When a “New Cart” Hits the Road to Nowhere


Jim van Heiningen

Scroll down for appendix about “Guidance”!

David’s “can-do” attitude brought death. But then he remembered the Old Book…

Background of national crisis

The Philistines inflicted a crushing defeat on the Israelite army. Three of the king’s sons were slain. To avoid a similar fate, the king chose to commit suicide. His head was then cut off and hung in a pagan temple. Entire cities changed hands as the Philistines moved in. Consequently an immense refugee crisis developed (1 Chr. 10).

The tribe of Judah, understanding that now was the time to make David king, crowned him in Hebron. The trouble was that the other tribes didn’t want to follow suit. No way were they going to recognize David as God’s anointed and God’s way out of the unimaginable quagmire in which King Saul had landed them. Which meant 7½ years of conflict, much of it all-out civil war between David and the successors of Saul (2 Sam. 2-4). But, at long last, the other tribes did come round and David became king of all Israel. Everybody happy (1 Chr. 11:1-3; 12:38-40)!

Had the crisis gone away?

Seemingly it had. But, when the “evil day” finally seems to have passed, high alert is more sorely needed than ever. Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians about their ability “to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”. Gideon, from an earlier period, could tell us a few things about that reality. Having gained a tremendous victory, he became an easy prey to a worse enemy (Judges 8).

David, now installed in Jerusalem, king over a loyal Israel, and deeply devoted to his God, was still a very fallible human being. His heart was in the right place, it ached for God’s “ark of the covenant”, which had been grossly neglected for a whole century. David realized it must be brought back to its proper place. His mind convinced him he must do some brain storming with his top military brass. And, not being a dictator, he realized God’s people must be consulted.

Time for Decisions

Deliberations over, what was the outcome? Complete unanimity! David was heartened, he was strengthened! And enthusiasm knew no bounds… David’s heart had desired, his mind had deliberated, now it was time for his will to decide: “So David gathered all Israel together … to bring the ark of God … and David went up … to bring up … the ark of God … So they carried the ark of God ona new cart…” (13:5-7). Being the consummate strategist he was, all was arranged and carried out admirably. A happy end was in sight!

The new cart
newcar5We are not told who had come up with that idea. It may have been the Minister of Transport. And it would seem the most “natural” way to transport the ark to Jerusalem. And kind of ‘streamlined’ too. So why not? A history buff among the military men will have reminded David of that other time, long ago, when the Philistines had put the ark on a “new cart”. There hadn’t been a hitch. Everything had gone perfectly smoothly (1 Sam. 6:7)! Just the precedent they needed; in any case, didn’t the end justify the means?

What rejoicing as the long procession wound its way through the hilly countryside! The oxen pulled steadily, the ark stood firmly on the cart, the people followed singing and making music. Was anyone conscious that a fatal mistake had been made..? That while the whole multitude was praising God, they were courting death at the same time..?

God is (also) in the details!

The Levites present must have known that God’s book stipulated that only they were ever to carry the ark (Dt. 10:8; 31:9). From 1 Chronicles 15:1-2; 12-13 we may safely assume that David himself had really known this all along, but somehow the instructions in the old book had seemed out of date, and not really relevant for these momentous times.

In 1 Chronicles 14, wedged between the fateful and the faithful chapters, David’s normal practice of consulting his Lord is in focus. That is what brought the victory and the blessing. His trouble in chapter 13 was that he listened to his heart, he listened to his mind, he listened to his officers, but he never made a point of listening to his Lord. It brought death and confusion…

Warm feelings

David tried to please God, and he praised and worshiped him, but… on his own terms. This is still a common phenomenon. And, as at that time, today also it may leave a warm and pleasant feeling. David, so ‘spot-on’ in leaving his warfare in God’s guiding hands, kept his worship firmly in his own.

Guided, as he was, by both emotion and reasoning, not by carefully looking for God’s mind, it is no wonder that, when young Uzzah lay dead, David was devastated. Then, at long last, in chapter 15, David comes to that place of humility where God wants him. At long last, the “old book” is restored to its rightful place in his life. Which is when David too is restored, and so is worship.

