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Spiritual Abuse: The Ark on the Oxcart

 

There has been an epidemic of spiritual abuse taking place over recent years. Actually, this problem is centuries old, it’s just that now fewer people are tolerating it. The term “spiritual abuse” is referring to the fact that many Christian leaders have used their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and take advantage of other Christians. The numbers of Christians that have fallen victim to spiritual abuse are staggering. Many Christians have tried to tackle this problem, but the solutions that are offered aren’t really solutions at all. And that is simply because the solutions don’t go to the root of the problem. But the simple fact is, many addressing the problem don’t want to go to the root because in going to the root our Christian religious systems and hierarchies are exposed for what they are. So what’s the root of the problem that is allowing spiritual abuse to take place? Simple: You can’t stick the ark on an oxcart and think there won’t be causalities!
 
So what do I mean by “sticking the ark on the oxcart?” Well, in the Old Testament before David was king of Israel the ark of the covenant, the sacred chest in which the ten commandments were kept, was taken from Israel through the disobedience of some of the priests. This ark was a representation of God’s presence among His people. It was holy so there were strict rules regarding the ark. One of those rules was regarding how the ark was to be transported. Nobody was allowed to touch the ark. God was clear that He only wanted the ark to be carried by the priests. The ark was to rest on two polls that would be carried on the shoulders of four priests.
 
The Philistines who captured the ark found themselves tormented while they had it. So they decided they needed to be rid of it. They built a new cart and had two cows pull it back to Israel. The Israelites took the ark to Kirjath Jearim where it remained for many years.
 
When David was king of Israel it entered his heart to have the ark brought back to Jerusalem. He gathered thirty thousand men and went to bring up the ark. It says in 2 Samuel 6:3 they set the ark on a new cart in order to transport it. They had worshipers walking ahead of the ark playing instruments and worshiping the Lord. But as the ark was on its way the oxen pulling the cart stumbled and the ark started to slide off. One of the men next to the ark, Uzzah, reached out to steady it. But the moment he touched the ark, the Lord in His anger immediately struck him dead. David became angry because of the Lord striking Uzzah.
 
So how does this apply to the issue of spiritual abuse? Well, through Jesus death and resurrection He made all who follow Him priests. He made us His temple and His presence abides within us. So basically, the priests carrying the ark was a type and shadow of what was to come and now is. And that is that we, all who follow Christ, are His priests and are carrying His presence within us.
 
But what Christians have done is we have taken our individual callings to be priests unto God and carry His presence within us and have placed His presence within a system of man's design built out of man's own imagination and what seemed to be a good idea. We have handed over our individual callings as priests unto the Lord to a select few people. Again, this was not God’s design, but man’s own idea.
 
Then we wonder why people keep getting hurt. Our solution is usually to go find or build a better oxcart, one that is less likely to hit bumps in the road. But the problem IS the oxcart! For spiritual abuse to cease we must abandon the oxcart all together and return to our individual priestly callings to carry His presence within us.
 
I want to point something out that I thought was quite profound as I was looking up the scriptures to write this article. Where did the Israelites even come up with the idea of placing the ark on a cart? They had the instructions on how the ark was to be transported written down clearly before them in the Law. Well, in 1Samuel 6:7 it says that the Philistines built a “new cart” to place the ark on to send it back to Israel. Then it says in 2 Samuel 6:3 that the Israelites “set the ark of God on a new cart.” So where did the idea to transport the ark by way of a new cart rather than it being carried by the priests even come from? I venture to say that the idea came straight from the Philistines, the enemies of Israel! They were copying the method used by the Philistines to send the ark back to Israel to transport the ark themselves. And why not? It worked for the ungodly Philistines, why shouldn’t it work for them, right? Wrong! And they were dead wrong, literally!
 
Well, we Christians have done a dangerous thing. We have looked at the ideas and worldly wisdom around us and taken those ideas and methods and applied them to our dealings with God’s people. We took the management and leadership models of the world and created systems of church government, that although we use Christian terms, they are very much in direct opposition to the words of Christ in Matthew 23 not to wear titles or lord over people. We have stripped believers of their individual callings as priests and handed that design over to a few people. We have organized into structures and religious organizations built on man’s ideas. We’ve looked enviously at what has worked for fortune 500 companies and said to ourselves, “Hey, if it works for them, why not us?” Then when one method, system, or program doesn’t work we set out to build a new and better cart.
 
Yes, many modern day Christians have become expert cart builders. But what about the priestly calling of the believers? Then as these expert cart builders slave away for their cart, pulling it down the road, inevitably at some point they stumble, and as the presence of God begins to slide away from that system of man’s design somebody who was a supporter of that system reaches out to study it only to find themselves struck and wounded.
 
