How responsible are God’s people to know God’s ways?
I propose that as believers, it is irresponsible of us to live in ignorance. There are many people who claim to be Christian and believe in Jesus, yet they live and act and speak in ways that are clearly against what God’s Word teaches. Does God hold us accountable for disobedience, even if we are unaware of it?
In 1 Chronicles 13-16, David has been made king and desires to bring the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem where it belongs. So, he makes a plan. They put the ark on a cart pulled by oxen and begin the journey. Along the way, the oxen stumble, the cart tips, and Uzza puts out his hand to hold the ark so it doesn’t slide off the cart. Immediately, without any warning, God struck him down, and he dies, right there on the spot.
Why would God be angry that Uzza touched the ark in an “innocent” way? He was only trying to do what any good person would do. But he had disobeyed God’s command – no one but the Levites were to touch the ark because it was holy to the Lord. Also, it was never intended to be transported on a cart but carried with the poles made for just that purpose.
This upset David greatly, and in fact, the Bible says he was angry at God for taking Uzza’s life. He stops the procession, and the ark is “parked” at Obed-edom’s house nearby. It takes David three months to figure out what went wrong and adjust his plans to God’s commands. The children of Israel had God’s instructions. They were ignorant by choice. God had given Moses detailed orders about how the ark was to be transported. When David made arrangements again, he did his homework.
“Then David said, ‘No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.’ … 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.” (I Chronicles 15:2,13)
You see, God’s people were responsible for what God had said. They could not claim ignorance, or defend their actions by protesting that they were only trying to be good people. God held them accountable for their disobedience. It was not God’s fault that they ignored His word and did things their own way. They had fair warning and access to the truth.
I believe it is the same for us, as New Testament believers who have access to the Bible. We have the complete canon of the Word of God. We will not stand before God and give account for our lives according to what our pastors and teachers have told us. We will not be judged on what our parents told us. We will be judged according to the Word of God, which is freely and generously available in our generation.
David recognized that his excuses and his anger toward God were wrong. He went back to the words of God given to Moses and corrected his choices. In the end, the ark was safely moved to Jerusalem with great joy among the people, and great honor and glory are given to God. Isn’t that what we want for our own lives? To live with great joy, knowing that we have honored God? We can…but we must know the Word of God and obey it.
If reading and studying God’s Word isn’t an important part of your life, then I question how committed you are to the God you claim to love. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to seek to know Him, and He will hold us accountable for all He has revealed in His Word.