A bit of ‘new cart’ inventory

Is it possible that, like God’s Old-Testament-people, his New-Testament-people tinker with their Scriptural blueprint? Could they too be organizing and streamlining their Christian worship and work – to such an extent that little or no resemblance to the original can be discovered?

It is a fact, stranger than fiction, that multitudes, wonderfully blessed in spiritual victories on the battlefields of the “evil day”, could hardly care less about something so ‘trivial’ as ‘new carts, ‘old carts’ or ‘no carts’. It is not that the instructions are obscure! We all know we are his “building”, the problem is we want to do the building ourselves. We realize we are his “body”, the problem is we decline his instructions as to how to function in harmony with all the other members of that living organism. And, of course, we know that his church is his “bride”, but we are not eager to be reminded that the bride is not her own glory, but the Bridegroom’s, indeed, that she just isn’t her own anymore.

Never was an ‘evil day’ as evil as Calvary’s day!

All Satan’s forces were unleashed upon the Son of Man, but not only did HE stand his ground unflinchingly, HE also remained absolute victor on the field. The Son of David was crowned King for all eternity! Unlike David, He doesn’t lead his subjects to trust in ‘new carts’. He leads us to continually “trust and obey” the ‘old book’. While the apostles were alive, that was the church’s experience, by and large.”New carts” weren’t needed for simple, yet vibrant, congregations to spring up everywhere. Three centuries of horrific persecutions only helped to sow out the seed, much like what is happening in China, North Korea and other places today.

However, no sooner was John dead, the last of the apostles, then one ‘new cart’ after another was invented and trotted out. Wonderful believers, who had stood their ground in the evil day, did not “remain victors on the field”, that is, they started reasoning, they followed certain emotions and sentiments, and in the process discarded the search for, and the submission to, God’s Word and God’s grace. They decided they could improve on the way things were done. Why not bring in some Philistine streamlining?

Ignatius of Antioch

Right at the beginning of the second century, Ignatius is a case in point. He had been a disciple of John, he was also the first one to forcefully and publicly put the case of the one-man-ministry. Like in Antioch itself, churches were moving away from the NT pattern of a plurality of elders/bishops. These new-fangled “one-man-ministers”, called bishops, began to be invested with practically absolute authority. All activities in the congregation started to depend on the bishop’s presence and on his blessing.

While no one doubts Ignatius’ sincerity, his love of the Lord, his fearless testimony, and how gladly he laid down his life, we’d certainly like to ask him humbly about the “new cart” he brought in and about the spiritual death it caused. (Full article on “Good Old Ignatius”, can be found on this same menu)

Briefly, here are the three characteristics of a normal New Testament congregation. They are, invariably, discarded, sooner or later, in order to be replaced by the Philistine-inspired ‘new carts’.

1. Utter simplicity

Right from the Lord’s own words in Matthew 18:20; 20:25-28; 23:8-12; John 4:23-24; through Acts 2:42; 4:23-24; Romans 12; 16:5, 23; 1 Corinthians 3:3-8; 16:19; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4; Colossians 4:15; James 2:1-5, and Revelation 2:1-5; 3:17, to mention just a few Scriptures, it becomes abundantly clear that the Christians’ normal gatherings are at once simple, natural family affairs, and occasions of deep blessing, joy and shared ministry in the presence of their Lord. All of them primarily gather around HIM, ready to hear from him and to be used by him in some real way. The open Bible is always in evidence, but everything else, say, stained-glass windows, vestments, candles, liturgy, choirs, pulpit, pews, altar, you name it, is conspicuously absent. These religious items do not have a New Testament origin, and, in reality, may distract from Christ.

2. Universal priesthood

We have gotten so accustomed to the idea of the trained man, the “professional” (the “reverend”), doing all or most of the ‘pastoring’, ministering, comforting, counseling, etc., etc. that without him as our “covering”, we’d just be ‘lost’, so to speak. Contradict Christianity’s “traditions of the elders” (Mark 7:5), such as these, and you’ll see some eyebrows going up higher than you thought possible. At the very least it will earn you the reputation of having just landed from outer space… (E-booklet “Dear Pastor…” gives more details and orientation on the subject – < http://www.ntmu.net/DearPastor.htm >.)

