Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Uncut stones (DT 27:5-7)

"Moreover, you shall build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones; you shall not wield an iron tool on them. You shall build the altar of the Lord your God of uncut stones, and you shall offer on it burnt offerings to the Lord your God; and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, and rejoice before the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 27:5-7)
If I were to build an altar to God I would want to build something grand and majestic. I would spare no cost or effort to make it beautiful and to adorn it it in a way to reflect both the God to whom it was built and the gratitude of the one who built it. However, when God commanded the Israelites to build Him an altar He insisted it be made of "uncut stones". God is not concerned with appearances nor is He impressed with the efforts of our labors. We want something grand, yet God is content with something simple, personal, and intimate.

When David sought to build a grand temple to God, God's response was, "For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, 'Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?'" (2 Samuel 7:6-7) God was content with a tent when David wanted to build Him a house.

God does not need much to relate to His people, but we too often try to shroud our relationship with God in buildings, activities, and programs of our own imagination. We want to have services that are polished and professional and to meet in buildings that are grand and expansive. We expend great effort to build and do things for God when what He wants most of all is to be with us. Our works and efforts actually serves to insulate us from an intimate relationship with God.

When King David sought to bring the Arc of the Covenant back into Jerusalem, they conceived a grand way to bring in the presence of God.
"David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, the Lord who is enthroned above the cherubim, where His name is called. 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 with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets." (1 Chronicles 13:6-8)
This approach seamed good; they had worship, praise, and a new cart to carry the arc. However, the end result was death.
"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 God." (1 Chronicles 13:9-10)
Their intentions were good, but they relied on their own estimations and inventions to usher in the presence of God and the end result was disaster. God did not want their "new cart", He wanted them. Finally, after seeking the Lord, David discovered what God really wanted and safely brought the present of the Lord back into Jerusalem.
"Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab, and said to them, 'You are the heads of the fathers' households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it at the first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.' So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord." (1 Chronicles 15:11-15)
God's presence is not to be born upon the engines of our imagination but rather upon the shoulders of His worshipers. God does not want our latest program or latest idea to woo His presence, He wants us. He is not impressed with our outward appearances and work but desires most of all a relationship with us that is simple, personal, and intimate. "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)

David Robison

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