I’ve heard story after story about Christians who were beat up for doing the right thing. One man set out to restore financial integrity to the organization he was a part of only to find himself labeled a “trouble maker” and cast out of the group. Another person decided to start listening to God rather than man. The problem was what God was saying wasn’t the same thing the pastor was. That person was soon not welcomed among them anymore. Another person was excited about something the Lord was teaching him. He was so excited that he shared it. Well, little did he realize what God showed him ran contrary to the agenda of the group. He found Himself viewed as a hostile. A mother was asked to baby sit the children in the nursery. She prayed about it and heard God tell her not to do it. She told them “no” when all the other mothers always said “yes.” She was immediately viewed as being a callous rebel and had references made about her in the pastor’s sermon. These are all true examples of people who were supporting the ox cart and noticed the ark slipping. They did what they thought was right only to find themselves struck for doing so. Then like David, we Christians become angry at God.
 
I’m sure in David’s mind He was thinking, “God, can’t you see! We’re doing this for you! We were bringing the ark up to honor you! Don’t you see the worshipers? Can’t you hear the lovely music? We’re doing this because we love you! Why did you do this to us when all we wanted to do was honor you?” That sure sounds familiar to me. How many believers have we heard share how their heart was only set on the Lord and they found themselves criticized, manipulated, controlled and used by others in that system. I know that was true in my own life. I found myself crying out like David, “Why me Lord?! Didn’t you see my heart was set on you?! Why did you let this happen then!”
 
Well, there’s a hard lesson here. It doesn’t matter how honorable our intentions are for using the cart. The simple fact remains, the ark was never supposed to be on the cart to begin with! Do we think that Uzzah was evil for trying to keep the ark from sliding off the cart? Of course not! Actually the reason he reached out to steady it was because he respected it and didn’t want it to slide off. But there was a bigger problem here than the one taking place at the moment. The problem was not that the ark was sliding off. The problem is not the abuse of the money in the organization, the manipulation of the people, or the poor treatment we received. The problem is that the ark was never supposed to be on the cart in the first place. The presence of God was never supposed to be stuck in a system of man’s design or carried by a select few.
 
I had to come to grips in my own life regarding my own wounding that I had no one else to blame but myself. I embraced a system that was not of God’s design. I placed God’s presence that I was supposed to be carrying as a priest unto Him upon an oxcart. And I was wounded as I stepped out to steady it.  My wounds, although inflicted upon me by others, actually pointed to a greater reality. I was wounded because I placed God’s presence in a place that it didn’t belong. His presence is to be carried by me in my life as a priest unto Him. Not by an organization of man’s design. I gave up my calling and the proper way I am supposed to relate to Him through relationship and looked to others to be His voice in my life. It was a hard lesson to learn, but an important an one.
 
Religious systems practically beg for spiritual abuse to take place. They are established in ideologies that run contrary to the teachings of Christ. Jesus taught us to follow His voice. Religion says follow the voice of the man who is in charge of the organization. Jesus said to call no man father, teacher or rabbi. Religion is built around the exaltation of man through titles, ranks and positions. Jesus said the rulers of the gentiles exercise lordship over them, but not so among you, the least will be the greatest and he who governs does so by being the slave of all. Our current religious system places leaders over the body of Christ as lords to whom we owe our allegiance or CEOs to whom we report for duty. We are trained in this setting to listen to the voice of the man in charge and follow his vision rather than to listen to the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him. We are taught that following man equals following Christ.
 
But this goes against everything Jesus taught. He said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He said that He is the only way to the Father. We don't get saved by Jesus then go looking for a man to be our king. Jesus is our king at birth and forever. The religious system teaches us to place a man between us and God, but the Bible is clear that there is only ONE mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. The whole reason Jesus came was to have a relationship with us and to pave the way for us to have a loving relationship with the Father. A man cannot bridge that gap for us. Only Jesus can and did. The system teaches us to walk in the fear of man, to seek to please our leaders and to gain their favor. The Bible is clear that the fear of man brings a snare. Jesus taught that He paid it all so that we already have God's favor and He is no longer keeping score.
 
We will find ourselves abuse proof when we learn to cling to Jesus as individuals and listen to His words and hold onto them with all of our might and take the council of man "with a grain of salt." For man is tainted, Jesus is pure. The bible says that Jesus trusted Himself to no man, because He knew what was in man. Do we think Jesus would live this way then order us to trust our very lives to men?
 
Spiritual abuse is running rampant because the modern day religious system is a breeding ground for it. To stop abuse we must take the ark off the cart and resume our individual priestly callings. We must walk away from the system that breeds it and return to the simplicity of Christ by living in relationship with Him.

 

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