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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 123: Decent and in Order

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 6-6:23; 1 Chronicles 13-16

I grew up under a mother who loved decency and orderliness.

As a young woman, my mother instructed me as to what was decent attire for someone my age. Skirts were not to be too tight or too short. Necklines were not to be too low. Make-up was to be natural looking and not overdone. Conduct was to be "lady like" and respectful.

I was also expected to live a well ordered life. My room and my belongings were to be kept clean and organized. I was to follow the rules and not bend them to my fancy. It was expected that I show up on time, do my best, give my all, respect my elders and accomplish tasks in a timely manner without sloth or disdain.

I grew up under a mother who loved decency and orderliness.

She would have made a great Presbyterian.

Today's passage is a lesson in orderliness and decency.

King David is learning two lessons in orderliness and teaching one in decency.

One lesson David has learned about orderliness has to do with his place in the whole scheme of things. His relationship to God is grounded in his realization that despite his earthly status of power, David recognizes that God is the the commander and chief of the army of Israel. As David makes plans to fight his enemies, he always "inquires" of the LORD. He understands his place in the authoritarian order. David is under God. God has the say about where, when and against whom battles are to be waged.

David gets an "A."

But a lesson David needs to learn has to do with the order of worship. His intentions are good. He wants to recover the ark of the covenant and bring it to a place of honor in the center of the people of Israel. But he misses some details. A new cart is made and the ark is transported by the strength of oxen.

Bad move!

The ark was not to be touched by anyone. It had rings through which poles were to be placed. The ark was to be carried by the strength of the priesthood; the poles were to be supported by the shoulders of four Levites.

Because of this breach in worship "order," the ark gets rocked and almost falls to the ground. Uzzah, a well meaning bystander, tries to rescue God's ark from falling to the ground. Though most would think this a good thing, God is angered, and strikes Uzzah dead. David does not understand God's wrath, is angry with God and also becomes very afraid of God.

David flunks this lesson.

God is not that difficult to understand. God gives a command and God wants it done God's way, no questions asked, no fudging with the details.

To follow God's will is very difficult. Most of us do not take God seriously. We want to bend the rules, make things practical and do "what seems right in our own minds." Just as we like to go 3-4 miles over the speed limit, we want wiggle room with God's ways. In today's story, God says, "I mean what I say. No arguing. No compromise."

When it comes to God's ordering of life--God's holiness--we all flunk the test.

But David is a quick study. After taking time to lick his wounds, he starts at the beginning and this time gets it right. The ark is not only carried properly, in its wake, blessings are strewn upon God's people. Abundance is poured out upon those who are present for the passing of the presence of God in their midst.

But one bystander is unwilling to receive the blessing. From her uppity chamber, she peers down upon the worshipping congregation and its leader and declares, "You are indecent! Who do you think you are and what do you think you are doing, parading around indecently in nothing but a loin cloth and dancing like a wild child. David, you are an embarrassment! Put some clothes on and act like a king!"

Now David is the one to teach all of us a lesson in decency. According to David, decency has nothing to do with appropriate attire of the body at this moment. It has to do with a proper and total focus on God, the garment of praise adorning the heart. David dances with abandon before the LORD. He is so un-self-conscious because he is totally God-conscious. "God centeredness is the heart of decency," he proclaims.

Doing what pleases God without worrying how others respond is at the heart of what is decent and in order. God does not judge by what the human eye can see but looks to the heart. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 states, "We speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts."

So I must ask myself, who will I please today? Myself? Others? or God?

Will my life look all decent and orderly on the outside while vile and chaotic in the heart? Or will I tend to the keeping of the LORD's commands and delight in God's presence with all my heart, mind and strength?

LORD, teach me your ways.

LORD, teach me to dance with abandon before you.

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