By: William Jackson
What does HaShem think about people who have a relationship with Him on their own terms? You know what I am talking about, we see it all the time. They don’t worship in accordance with scripture usually saying things like “G-d knows my heart” or “Me and G-d have a special understanding.” Of course, there are the non-biblical holidays pawned off as biblical holidays. And then there’s that group that ponder “mother nature” and claim this as their “Higher Power“.
Can we get away with ignoring HaShem’s word and deciding on our own how to do that which he has called us to? The Tanakh (Old Testament), is peppered with incidents where individuals choose how to do it on their own and the question is – did it cost them?
Presented here are five choices made and there biblical consequences.
1. Leading with your heart and not His word:
Right at the beginning of scripture, we find our first example; Cain and Abel. Abel gave an animal sacrifice and Cain gave a grain offering to HaShem. Even though they both gave an offering, it’s only Abel’s offering that was acceptable to Adonai (Genesis 4:3-5). If we look forward into the future we will see in Leviticus 1-2 that an animal offering is always presented before a grain offering. HaShem did counsel Cain, but to no avail, and Cain ended up murdering his brother, (probably out of jealousy). So doing it Cain’s way instead of HaShem’s ended in a big negative.
2. Not following His procedures:
Over 1,500 years (1) after Cain and Abel, in Leviticus 10:1-2, we read about the High Priest Aaron and his sons (Nadav and Avihu) being killed. The reason for their death was that these brothers decided to perform a Frank Sinatra move. They did it their way instead of instead of HaShem’s way. Consequently, for using “unauthorized fire” (incense) during an observance, they were killed by Adonai. Wow, that’s pretty extreme; but not so unique, as we will see. FYI: These brothers were priests (Numbers 3:2-3) and knew the standard; but possibly got their authority confused with their responsibility.
3. When we take our influence too seriously:
Now we skip ahead and read Numbers 16. Here we see a group of 250 rebels trying to take the priesthood from Moses and Aaron. These mutineers weren’t thugs, these were community leaders and “men of reputation” (Numbers 16:2). Adonai’s answer to this uprising was to open the ground and swallow all 250 up (Numbers 16:31-32). Could you image this happening every time a church becomes divided? As qualified as these men saw themselves, this did not overrule HaShem’s authority.
4. Having the authority and not the humility:
Punishment was not limited to those that didn’t possess favor with YHVH. King David, in his glory, decided to move the ark of the covenant with a pomp and pageantry that was worthy of his kingship. In doing so, he neglected to use members of the tribe of Levi, as required by HaShem’s commands. As a result, poor Uzah was struck down for this infraction (2 Samuel 6:3-7). So even if we are appointed, like King David, humility to Adonai’s laws must be our guiding motive.
5. Striving even when we don’t know the standard:
A death sentence seems to be imposed for not following YHVH’s laws, nonetheless some seemed to have escape death. For example, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant in 1 Samuel 5:1. Being cursed for holding this prized possession, they give it back to the Israelites. We should remember the Philistines did not have the advantage of Torah, so they did not know how to move the ark. Intently, they returned it with as much reverence as they could understand (1 Samuel 6:1-18). Although they did not use the standards outlined in Deuteronomy 10:8, they were successful. Ironically, the Israelites who received the ark, knew the standard; but because they handled the ark incorrectly they were stuck dead (1 Samuel 6:19). It seems Adonai holds those of us that know the standard accountable, and He seems to have mercy on those that don‘t. For example, would Adam have been held accountable for eating the forbidden fruit if he didn’t know it was forbidden? Probably not. The important piece here is that the Philistines tried to do it correctly. They didn’t shrug their shoulders and give up. They instead strive to deliver the Ark of the Covenant back to it’s rightful owners, to the best of their ability, and this might have very well been what saved them.
When we decide how to worship HaShem based on our heart and feelings, we are not following YHVH, the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Jeremiah 17:9). When we do it that way, we are following a g-d; but its one with a small “g” (god). It’s a god of our own understanding – and this god is limited. Following YHVH requires humility and disciple, to many, that’s a big turn off. But, anything worth having requires work. I am sorry, but having a real relationship with YHVH is going to mean we are to get out of our comfort zone. All this inspires the question “how do we worship Him?“. We will talk about this Friday’s (April 17, 2015) in “Five Ways to Worship HaShem”.