." In other words, Paul is saying that this grace was given by God to all mankind because of Christ from "before the beginning of time", i.e. long before Christ came. And the foundation for this grace principle was Christ, who was revealed very much later in history at the Cross. So, both Israel and the Church (and all nations) are under grace because of Christ.

But what about the OT Law that has been superseded by the New Covenant? Hasn't  Law been superseded and replaced by Grace. Well, yes and no. The Law that was superseded was the Law of Moses (the civil, ceremonial and personal laws given at Mt Sinai), but in its place, the New Covenant believers is now under the Law of Christ - which is the Law of love as expounded by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount). It fact, the Law of Christ not only superseded the Law of Moses but also surpassed pass it in its moral standards and demands. Unlike the Law of Moses which is focused on outward behavior, the Law of Christ is focused on inward motivations and attitudes: so anger is now murder, lust is now adultery, divorce & remarriage is marital unfaithfulness, love is now an attitude of doing good to our enemy, not just our friends, etc. That is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." Implicit in that statement is that NT believers are under a stricter legal code (Law of Christ) than the Pharisees' (Law of Moses).

So what happened to Uzzah is not because OT believers were  under Law, but because of the awesomenes of God's holy presence--and this has not changed under the New Covenant. In fact, it's more severe as Ananias and Sapphira had found out.

But God's presence also brings blessing to the household of Obed-Edom. When we walk in the righteousness of Christ, the Presence of God brings great blessings to our lives. As the priesthood of the New Covenant, we ought to be carriers of the Ark of God's Presence into our families, into our communities and into our workplaces so that God's power might be released to bless everything and everyone who come in contact with us.

Father, what an awesome thing it is to have Your Presence in our lives. Yet, what a joyful thing it is to live daily in Your Presence because Your Presence means blessing and success in all that we do. Amen.

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