Foiled Intention

But when they same to Chidon’s threshing place, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out and took hold of the chest to stop it from falling. The Lord God was very angry at Uzzah for doing this, and he killed Uzzah right there beside the chest. 1 Chronicles 13:1-4, see also 1 Chronicles 15:13

David’s intention was pure – even noble: the tangible symbol of his “faith” must be brought to the center – Jerusalem. Imagine the jubilation, the throng of people singing and dancing as they carried it. Imagine the celebration. Then imagine a violent, even crazy death in the middle of their joyous parade.

Uzzah died, saving the sacred chest from falling. David was shocked and was angry. He instantly blamed God for such a senseless accident. But he did not stop at that. He had a soul searching, asking the question most of us ask in many instances of unexpected turnarounds. “Why Lord?”

“Why Lord? He was only trying to prevent the chest from falling?”

“Why Lord, when we only intend to bring back the sacred chest which had been neglected for so long?”

“Why Lord – and in the midst of Jubilee? You could have waited until we’re done…”

More questions followed, “Should I really be the one to carry the chest back?Was that something I could have chosen not to do? What went wrong?”

Only God’s grace would be able to answer these difficult questions. When Job asked his questions after a series of afflictions, God pointed to him all the marvels of the universe, and concluded, “…Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?…Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” (Job Chapter 38 -40)

Looking at the Uzzah’s incident itself, we may conclude based on logic that in the first place, it wasn’t his task to carry the chest – the job had been assigned long ago to the Levites. (1 Chronicles 15:13). The Levites would know how to carry the chest: on poles that rested on their shoulders (1 Chronicles 15:14; 26) and God gave them strength to carry it all the way. David must have thought that Uzzah’s death was unfair, but later he recognized that he and not God was largely to blame. Maybe, God was really angry, not at his intention but at his strategy. God has often told David that He never really lived in temples – God is beyond temples “His throne is above the winged treasures on the lid of the chest” (13:16).

God has full control of the events of our lives. There is a time for every thing for every season under the sun. Often, in our love for control of both time and resources, we take for granted those which have already been provided. Many times, in order for a task to be done quickly, even those who are not called or gifted to do it are forced out of their wits to perform and meet urgent deadlines. Often, the result is disaster, frustration and plenty of finger pointing.

When we are clear about God’s will, still enforcing our own is sheer foolishness, or plain and simple arrogance.

Not the King you Want

Jesus therefore, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself alone. John 6:15

All the four gospels recorded the feeding of the 5000. Mark, Matthew and John follows this story with a conspicuous detail transition – Jesus going up a mountain to pray.

The people followed Jesus and even were ahead of them on that side of the Lake of Galilee because they are afflicted with certain diseases and they want to get healed. Or else, they were hungry for enlightenment about life questions that only Jesus seem to be able to answer. Here is their hope, their salvation. Would he now replace the Roman King and establish a kingdom like that of David? Would he perhaps want to be King?

As probable as they thought this could be, the people’s clamor isn’t going to have it’s desired answer. John says that Jesus “perceived” the people’s intention. In other parts of the gospels, Jesus has cried out in frustration and deep longing because of the stubbornness of the Jews. ““Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.(Matthew 23:37).

Feeding the multitude is another one of the manifestations of this compassion. “Give them something to eat,” Jesus says even as his disciples say it is impossible to feed five thousand people with only two loaves of bread and two fish. But to Jesus, that need to eat was only too obvious — however, the other need — the need for a Savior, a Messiah has been clouded and needs to be established.

What is in your heart in coming to Jesus? Do you want him to be “King” of your life? Even with impure motives when we come to God, His response will always be a compassionate meeting of our needs and a stubborn persistence at knocking on the hard doors of our hearts. Yet, even as Jesus gives us what we need, He will “withdraw to the mountain and pray.” He isn’t going to be our King as is our worldly grasp of what being “king” connotes. Instead, he wants to be the King of our life, in control of every facet – fully the ruler even beyond what we can fully grasp or imagine. He wants us to genuinely welcome him in our hearts. There is no real salvation apart from this.

pro active faith

John 5:1-9

“Arise, pick up your mat, and walk”

Although we may not be physically handicapped, we are often incapacitated by other disabilities, real or imagined. The lame man in this story has been an invalid for thirty years. Other sick people linger around that pool where he stationed himself, waiting for an angel of God to stir the waters. Everybody around that pool believes that to be inside the pool at the exact time of this stirring will heal them of their various sicknesses. Within the heart of lame man is a will to be healed and not just a dream of walking.

Jesus singles him out and asks, “Do you want to get healed?” A pro-active question indeed if we consider our fast-paced times. Jesus’ question is also a challenge. His healing required an equally pro-active effort from the lame man. “Arise, pick up your mat and walk.”

Faith also requires that our wills cooperate. There are times when mere praying and waiting for the miracle to happen just isn’t it. God in his wisdom also requires that we take action – “Arise, pick up our mats, and walk.”

Often the actions we need to take are specific and directive, but we have to be careful that we take them one step at a time. Jesus pro-active list goes: rise, one step; pick up your mat, second step; and walk, third step. Remember that it has been thirty long years for the lame man. Imagine those joints and muscles finally being stretched. It could be a real effort.

Yet, Jesus’ words also carried with it a sudden strength, a deep and real encouragement for a motivation that has been with the lame man. The lame man did not even know who Jesus is. Maybe he thought this was the angel of God finally come to personally bring him healing since he couldn’t bring himself to the pool. Who knows how this angel has noticed his persistence even as he always fails, and given him a nod of approval? So instead of stirring the waters, this angel was so kind as to just heal him where he is. Of course, later, the man learned that it wasn’t an angel at all, but the Lord Jesus.

Often we look for miracles elsewhere. But Jesus is the only one who can give us what we truly need. If we have the motivation and the dream and the passion, all we need is a powerful push of confidence that can only come from the source of all good gifts.