“Bet you can’t do this!” My older brother, Mark, upped the ante when he pole-vaulted off my Grandparents 10 ft. gas tank. Never mind the pole comprised a thick piece of plywood and the ground, although covered in grass, had no padding.
“Hmph! Can too!” I answered, lifting my chin in defiance. Standing on top of the tank, I positioned my right hand above my left on the board and planted one end in the ground. Mentally, I envisioned my legs swinging gracefully up and around before landing squarely on my feet. As a gymnast, I had been trained how to land after flying from the uneven parallel bars. The thought of landing any other way did NOT register in my nine-year old mind.
THUD! For a moment, I could not breathe. During my attempt to prove Mark wrong, the pole had slightly turned. Sailing through the air, my left arm turned under my stomach. After belly flopping on top of the pole with my arm caught under, I pierced the neighborhood with my scream. Nauseating pain followed. Later, the doctor confirmed – I indeed broke my arm.
Ever been there? When stubbornness, competition, anger, or acting hastily clouds your judgment? Painful lessons are never fun. But, hopefully we grow wiser through these uncomfortable times. I wonder how many painful anecdotes I might have avoided had I heeded God’s guidance first.
I’m reminded in I Chronicles 13 of one of King David’s painful lessons. He thought it wise to move the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath to Jearim.
“After all,” he reasoned, “why should I be living in a palace of cedar when God’s ark remains inside a tent?” (2 Samuel 7:1-6)
What seemed like a noble endeavor turned sour because David failed to consult God first. Uzzah, (who probably wasn’t a Levite,) sinned by touching the ark when attempting to steady it. David was stunned when God’s anger burned against Uzzah and struck him dead. His celebratory dance quickly turned somber. Scripture records David becoming angry.
Reading of a more successful voyage of the ark recorded in 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:2 sheds light onto what went wrong the first time:
• Only the Levites were assigned by God to carry the ark. The Lord chose them to carry it and minister before Him forever. (1 Chron. 15:2, 12-13)
• They failed to carry the ark on their shoulders with the poles as Moses had commanded, in accordance with the Word of the Lord. (1 Chron. 15:15)
God commands obedience. Although He is perfect in love, He is also perfect in justice. The ark was to be moved only by the Levites on human shoulders, not on wheels or hooves. The ark was never to be touched by unclean hands.
David learned a costly lesson the hard way. I imagine the second time he desired to move the ark, he thought, “Hmph! This time, I will seek God first. I will not act on impulse; rather, I will seek His Word!”
After a painful lesson, I also find myself inquiring of the Lord. When He gives the green light, then I too say, “Hmph! I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength!” (Phil. 4:13)
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