Sincere But Mistaken Things

The story is told of a sincere but mistaken king who wanted, more than anything in the world, to honor his God. This story begins with great joy, as the king and many thousands of people are singing and dancing and celebrating with all their might. But something terrible happens and the story ends badly. An apparently innocent man dies. The king becomes angry and afraid of the God he had wanted to honor.

It is this way with sincere but mistaken things.

There was, it turns out, a different procedure required for doing what the king wanted to do: “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God”. Well, that’s puzzling. Nothing in the king’s pure heart suggested the need for such a procedure. Were the descendants of Levi, for whom this and every other priestly duty was reserved, somehow better people than all their neighbors? More sincere or capable or beautiful in spirit? Not likely.
Do you know why the men and women of every other tribe were excluded? I don’t. Perhaps you can explain how a God of love and justice would tolerate this discrimination, let alone require it? I can’t.

If it happened today, it would be a job for hermeneutics because, when our sense of propriety collides with scripture, we hold faithfully to the inspiration and inerrancy of our feelings, whatever the scripture says. There is not much room for a God whose ways are not our ways; not much confidence that – though disagreeing with us – he might still be wholly good.

We in the Church have painted ourselves into a corner. We say that God can create the universe, but we don’t think he can write a trustworthy book. We dismiss scripture when it expresses uncomfortable ideas, but we claim to revere Jesus, who is revealed in the same book.

We are not leading the culture toward confidence in God. We are following the culture toward confusion about God. We are a #MeToo church, tottering behind and barely distinct from our angry and writhing culture, and nearly as skeptical regarding God’s designs for men and women and sexuality.
Is there room in our minds and hearts for a God whose ways are not our ways?

In the story, the mistaken king and his dejected mob drag home, shocked and confused by God’s angry response to their sincere efforts. But after the king broods for a while, he does something peculiar. He looks in God’s book and learns about the Levites. Three months later, the nation gathers once more, singing and dancing and celebrating with all their might as the ark is safely carried to Jerusalem.