Home   e-Library       中文 
e-Library Home |  Browse By Category |  Study the Bible    
 (Manna 69: One True Church)
Service that Is After God’s Own Heart
TOC | Previous | Next

Service that Is After God’s Own Heart

Enoch Hou—Cerritos, California, USA

“[God] said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22)

David was a man after God’s own heart. Yet even such a person may serve God in a way that is not according to His will. This can be seen in the events surrounding David’s attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem—a lesson for us when serving God. We learn what displeases God even while we serve Him, how heavy a price we have to pay for displeasing God, how to return from error and to continuously adjust our servitude to God’s commandments. Most importantly, we learn about the need to change our mindset so that we can truly be people after God’s own heart and serve Him even better.

Loving God Is Not Enough

After years of suffering and persecution, David had finally become king over the whole Israelite nation (1 Chr 12:38–40). His reign had a positive impact on the faith of Israel: one of David's first projects was to bring the ark of God to the new capital, Jerusalem. During the reign of Saul, Israel had not inquired of God. So David hoped to enable and encourage the people to draw near to God once again by bringing the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chr 13:3–4).

More than sixty years earlier, the ark had been taken away by the Philistines (1 Sam 4:22) and then sent back to Israel because the LORD had made them suffer from tumors. When the Philistines sent the ark of God back to Israel, they put it on a new cart, pulled by two milk cows (1 Sam 6:7). When the cart had crossed the Israelite border and arrived in Beth Shemesh, some of the local people curiously looked into the ark (something not even the high priest was permitted to do) and were subsequently killed by the LORD. Therefore, the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh sent God's ark to Kirjath Jearim to Abinadab's house (1 Sam 6:14–15,19–21; 7:1–2).

Almost seventy years later, David not only wanted to bring God's ark to Jerusalem, he also wished to build a temple for it because the ark had been sitting in a tent ever since the time of Moses. This was a good intention indeed because David was truly concerned about God's ark and the matters of God.

Before embarking on this “project,” David consulted all the military men and leaders in Israel about bringing the ark back to Jerusalem. Then he discussed with the people (1 Chr 13:1–2). When everybody agreed with the idea, David proceeded with his plan. In contrast, David had often inquired of God for instructions before he became the king of Israel (1 Sam 23:2, 4; 30:8; 2 Sam 5:19, 23). It is therefore surprising that David not only forgot to consult the priests but also forgot to inquire of God, especially in this work that was directly related to God.

On the appointed day, many people came to accompany God's ark from Kirjath Jearim to Jerusalem (1 Chr 13:3–6). In fact, David gathered thirty thousand choice men for this occasion (2 Sam 6:1) and created such pomp that his own glory surpassed the glory of God.

The problem was that David cared very much about men’s opinion and used a very democratic way to find a consensus among the people; however, he didn’t respect or care about God’s law or commandments. If we want to serve God, it is not enough to love God. We have to know God’s law; God wants us to serve Him according to His way. Therefore, in all things, we have to seek first the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2).

The Price of Service that Displeases God

After they had arrived at Abinadab’s house, they set the ark on a new cart (similar to the Philistines' way) and appointed Uzzah and Ahio to drive the cart (1 Chr 13:7). But when the oxen stumbled and Uzzah touched the ark to support it, God's wrath was aroused. As a result Uzzah was struck to death and David became afraid to bring the ark to Jerusalem; the blessings that were originally to come upon the whole nation were only given to the household of Obed Edom (1 Chr 13:9–14). What had made God so angry?

If we look into Numbers, we will notice that God had originally prescribed a very different way to handle the ark. He especially appointed the sons of Kohath from among the Levites to carry the things that are in the tent of meeting. As a rule, Aaron and his sons had to cover all the holy items, including the ark, before the Kohatites could carry them. If the Kohatites looked at any of the holy things or the ark while they were not covered or if they touched them, they had to die (Num 4:15,18–20).

David and his people did what was contrary to God’s will; they did not even inquire about the proper procedure (1 Chr 15:13). They had departed from the laws of God for too long, so even the Levites had forgotten how to handle the ark correctly. It is true that David had good intentions but that did not please God because he served God according to his own heart. Uzzah’s death shows God’s strict requirements, especially towards the Levites and priests who should have known the Law of God, for Uzzah was punished “for his error” (2 Sam 6:7). For the Levites who carried the ark, their service concerned a matter of life and death, yet they did not serve God according to the way He had prescribed it.

As for David, Uzzah’s death caused him to worry; the initially happy and fervent atmosphere had suddenly changed to fear and doubt. Moreover, his view of the ark also changed because he did not understand why God was so fierce. What did God want him to do? In his doubt, he concluded: "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" (2 Sam 6:9) Since David did not dare to receive the ark anymore, he sent it to the house of Obed-Edom.

God’s strike caused David to examine himself and turned his focus away from self-glorification back to considering God’s will. So here we see the consequences of a servitude that displeases God: God was angry, a man died, the people where frightened, and the king was worried and afraid of God. Thirty thousand people returned home disappointed, and the ark was unable to move to Jerusalem.

Serving God with a Renewed Mindset

When David was told that the family of Obed-Edom was blessed because they hosted the ark in their house, David realized that he had made a mistake. He had been afraid of the LORD and the ark because of the death of Uzzah. David thought that God would naturally guide and bless him in all that he did for Him. But, in fact, neither God nor His blessing can be found in this kind of grand show of extravagance. Instead, God’s blessing is upon those who fear God and upon the family who hosts the ark of covenant.

