I Have Been to the Mountain
Robert Wurtz II
And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God (2 Samuel 6:7-8 ESV).
You will remember that the Ark of the Covenant was effectively the throne of Jehoveh (YHWH) that rested in the Holiest of Holies in God’s mobile palace, the wilderness Tabernacle. In time the Ark was taken by the Philistines because of the recklessness and sin of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas. God sent judgment to the Philistines until they willingly gave the Ark back to Israel. To move it they employed a ‘new cart’ and thus the Ark had rest until the time of David.
God on the Move
Man cannot initiate Spiritual things, God must do it. All that man can do is respond rightly to Him. God was reviving His people Israel after decades of backsliding. the first step in this process was to bring the Ark back among the people. Keep in mind that this effectively means that God’s authority would be among the people once again. As we discussed in the previous entry, the Ark started rolling on the cart and then it began rocking. If I might so say, the cart was a faster and more convenient way to move things along, but it was not what God prescribed. God commanded that the throne of His presence (Ark) be carried on the shoulders of four priests. This is one man on each corner. It required total unity of actions to move safely. If any one of the priests were out of step, the whole Ark could be dumped on the ground. Keep this in mind. When God starts moving among a people they have to get into total unity of direction and destination. One false step and the whole thing breaks down.
Rocking and Rolling
If you have ever served as a pal bearer at a funeral you will know basically how moving the Ark would be. The Funeral Director will usually stand at the head of the casket and give instructions. This keeps everyone on the same page. The people employed in the work may have never worked together before, but when the director takes the lead the process plays out very effectively. It is not a rushed job, but a careful and slow process.
When the Ark is moved in this way it creates a problem for people that like to “get things rolling.” They get frustrated and anxious. As an example of this the children of Israel did what the Philistines did. They traded the careful and deliberate walking process for a new ox cart. If they had lived in our times they may have loaded it up on a trailer, backed their Dodge, Chevy or Ford Pickup up to the hitch and took off down the road. All the while things are really rolling; rocking and rolling. We must admit, it would be a quick way to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, but it totally misses God’s will.
Destination: God’s Will
If I might use a phrase, “God was going somewhere” when He initiated revival in Israel. Many things would need to be done to get the people back into a right order. They had to get on the same-page with God. It would need to take place one step at a time. When the people were traveling into the Promised Land over a million people followed behind the Ark; but when they put the Ark on the cart, they were leading God. This is almost unconscionable; but it was where they were at that time. In other words, they had the horse before the cart. This may work well for moving farm supplies, but it can never be in the Kingdom of God. God is to take the lead with nothing before Him but His perfect will. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. This is our picture. God has to accomplish His will and to do that will require ears to hear what the Spirit is saying unto the people.
Revving the engine
Have you ever been in a fast-food drive through where a person was revving their engine because the person at the window was not moving fast enough to suit them? How about a checkout line at the grocery store when a large cart is in front of the line and people start sighing, rolling their eyes and making intimidating noises and gestures? The reason this happens is that people are now accustomed to a “drive through” society that gets everything they want, snap! And the faster things get the more impatient each generation becomes. But you can only cook a burger so fast. You can only ring-up items at Walmart or the grocery store so fast without making a mistake. This is common sense, but impatience breeds irrationality. What happens? The person is liable to just pull out of the drive through or switch lines to find a faster one.
This is a great problem in our times; even in many of the churches of God. Folks refuse to wait through a process that will take a “step by step” to get some place. They want a shot-in-the-arm move of God and are willing to load er up and take off to get there. But what does the scripture say? “Roll in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh?” No! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” No Christian comes equipped with a set of wheels. If they are to get where God wants them to be it will be a step by step process. Meetings are no different. They cannot be rolled out, they have to be walked out.
The lost art of walking
I learned to walk at a young age, as did most people. It still works the same way as it did back then; one step at a time. I don’t take two steps at once now that I have over 40 years of practice. It is simply a method that cannot be improved upon. This is how the priests were to carry the Ark of God. In the Western world most people drive almost everywhere they go. Some may ride bicycles or public transportation; but few people actually walk everywhere they go. Why? It takes too much effort and it is too slow of a process. “We need to get on with it!”the people may say. And when this mentality is employed in the churches of God then machinery will be used to “get-er rolling” rather than the people hearing from God in a “step by step by step” kind of way. This is an important point. Anything we hitch to the Ark to get it moving is in front of God.
Excitement and the presence of God
There is a fine line between having a Godly excitement up to and including praising God with a shout or dancing before Him with all of your might, and trying to manufacture a move of God. If we miss this point we may as well pack our bags and go home. I once read a story of a “sound man” that used to employ the slide on the mixer to raise and lower the volume in order to manipulate a meeting. He learned that if he raised the volume at certain times the people would animate and if he pulled it back down they would calm down. Sadly, this reality nearly destroyed the man’s faith. He started to believe that there was nothing to it. If the power went off in the sound booth the people would say, “Wow, the presence of God sure left this place fast!” Song leaders have spoken of knowing how to whip-up the crowd by singing their favorite rah-rah type songs until they left their ministry. Some have to greater or lesser degrees lost their faith. Why? They learned how to manipulate peoples emotions. Sadly, someone neglected to tell these dear people that what they were doing was ‘manufacturing’ or ‘simulating’ a move of God. It is a hard saying, but one that we do well to allow to sink down into our ears; this strategy is no different than the machinery of the Cart and Oxen.