Yet hardly any one in his right mind would dare question the “pattern-value” of Joel’s prophecy, as Peter quoted it on the day of Pentecost, the day the church was born. God spoke to Joel, to Peter, to the company of 120, to the church through the centuries, and now to us, not only about the coming of the Holy Spirit, but especially about the practical, “all flesh” results.

God had shown Joel a most amazing thing: the very limited priesthood and ‘prophethood’ of his day would one day be overwhelmingly superseded by a universal priesthood and prophethood. All true believers would be actively involved in spiritual ministry. The Holy Spirit makes it extra clear through Joel, Peter and Luke by mentioning: “your sons and your daughters”, “your young men and your old men”, “my servants, both men and women” (Acts 2:17-18).

Giving an overview of all that spiritual ministry in Romans 12, Paul does not address the elders on their own, he expressly writes to all the members of Christ’s body in Rome. Then, in that other great and foundational passage about the church’s ministry, Ephesians 4:7-16, Paul brackets his teaching carefully with these statements; in verse 7: “..to each one of us grace was given…” and in 16: “..every joint supplies…” and “..every part does its share…”

Relevant scriptures: Malachi 3:16; John 12:24-26; Acts 2:17-18; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12:7, 12-31; 14:26, 31; Ephesians 4:7-16; Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10; 4:10-11; 3 John 9-10; Revelation 1:6.

3. Unanimity

Though ‘unanimity’ in itself is of no spiritual significance, once it is given by the Holy Spirit, which is what He always wants to do in all matters facing a congregation, it is of inestimable value for spiritual growth and effectiveness as a group. Seeking the Lord’s will and finding it in unanimity means translating the Lordship of the Head from the abstract to the concrete, in other words experiencing scriptural theocracy (not to be confused, of course, with what some extremist religions call ‘theocracy’).

Most Christians have embraced the opposite, and without a second thought, namely, democracy – meaning ‘people’s rule’. It has been well said that “democracy is no more than institutionalized division”. What the ‘majority’ wants, that is what goes. If the ‘minority’ happens to be more spiritually minded than the carnally minded ‘majority, well, that is just too bad… Praying through to unanimity has become an irrelevant exercise.

Democracy is the way of the world – a very popular‘new cart’. In Acts 27:9-12, and following, we see what disastrous effects a majority decision can have, even when backed by expert advice. Our “Head” knows how to communicate to his “members” – through his Spirit and through his Scriptures. The ‘old book’ contains enough of his communication for us to live by, worship by and work by. HE doesn’t ask to prepare a ‘new cart’, nor do we need it.

Relevant scriptures: Psalm 32:8-9; Matthew 18:19-20; Acts 6:5-6; 15:22, 25; Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 3:3-4; Philippians 1:27; 2:1-5; 4:2.

Spiritual ‘new carts’ lead to death. The Christians of one NT congregation, the Sardis one (Rev. 3:1-2), are singled out by their Lord – they had been courting death. His verdict: “I know your works that you have the name of being alive, but you are dead!”

He also says to “remember” and to “repent”!



There is no doubt that God always wants to guide his children aright – much more than they aspire to being guided! When they miss that guidance, things may apparently go well for a time, but sooner or later disaster strikes. It could not be otherwise.

What is it that makes God’s children miss God’s guidance?

1) They haven’t done their home-work, searching the Scriptures to find out what He has revealed there.

2) They have chosen to forget (or set aside) what they do know to be clear in the Scriptures.

3) In the event of there not being a clear command or precedent in the Bible regarding the matter in hand, they are too busy planning and arranging their next move. To “wait” on God in prayer, so He may show them the next move, seems a waste of precious time.

4) The bottom line is the conflict between MAN’s will and GOD’s will. The Christian who refuses to surrender, rejecting the CROSS-LIFE message for his will, which involves his “independence”, “autonomy”, “self-sufficiency” etc., cuts himself off from God’s fellowship, guidance and blessing! He will have to walk by his own light…

Isaiah 50:10-11; Psalm 32:6-9; John 8:12; Romans 12:1-2.