Subsequently, David made a second attempt to bring God's ark to Jerusalem. This time, he sought and found the correct way of handling the ark (1 Chr 15:1–3). David conferred with the priests and Levites first (1 Chr 15:11). He asked them to consecrate themselves before bringing the ark to the city of David (1 Chr 15:12–14), and “the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD” (1 Chr 15:15).

This time, David did not care about the glory that the ark would bring about, but about the God who sits above the two cherubim. He no longer followed his own heart but God’s heart. He understood that he should serve God and God alone. He humbly obeyed God’s law, sent the Levites to carry the ark to the City of David, and enthusiastically danced and sang, offering sacrifices before God (cf. 1 Chr 15:25–16:3).

Moreover, David did not only offer burnt and peace offerings. This time, he offered himself as a living sacrifice to God. He no longer pursued his own glory; instead he only wanted to humbly obey God. By commanding the ark to be carried, he set a good example in fearing God, led the people to walk in God’s way, and blessed the people in God’s name—this type of servitude is pleasing to God and after God’s own heart.

From David’s transformation, we see that God used Uzzah’s death to correct David’s misconception of the ark and his mindset as a king. Initially, David thought that bringing the ark to the City of David would definitely bring peace, blessings, glory, and God’s presence. He thought that welcoming the ark of God with pomp to inaugurate his reign would please God. But God was not pleased, and this spectacle could not obtain God’s blessing.

Subsequently, the Lord taught David that the glory of God’s kingdom depends on the king’s ability to understand and carry out God’s law and to lead the people to worship God according to His instructions. Since David had already stepped up to manage state affairs, God wanted him to confirm that this was God’s kingdom and God’s people; apart from zeal and love for God, he also needed to have true wisdom (God’s law) to manage God’s household. As the king, he was to manage God’s kingdom on God’s behalf and he needed to “write for himself a copy of this law… and…read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment” (Deut 17:18–20).

Service that is After God’s Own Heart

Today, we often do things based on what we think is right. But in Deuteronomy 12:8 we are told that we should not serve according to our own judgment and mindsets: “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes."

So today, when we serve God, we must do what is right in the eyes of God. What we think is right is usually derived from our background and education. If, in addition, everyone around us agrees with our ideas, we think them to be right. But we have to think about whether God really wants us to serve Him in this way.

“Carting the ark” and “carrying the ark” can be seen as a parallel of man’s ways versus God’s ways. Moving the ark with a new cart was more efficient. That is conventional wisdom. Who would have thought of carrying this “wooden box” that was so heavy? But this was God’s law.

God does not care about efficiency or professionalism. What He wants is our heart—a heart to serve Him and to love one another. Through the four Levites who carried the ark together, the people could learn how important it is to work together as a team, share each other’s burdens and have fellowship with one another. In addition, they could receive God’s blessings by carrying the ark with all their strength and all their heart (1 Chr 15:26).

To prevent the ark from falling off, those who carry it must be of one heart and move in unison (Amos 3:3). They would need to consider one another and adjust their steps according to each one’s strength so that none would stumble. Today, we can only achieve such mutual understanding through regular fellowship (Acts 2:46).

This fellowship in Christ can’t be achieved just through large-scale activities in the church. If we are constantly busy with meetings and church events, we may have the misconception that this is all that God’s work comprises. But actually church work and service should be based on fellowship, not activities. When we show our love for one another through fellowship, God is among us. We should therefore not neglect or underestimate the importance of spiritual fellowship within the church: Every call now and then, every greeting, every visit, every intercession, regardless whether it is among worker or believers—all these actions are God’s will working in our hearts to accomplish His work.

For this reason, we need to be willing to invest time in establishing a deep and solid spiritual fellowship in Jesus Christ (the truth), bonding with our co-workers, fellow believers and family members. In addition, we need to be willing to put effort into deep prayers and mutual intercession. Only then can we “carry the ark” in the fear of God and with one heart, bearing each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2).

If we compare David’s two attempts to bring the ark to Jerusalem, we see that God did not want all the pomp and those thirty thousand spectators in the first attempt. Instead, God was pleased with the second attempt. He wanted David, the Israelite elders and leaders as well as the Levites and priests to really know him (1 Chr 15:25). Sometimes we think that we have to do great things to glorify God, e.g., large-scale evangelistic services, hymnal outreach or other events that will potentially attract many people. However, from David’s experience, we learn that God actually wants us to understand His will and to serve and worship Him according to His way. The scale of events and number of people are only superficial and cannot please God. As long as our actions are pleasing to God, He will work with us; whether it is pastoral or evangelistic work, God will bless and guide us, and God’s word will grow and multiply (Acts 12:24).

Perhaps, out of our heart to love God, we want to raise money for a church-building fund through investments to ease the members’ financial burden. But has God not promised to bring all the riches of the world to the house of God in times of need?

Maybe we want to hire cleaning or catering professionals to ease the believers’ workload. But does God not want us to practice the truth by serving one another and to show God that we love Him by offering our time and energy?

Maybe we think that it is easy to get church work going, as long as we have a complete organizational structure and come to a consensus through discussions and voting. But have we considered whether our consensus is truly God’s will? If this consensus is merely human will and not God’s will, our work will not bear any fruit.

The church is God’s household and her master is God. Therefore, whatever we do, we need to first seek God’s will lest we displease God or even arouse His anger and suffer loss.

May we always serve the Lord as a servant after His own heart.

PDF Download

Author: Enoch Hou