I want to say this lovingly, that God’s presence is not subject to man’s equipment. He does not suddenly show up in a meeting when we turn the keyboard to “strings” or some other mystical sound. I love the sound of “strings” and simlar effects. I grew up in the 1980’s with a bent to loud music; but God’s presence is not made stronger and stronger as the sound guy cranks up the volume. This is a fabrication. Let me say as a musician, that if the meeting loses speed we cannot progressively raise the keys of our songs, for example, from C to Dm to Em to F to G to Am, etc. to get some momentum going. The whole event can become a bizarre distraction. I used to try to sing songs that were out of my voice range because I thought they sounded “powerful”. It always ended up in a disaster. It never “lifted the meeting” it merely made the people cringe.
I have traveled through the Rocky Mountains and watched as my engine downshifted until I thought we would blow the engine, trying to pull some of the long stretches. If the meeting is not moving fast enough and we need to “down shift” to pull the hill we are using man’s machinery. We don’t need speed, we need to walk step by step. God comes when a people are prepared to walk step by step behind His leading; and not take a single step unless He says step. No pushing in line. We have to follow the Ark.
You cannot lead where you have not been
We can’t drive our vehicle on a sidewalk. God has said to walk and we must walk. This is one step at a time and one event at a time. This is not to say that God has to do things one at a time and nothing else, but there has to be an order to what is going on. Men often try to “lead” a meeting, but truly the only people that can lead a meeting are those that are hearkening to the voice of the Spirit when He says “step” or “stop.” God gives instructions and we need to slow down and listen. God has to teach us. This takes time in His presence waiting upon Him. What does a waiter do? They watch carefully to see when the patrons need help. If they move too soon they may come off as an impediment; if they are too slow they will be charged with poor service. We have to move in step with God. Each person has to learn this in their own lives. Not just leaders, everyone. It took at least 4 men to shoulder the Ark. Any number of people could do it by substitution; but there is a minimum number of Levites hearing direction and moving in total unity.
Carrying the Ark in a meeting
I have been in many meetings (typically prayer meetings) where the Spirit of prayer had come and we were moving in the Spirit as we prayed. As we gathered together, God was taking us somewhere. There were things that He wanted to accomplish for the edifying of the Saints and the work of the ministry during that meeting. We would begin just praying and then God would give some direction to one of us to do something (pray for someone, share a scripture, share a song, etc.). This would serve as a first step. We were gathered together in the name of the Lord and He was leading us in unity to accomplish His purposes in that meeting. Then another person may feel moved to do something else; once that was done, it constituted step two. Then another person may have felt moved to do something and it would be step three. This would go on until God was through doing what He wanted done in the meeting. They were very powerful. Often they took place in small rooms with no music or instruments. This may seem strange because several of us were musicians. We allowed the Lord to carry us along in His will step by step and all in total unity. Amazing things happened when we simply determined to meet with God in this way. I have a hunch that this is how the early churches must have functioned.
Rolling the Ark in a Meeting
To “roll” the Ark on a cart is to seek to get things moving real fast in the hope that at some point something will manifest. The meeting is wound up into an excitement and there are few steps that can be taken. Imagine four men being strapped to a trailer on each of four corners. The Dodge truck takes off and the men try to walk, but all they can do is drag their feet and shred their shoes. Soon the Ark is off to the races and it is a million miles from the “carrying the Ark” method employed in scripture. The priests risk being dragged to death. Someone may say, “Well, it works and you have to reckon with that.” God often moves in imperfect situations because He is a going-forth kind of God. He would meet with a person in a pub or gambling hall if they would surrender to Him in that moment. God is a good God and He loves us. But how much more could be accomplished for God if we would allow Him to teach us His ways? The world wants to honk the horn in the drive-through or act out in the checkout lane because things were moving to slow. This makes for a sobering question.
Would they come?
Could God get us to slow down long enough to really listen? This is not to say that God plays games with people. He wants us to know His will. He is not hiding it or encrypting it. It usually doesn’t take hours to get some direction from God; if it does it would be the exception to the rule. God will move when the people get themselves ready. The ball is usually in our court.
If we woke up tomorrow and God had instituted a New Testament type meeting, would the people come? Church meetings today are “spectator based” most of the time. It is little different than a ball-game with the crowd cheering, etc. as they look on. that is not a criticism, it is just where we are. God is wanting to teach us to seek His face and earnestly carry the Ark in a meeting. He wants us to carry it in our lives.
Some of us have had the privilege to go to the Mountain. As one preacher asked the question, based on an old WWI tune, “How are we going to get them back on the farm, after they have been to Paris.” The men and boys of WWI had worked the farm all their lives until they saw the lights of Paris. Many Christians have endured many of meeting with the machinery of “new carts” and oxen. But once you have been to “Paris”, that is to say, “the mountain of Paradise” you are never the same. Who will ascend into the Hill of the Lord? God is calling us- and it is one step at a time.