Consecration: Costly or Convenient?by Stan Bryant
As the church continues its journey toward spiritual maturity we often see the purposes of God and the dreams of His people being delayed because of ignorance regarding the precepts found in God's word.
The Old Testament is a graphic picture of God working out His relationship with fallen mankind. His character is portrayed as we read story after story of His dealings with Israel. We find much scriptural insight about the previously raised questions.
First, I Chronicles 13 reveals a portion in King David's life. For most of us, our tendency is to elevate such a "hero of the faith." We tend to look at his life in an idealistic manner. Yet even the great King David was just a man. And, like us, he was chosen by God to lead God's people in the establishing of God's kingdom on earth. He had physical needs, aspirations, and insecurities. He also had the ability to know God intimately. Some things he did right and some things wrong. Like us, he was God's son; blessed for obedience and disciplined for disobedience (Hebrews 12:5-6).
In this passage, David desires to bring the ark of God back into the Holy City, Jerusalem. He desired for God's presence (the ark) to dwell in the midst of His people (Jerusalem). His desire had been given to him by God. So, when he consulted with the leaders of Israel and the people, it seemed right in the eyes of all. David had not missed God's heart in this. Neither have we missed God in our desire to bring His presence to His people.
In verses 5-8 David begins to implement his best plan of how to bring the ark into Jerusalem. First, he calls all of Israel together for a time of celebration. A new cart is constructed to transport the ark. Zealous praise and celebration burst from the people of God. It was to be a monumental day in Israel's history; the day God's presence came to Jerusalem!
But all this came to an abrupt end in verses 8 and 9. When the ark is upset, Uzza (which translated means "strength, the strength of man") reaches out to steady it. II Samuel 6:7 tells us that God struck Uzza down because of his irreverence. The natural response is: "But God! We are doing what you told us to do. He was only trying to keep the ark from falling!" That's exactly what David felt.
He experienced the very emotions we experience when confronted with the failure of our efforts (vs. 11-14). He became angry with God, discouraged, and ready to abandon the whole thing.
For the next three months David probably wrestled with God. I imagine he cried out to God regarding his broken dreams, like we all do. I Chronicles 15 indicates that he combed through God's Holy Law until he finally found the error of his actions. But, whatever else he did, most importantly, he did not allow the desire God had given him to die in his heart!
I Chronicles 15 picks up the life of David three months later. We are given a picture of a wiser, more knowledgeable leader of God's people. His seeking had not been in vain. He was ready to bring about the purposes of God. He had learned some tough lessons. He realized his errors and knew how to correct them.
In verse 1, we see that David had prepared a place for the ark. He had pitched a tent. Often God's people fail to make a place for the presence of God in their lives. Yet if we expect to carry out the purposes of God in the earth, we must prepare a place for His presence.
David had also done his homework (vs. 2). He boldly proclaims that "No one is to carry the ark of God but theLevites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God, and to minister to Him forever."
David had learned a valuable lesson. He saw that in the law, God had chosen the Levites to carry the ark (Deuteronomy 10:8). God had given His people specific instructions as to how the ark was to be constructed and transported (Exodus 25). David had painfully experienced that God's character would not allow him to bless any actions that were contrary to His word. It was also extremely clear that God did not consider ignorance of His word to be a viable excuse.
In verses 3-11, David leaves nothing to chance. Literally every Levite and his brother was on hand to transport the ark. All of Israel is assembled for this joyous, yet sobering event. It is a credit to the leadership of David that the nation of Israel would try again only three months after absolute failure.
Next, David commands the priests to consecrate themselves (vs. 12-14). Again, the parallel to our lives shows we are often ignorant of the principles of consecration found in God's word. Has God's character so changed that He can now bless us even when we violate His precepts? I'm not sure that ignorance can be any more a suitable excuse to move contrary to His nature now as it was in the Old Testament. Did the New Covenant in fact usher in the dispensation of ministry without a sanctified lifestyle? Although most would respond with an emphatic "no" to these issues, all too often our lives and example contradict our confession.
Let's look closer at the scriptures I suspect David read over and over during those three months of waiting, especially Leviticus 8. There are at least four principles revealed in this chapter that address the problems David faced then as well as those facing the church today.
