Now there is one thing very noticeable about the Prophets of God, no matter in what day or age they lived: we always find them walking alone with God, in separation from the religious apostasy around them. It was so with Enoch: he “walked with God” (Gen. 5:24)-denoting his aloofness from the surrounding evil. It was thus with the Patriarchs: “By faith he (Abraham) sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb. 11:9).
So isolated was the Prophet Samuel that when Saul sought unto him he had to make inquiry as to his abode (1 Sam. 9:11, 12). As we have seen, the same thing held good of John the Baptist: he was in marked separation from the organized religion of his day. So now the servants of God are commanded to “turn away” from those “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5).
Another thing which has marked the Prophets of God is that they were not accredited by the religious systems of their day: they neither belonged to, nor were they endorsed by them. What was there that Enoch and the Patriarchs could possibly “belong” to or “hold membership in”? How could Samuel or Elijah have any personal fellowship with the apostate Judaism of their day? How was it morally possible for John the Baptist to exercise his ministry within the precincts of the degenerate temple of Jerusalem? In consequence of their separation from the God-dishonouring systems of their day, they were despised, hated and persecuted by the religious leaders, and in the eyes of their satellites were most unpopular.
The same principle obtains NOW. Where a denomination has repudiated (in doctrine or practice) the Truth, membership in it can only be retained at the price of unfaithfulness to God: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove (expose) them” (Eph. 5:11).
There are many who are anxious to see the pews occupied and their treasury well filled, and so, “socials,” “ice-cream suppers,” and other worldly attractions are employed to draw the crowd. There are many preachers who are anxious to hold the young people, and so “athletic clubs,” social entertainments, are introduced to secure that end. There are many evangelists who are anxious to “make a good show,” secure “results,” and be able to herald so many hundreds of “converts” at the close of their “campaigns,” and so fleshly means are used, high pressure methods are employed to bring this about: “decision cards,” the “sawdust trail,” the penitent form” are called in to their aid. There are many Sunday school teachers who are anxious to hold the interest of their class, and so “prizes” are given, “picnics” are arranged, and other devices are resorted to.
Apparently it does not occur to these “leaders” to challenge their own actions, to weigh them in “the balances of the sanctuary,” to inquire how near or how far they measure up to the divine standard: so long as such means and methods seem right to them, or are in general vogue in other “churches,” and so long as they appear to “succeed,” nothing else matters. But in a coming day, God is going to ask of them “who hath required this at your hand?” (Isa. 1:12)! None of the devices mentioned by us above have one particle of scriptural authority to warrant their use; and it is by the Scriptures that each of us will yet be judged!
And if one dares to raise a voice in protest against these innovations—no matter how gently and lovingly—he is called “legalistic” and a “troubler in Israel,” But even that must not move the one who covets his Master’s “Well done.”
All things must be done “according to the pattern” (Heb. 8:5; Ex. 25:40) which God has furnished us; and woe will it yet be unto us if we have disregarded His “pattern” and substituted another of our own.
The terrible confusion which now prevails so extensively in Christendom is no excuse whatever for us falling into line with it: “THOU SHALT NOT FOLLOW A MULTITUDE TO DO EVIL” (Ex. 23:1). No matter how “peculiar” he may be thought, no matter how “unpopular” he may be because of it, faithfulness is what God requires from each of His servants (1 Cor. 4:2). And “faithfulness” means doing the work which God has appointed IN THE WAY WHICH HE HAS PRESCRIBED. Expediency may have grasped the helm; compromise may be the order of the day; principles may he valued because of their “practicability” rather than because of their scripturalness; but that alters not one whit the strict discharge of duty which the Lord requires from each of His servants. Unless that fact be clearly realized, we read in vain the solemn incident recorded in 2 Samuel 6.
And they set the ark of God upon a new cart” (2 Sam. 6:3). In so doing, David and his counselors (1 Chron. 13:1) committed a serious fault: they ignored the divinely appointed order and substituted their own arrangements. The Lord had given express commands in Numbers 4:5, 6, 15; 7:9 as to how the sacred ark was to be carried when it should be moved from one place to another; and He requires unquestioning obedience to all His regulations.
It is true that David was moved on this occasion with a deep concern for Jehovah’s honor and glory. It is true that it was the urgings of love for Him which prompted his noble action; but He has said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15)—love must flow in the appointed channels; it must be directed by the divine precepts, if it is to please its Object.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24): among other things that means, God must be worshiped according to the pattern He has given us in His Word. There are many Protestants who can see clearly the human inventions, superstitious innovations and unscriptural practices of the Romanists, in their “elevation of the mass,” the vestments of their “priests,” the burning of incense, the worship of images, and the adoration of the mother of our Saviour. The unwarrantable introduction of such devices are patent to multitudes of Protestants, yet they are blind to their own unscriptural and antiscriptural ways! Listen, my reader: anything we introduce into “the service of the sanctuary,” into the worship of God, for which we have no “thus saith the Lord,” is nothing but a species of “will worship” (Col. 2:23) and must be abandoned by us.
As we pointed out, the counsel given to David by the “leaders” in Israel was patterned after the invention of the heathen. The “priests” of the Philistines had sent back the ark on “a new cart” drawn by oxen (1 Sam. 6). And history has repeated itself. If many of the means and methods which are now used in much so-called “divine worship” and “Christian work” were challenged, if a reason were demanded for their employment, the best that could be given would be, “Others are using them.” But no Scriptural authority could be cited, The “leaders” in Israel might have argued that the device used by the Philistines “succeeded” and that God “blessed” their arrangements. Ah, but the Philistines had not God’s Word in their hands; but Israel had! In like man manner, many now argue “God blesses” many things for which we have no “thus saith the Lord.” But, as we shall see, God cursed Israel’s flagrant violation of His commands!
The outstanding fact which concerns us as we seek to ponder and profit from this solemn incident in David’s life is, that he acted without divine orders: he introduced something into the divine worship for which he had no “thus saith the Lord.” And the lesson to be learned therefrom is to scrutinize rigidly our own actions—the things we do, the way in which we do them, the means we employ—and ask, Are these appointed by God? There is much apparent reverence and devotion among the Papists, but is it acceptable to the Lord?
Ah, my readers, if very much to the “Christian service” of earnest, zealous, enthusiastic Protestants was weighed in the balances of Holy Writ, it would be “found wanting”: nor am I guiltless if found in association and fellowship with the same—no, no matter how much I protest against it all. Individual loyalty to Christ, personal obedience to His commands, is what is demanded of each one of us.
The bounden duty would have been to first “ask counsel of the Lord,” and inquire “Whereon shall the ark be placed?” Instead he conferred with flesh and blood (1 Chron. 13:1) and followed their advice.
David’s efforts proved a failure. And sooner or later all effort on the part of the “church,” or of the individual Christian, which is not strictly according to the Word of the Lord will prove a failure: it will be but “wood, hay, stubble” (1 Cor. 3: 12) in the day of divine testing and reward. God has magnified His Word above all His name (Ps. 138:2), and He demands that His servants shall do all things according to the plan and manner which He has prescribed.
When he commanded Moses to build the tabernacle, He bade him do so according to the “pattern” which He showed him in the mount (Ex, 25:40): there was no room for human opinion or preference. And if we would serve Him acceptably, then we must go according to His way, not ours. The right attitude for us was expressed by Peter when he said, “Nevertheless, at Thy word, I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5): he acted according to Christ’s instruction, and was blessed!