You might consider me overly scrupulous, but I have to ask, “Why?” about everything. I don’t want to do something if it doesn’t make sense. I find it very hard to gloss over the details and say, “It’s what’s in your heart that matters.” I personally, don’t think that is true. What we do is just as important. The action is initiated from within, and is then translated into performance. Therefore, action and intention are almost always inseparable. Other people won’t know what your feelings are, until they see your corresponding, outward behavior. Let’s take a look at the verse that most people are referring to when they say, “God sees the heart”:
“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
In context: as Samuel was analyzing Jesse’s sons to determine which one of them was to be God’s chosen next king over Israel, the most logical choice would have been the oldest son–or the most handsome, the tallest and the strongest. Yet God told Samuel that He wasn’t depending on externals in His criteria: God qualifies a person for service based on character.
Good character is the determining factor with God. That’s what this verse is saying. It never mentions “good intentions,” which is what most people are talking about when they say, “God sees the heart.”
Let’s take a look at what good intentions will get us:
“And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart … And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of d the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. “
11 Samuel 6:2-3, 6-7
The ark of God was being transported to the city of David. Obviously, the ark was very holy. As the procession made its way toward the city, the oxen pulling the cart the ark was resting on shook it. In order to keep the ark from falling, Uzzah attempted to stabilize it by supporting the ark with his hands. What’s better, for the ark to fall off the cart, possibly being damaged in the process, or for Uzzah to keep it from falling by holding it up with his hands? Uzzah had good intentions, so why did God strike him dead?
According to Numbers 4:5-15, there was a proper way of handling the ark. God had given instructions for its transportation, and He expected His commands to be followed, with a warning of what would happen to anyone who disregarded them. The ark was never to be touched, but instead carried on poles placed through rings. Anyone who touched it would die.
We mustn’t be flippant in the way that we approach the Maker of the universe. He deserves to be treated with the utmost esteem and reverence. If God judged Uzzah for treating His standards lightly, how well do we compare, who don’t hesitate to mix the pure worship of God with ancient pagan customs, desecrating with unholy hands what was intended to be kept sacred?
Having said that, when it comes to biblical mandates, God does make certain allowances for good intentions: For example, premeditated murder is punishable by death, but accidentally killing someone can be forgiven (Exodus 21:12-15). In this case, the intention does count.
But people don’t celebrate Christmas, or Halloween, or Easter by accident. God made it clear when he smote Uzzah for disobedience, that knowing what He has said regarding the correct way of doing something, and following through with obedience, is paramount. Did Uzzah know what God had said about handling the ark? Maybe he didn’t, but that’s beside the point. If Uzzah, or David, had wanted to know how to carry the ark, all they had to do was look into the Scriptures.
Not taking the time to investigate the word of God is inexcusable.
Our approach to the holidays shouldn’t be to simply go along with what everybody else is doing. Saying, “It’s what’s in my heart that matters,” doesn’t always cut it. Let’s move beyond that lazy approach, and make the effort to research what the Scriptures say, and look into the history of our traditions.
I’m just starting out in my investigation of different holidays. I don’t know yet what conclusions I’ll come to. One thing I know for sure, though, is that I don’t want to lean on good intentions, and be guilty, perhaps, of the same sin as Uzzah, that of carelessness.