1. Anointing and Recognition by God's Established Leadership.
Leviticus 8:10-12 portrays Moses anointing his brother Aaron as the high priest. By that, he was publicly declaring that God had sovereignly chosen Aaron.
I believe the word to upcoming leaders is to beware of taking over areas of responsibility that have not been given to them directly. The word to God's established leadership is to be able to recognize and set apart those with callings on their lives. From the day of consecration on, Moses had given up his right to intercede on behalf of the Israelites. God had asked him to delegate that privilege to a man who was once involved in building an idol for Israel to worship. Think about that!
We need to recognize the changes God has done in people's lives. Satan will work hard to pervert the callings on individuals' lives. Once they have victory in those areas, don't hold the stigma of past failures over them.
2. Atonement is Made by the Shedding of Blood (verse 15).
You should not serve in God's house unless you have been atoned for by the blood of Christ. It grieves me that I even need to make this point. Unfortunately, there are some who have sacrificed the standard of God for function. For instance, all too often I hear of a situation where a church has hired unsaved musicians to "round out" their orchestra. This should not be so. It is a holy thing to lead God's people in worship.
Even though there was singing and rejoicing on the day the Lord's ark was returned, God did not bless the transporting of the ark. Uzza died because of his irreverence. Even though there was the appearance of worship, it did not stop God from rendering His judgment.
3. There is no Service Without Sacrifice.
In verse 22, Moses presents a second ram, the ram of ordination. By the sacrifice of this animal, Aaron and his sons were ordained for the priestly ministry. This was not an easy or convenient event. As we see in Leviticus 1:1-13, the burnt offering required much preparation and knowledge. Everything had to be done a certain way. Yet so often today, we bypass such principles. We allow musicians and others to minister in our churches often without sacrifice and without any preparation obviously displayed in their lives. Again we need to evaluate if function supersedes God's communicated precepts.
4. Our Total Being Needs to be Consecrated for Service.
In verses 22-23, Moses applied a drop of blood to the lobe of Aaron's right ear, his right thumb, and the big toe of his right foot. The best explanation I have found for this action is in the Moody Press publication, Leviticus - A Self Study Guide by Irving L. Jensen, 1967, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. On page 30 when discussing this passage, he writes:
"The meaning of this is plain. Their ears now were consecrated to God, and amid all the voices around they must be listening only for God's voice. Their hands were consecrated to the service of God, and their feet were to walk the holy courts of the Lord's house. We also, as priests unto God, should have the consecrated ear, hand and foot, and be constantly listening for His voice, doing His work, and walking in the path in which he leads." This, to me, should be our stance as worship leaders today. It echoes God's law found in I Chronicles 15:12: "Consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel...."
Continuing in that chapter, we find Chenaniah was appointed to oversee the singing (vs. 22). He was chosen because he was skillful. His lifestyle qualified him. Like Uzza, he was an Israelite. Being one of God's people (a Christian) does not necessarily qualify someone to minister in a priestly function. Because he was a Levite, his required lifestyle set him apart (qualified him) to be involved in that area of service. It was his skill that set him apart to lead all of the singers. All too often we invert this principle. But we must obey God's precepts and standards. We cannot afford to allow individuals to minister based solely on their natural talents.
In verses 24-26 we see rejoicing, singing and sacrifice as the ark is brought into Jerusalem. God's plan and purposes are fulfilled. His presence now has a place in the "city of God." There is life, not death. Celebration, not sorrow. Dancing, not discouragement. Such will be the fruit if we obey God's standards of consecration.
In conclusion, it is time for the New Testament church to evaluate God's principles of consecration. How do they apply to us today? God's character has not changed since the inception of the new covenant. Although the priesthood is no longer limited to a select group of people (I Peter 2:9), I believe that the handling of the ark (the presence of God), in order to remain pure, must be restricted to those with consecrated lifestyles.
Stan Bryant is the Seminar Coordinator for Kent Henry Ministries and is a member of the Worship Leadership Team at Victory Fellowship, St. Louis. [Reprinted with permission from Psalmist Magazine. Oct/Nov, 1988]