Good Intentions — How Far Do They Take Us?

David’s oxcart wasn’t just neutral.  It was wrong, and Uzzah died because of the novelty. Autopsy said learning the hard way.
-Kent Brandenburg

Pastor Brandenburg has been writing on the fact that good intentions don’t satisfy God’s requirements of holiness.  God had told the children of Israel that the Ark of the Covenant should be carried by priests, on poles.  David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, he had good intentions, and he did it the wrong way.  A death resulted.

It’s an excellent article.  I hope you’ll read it.  He skewers a lot of the sloppy thinking running around about worship and “good intentions.”  But it isn’t the whole story.

II Chronicles 39:18-20

18 For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one
19 That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.
20 And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.

These people did not obey the Scriptural (“written”) commands for the Passover.  Their worship was unscriptural — but they had good intentions, and God accepted them.

Does this passage disprove Kent’s point?  Not at all.  Let’s look closer.

  • Their worship was not consistent with Scriptural commands.
  • Hezekiah acknowledged the problem.
  • They needed pardon.
  • Hezekiah appealed for pardon based on their good intentions.
  • Hezekiah didn’t try to guess who had good intentions, nor ask pardon for all, but only for those who had good intentions.  He left judgment of intentions to the Lord.
  • God did indeed pardon.

It is serious error to say good intentions supersede Biblical guidance, in worship or anything else.  But it would also be serious error to say good intentions don’t matter at all.

Good intentions do not exonerate us, but we have a merciful God, who delights when the heart of His people turns towards Him, even if there are still problems in how we do so.

There are always problems.  Our worship in this life will always be imperfect.  Thus, even as we seek pure worship, to honour our Lord in the way He commands and expects, we must fall back on trust in a merciful God.  To worship Him in spirit and in truth is to acknowledge our total dependence on Him, on His mercy, even to be able to worship.

Good intentions?  They matter, because they allow us to pray, “The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God….”  That is a prayer we all need.  And when others worship in ways that don’t conform to Scripture, it is good to pray for them.  They need pardon — and our God, who alone truly knows which hearts are prepared to seek Him, is a compassionate God.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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