Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 1, 1955
NUMBER 30, PAGE 6,9b

Doing Things Exactly Right

Roy H. Lanier (Gospel Advocate, 1949)

"Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done exactly for the house of the God of heaven; for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" (Ezek. 7:23.)

When Artaxerxes was king of Persia, Ezra, the scribe and a son of Aaron, got permission of his king to go up, with as many Jews as were willing to go with him, to Jerusalem. The company under Ezra were not the first Jews to return from captivity; the temple had been rebuilt at this time. But those who had returned needed help, and Ezra took people, money, and greater authority from the king to teach, organize, and judge the people. The language of our text is a statement made by Artaxerxes in a letter he wrote to Ezra giving him authority to carry out the reforms and to get the assistance from the rulers of provinces between Babylon and Jerusalem which he needed. Being a scribe, Ezra was very exact in all he did. He was not willing to deviate from the law of God in the least, and he insisted on everybody under him living in the same manner. It is very probable that this statement from Artaxerxes about doing things exactly for the God of heaven reflects the influence of Ezra upon the king. And the idea that the wrath of God would be upon those who did not follow instructions exactly is likely a product of Ezra's influence upon the king. But this is no discredit upon either the king or Ezra; it is rather to their credit. When doing a thing God has commanded, it is always best to do it exactly as commanded. When God expresses his will as to how a thing should be done, why should man even have a desire to do it in any other manner? It should be our constant prayer that the will of the Lord be done on earth as it is in heaven. Surely there is no deviation, either to the left hand or to the right, when the angels of heaven carry out the commandments of God. It should be our constant desire and intention that we obey his will and perform our duties exactly as he commands us.

There is an idea prevalent in the world today that God does not require such strict obedience. People admit that God required careful attention to details of the law during the Jewish dispensation, but that now under the gospel of Christ we are not required to be so careful to do things exactly as God commands. And may exercise such freedom that they freely mix their opinions and traditions until their manner of worship hardly resembles the plain, simple worship as carried on by the apostles and early Christians of the first century when they were guided by inspiration of God.

The things written aforetime were written for our learning and for our examples, so we will consider the obedience of Noah and the disobedience of Uzzah as illustrations of this principle. Noah was a good man, perfect in his generation, and one who had respect for the word of God. "According to all that God commanded him, so did he." (Gen. 6:22.) He followed the commandment of God in every little detail. The window, the door, the kind of wood to use, and the number of animals and birds to be placed in the ark — all these things were done, not as Noah determined for himself, but exactly as God directed. And as a consequence of this obedience Noah was saved from destruction in the flood, and is remembered by all peoples for all generations to come as a man of faith and as one who was pleasing to God. (Heb. 11.)

In the days of Eli the Philistines took the ark of Jehovah in battle and carried it away to their cities. (1 Sam. 4, 5.) But it caused them so much trouble that they decided they had captured more than they wanted, so after seven months they took it to Bethshemesh. But the people of this city got curious about the ark and looked into it, and a few more than fifty thousand of them perished. After this the few people who were left alive asked the men of Kiriath-jearim to come for the ark, and there it rested until David was king. Since the ark had been in the house of Abinadab, it seemed good to David to let this man's sons, Uzzah and Ahio, have charge of moving it. So they got a new cart, drawn by oxen, put the ark thereon, and started for Jerusalem. But when one of the oxen stumbled, or was "restive", as the margin suggests, Uzzah thought the ark would fall to the ground, so he put forth his hand to hold it. For this act of rashness Uzzah died by the hand of the Lord. (2 Sam. 6.)

Sometime later David got the priests together and asked them to sanctify themselves and the Levites that they might bring the ark to the place he had prepared for it. Then he said: "For because ye bare it not at the first, Jehovah our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not according to the ordinance." (I Chron. 15:13.) From this we gather that when David used the sons of Abinadab to handle the ark he was not doing exactly according to the ordinance, or law, of the Lord as to how the ark was to be handled. So we turn to see what the law said about this matter. The high priest and priests were to prepare the ark for removal from one place to another. (Num. 4:17-20.) Then the Kohathites, one of the three divisions of the tribe of Levi, were to carry the ark. (Num. 3:30, 31; 4:4, 15.) But even these sons of Kohath were not to touch the ark; and if they should do so, they would die. Without attempting to justify the Lord in making such strict regulations concerning the carrying of this piece of tabernacle furniture this is what the law said about it. And from the record we learn that when the rules were followed exactly, the Lord was pleased and all went well with the people. But when the regulations were not observed exactly, the Lord was displeased and the people involved suffered. So when David asked the priests to take charge of the ark and have it moved by the sons of Kohath, according to the commandment of the Lord, he brought the ark into Jerusalem with great rejoicing. (2 Sam. 6:12-19.)

Our worship today is a matter of faith, and faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Rom. 10:17.) That which is not done according to the word of the Lord is not a matter of faith, and as such is not acceptable to God. We walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7.) When we perform our worship exactly as the Lord commands, we worship by faith and are pleasing to God. But when we depart from the commandment of the Lord to follow our own inclinations, to do things which seem good to us, our worship is the product of human traditions and will bring the wrath of God upon us.

We are taught to praise God with the fruit of our lips. (Heb. 13:15.) Men have decided that since David played instruments along with the singing, we may do so today; but this is not exactly according to the word of God. The word of God says for us to sing and to make melody in our hearts to the Lord. It is better to do exactly what the word of God says than to add to his word. (Prov. 30:6.)

We are told to bury and raise people in baptism (Rom. 6:4), and that water is the element in which this is to be done. (Acts 8:36, 38; 10:47, 48.) But people today think this is too inconvenient, so they sprinkle water or moisten the finger and pat people on the forehead. Surely anyone can see that this is not exactly according to the commandment of the Lord. They should learn the lesson Artaxerxes learned from Ezra — to do things exactly according to the commandment of Jehovah that the wrath of God be not upon them.