1 Chronicles 13-14, Philippians 4
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:5-7 ESV
One of the things that had gotten King Saul into trouble was his tendency to do things his own way. Rather than obey God and follow His commands, Saul would come up with his own plan. Sometimes it was only a slight variation on what God had commanded, but even a minor deviation from God's will was considered disobedience and sin. As the people of God, we will always face the temptation of doing things our own way. One of the problems we face is that we do not adequately know God's will. It could be that we have not familiarized ourselves enough with His Word and, therefore, we are ignorant of what He expects or demands of us. Other times, it is a case of knowing His will, but simply refusing to obey it. We would rather do things our own way. David found himself facing these same predicaments. After having ascended the throne of Israel, David exhibited some mixed signals when it came to his relationship with God and His will. On the one hand, he seemed anxious to do things God's way. When trying to determine whether to go into battle against the Philistines, David “inquired of God” (1 Chronicles 14:10 ESV). He sought God's counsel and received it. The result was a resounding victory over his enemies. When the Philistines rose up a second time, David turned to God again and received his marching orders. “And David did as God commanded him” (1 Chronicles 14:16 ESV) and “and the fame of David went out into all the lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations” (1 Chronicles 14:17 ESV).
But we also see several instances where David didn't bother to do things God's way. He didn't even seem to seek God's thoughts on the matter. One was in his relationship with women. The text simply says, “And David took more wives in Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 14:3 ESV). This was in direct violation of God's command regarding the kings of Israel. “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away” (Deuteronomy 17:17 ESV). Now this could have been a case of ignorance on David's part. He could have been unfamiliar with this particular command of God. But nowhere does the passage say that David sought God's counsel as to whether or not to marry multiple wives. His decision seems to have been driven by desire. Even in the case of David's attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his newly formed capital of Jerusalem, David failed to do things God's way. His intentions were good, but the outcome was bad.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God desires the obedience of His people. His rules and commands are not just arbitrary and optional. They are not up to debate or open to interpretation. Our obedience is a direct reflection of our trust in Him. When we disobey Him we are indicating that we do not trust His will for our lives. We are expressing our doubt regarding His love and questioning His wisdom. When we don't know what God's will is regarding a particular decision or situation, we should seek it. When we do know what it is, we should obey it. David's desire to bring the Ark into the city of Jerusalem reflected his love for God and his desire to honor God's law (illustrated in the form of the original tables given to Moses on Mount Sinai and contained in the Ark). But the problem was that David tried to do the right thing in the wrong way. In his attempt to honor God, he actually disobeyed Him. God had made it perfectly clear that Ark was to be carried by the priests only and that if anyone touched the Ark, they would die (Numbers 4:15). But in his zeal to honor God, David had the Ark placed on a cart. He didn't bother to check with God beforehand and see what He would have him do. The result was that a man died when he attempted to keep the Ark from falling off the cart. David had failed to obey God and an innocent man suffered the consequences. David had disobeyed God's commands. Whether he did so knowingly or ignorantly, the text doesn't tell us. But in doing so, he expressed disdain for God's will. His heart was right. He wanted to celebrate God and worship Him rightly, but he went about it in the wrong way. And when God justifiably and righteously punished those who disobeyed His commands, David's joy in the Lord turned to anger and fear.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Every day of our lives we are faced with all kinds of decisions. It is impossible for us to always know what God would have us do in each and every one of those situations. But there are times when God's will is perfectly clear to us and we simply choose to ignore it. The apostle Paul reminds us, “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5 ESV). In other words, He is always present and available. As a result, Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6 ESV). There is no reason we should fret or worry about what to do or how to do it – “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ESV). Simply put, we are to take our requests to God. Rather than get anxious and worry about the situations of life and what to do about them, we are to do as David did and inquire of God. We are to seek His counsel and try to ascertain His will. When we do, Paul tells us, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). When David did things his way, the result was anger and fear. When we seek God and do things His way, the result is peace.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
One of the keys to living obediently is to remain intimate and personal with God. That requires that I spend time in His Word, immersing myself in His revealed will and constantly exposed to His Spirit's leading. The more familiar I am with His Word and the more submitted I remain to His Spirit, the more peace I will experience in my life. And in those times when I don't know what to do, I must learn to ask Him before I act. I must discipline myself to wait before I know what He would have me do. Better to delay than to unknowingly disobey. I must constantly remind myself that the Lord is at hand. He is nearby and He is always ready to respond to my requests for wisdom. James reminds me, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV). I must learn to ask God. But I must also learn to obey Him when I hear from Him.
Father, thank You that You have not left us in the dark regarding Your will. You have given us Your written Word. You have placed provided us with the example of Your incarnate Word. And You have placed Your Holy Spirit in our lives to provide us with the capacity to understand Your will and to obey it. Amen