BY: LARRY HODGES
“For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us,
for that we sought Him not after the due order” – I Chronicles 15:13
We often do not realize the damage we are causing simply from not following God’s due order. And please do not misunderstand the term “due order,” as I use it. I do not mean that we have simply to find some divine formula and we are thereby guaranteed to obligate the Lord to move and bless. No such possibility exists so long as His sovereignty remains intact. I simply mean it in the sense that we are to be led by the Spirit; by the mind of Christ rather than by any other agenda.
When David sought to return the Ark of God’s presence to its rightful place, he made the now obvious mistake of seeking to do it in the same manner in which the Philistines had returned it. It was not as though David simply used the Philistine’s ox-cart. Instead, he departed from the ordinance of God and built a new one, (“And they carried the Ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab…” – I Chronicles 13:7) with certain improvements over the old one, I’m sure. But it was still the product of an uncircumcised mind. I can just imagine that David thought to himself, “Well, it seems to have worked alright thus far and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” (I actually doubt if David thought exactly that because it sounds so American, but I believe he thought something close to it.)
So David did what so many of us have done. He sought to preserve and use in the service of God that which was the product of an uncircumcised mind. The Philistines did not practice circumcision. The Israelites practiced it as a sign of covenant relationship with God. It represents the circumcised heart which the Christian receives in the putting off of the flesh of the old Adamic nature.
The ox-cart represented something God hates: that is, man’s methods, man’s intellectual inventiveness, man’s thoughts and ways, which are always anti-God and anti-Christ. It represented the reason king Saul had spared Amalek (flesh); so that he could offer it to the Lord. It was man seeking to serve God according to his own self-prescribed manner, with his own natural gifts and talents, in direct violation of His designated due order.
God had delivered to His people the precise manner in which this Ark, which represented His very Presence, was to be transported (Num. 4:5-15 and Deut. 10:8). It was not to be dragged along the dusty earth by dumb beasts, even though those beasts chewed the cud and split the hoof. Just because men know the Bible and can quote it does not mean they have been set apart as priests unto God and His people. It was to be placed upon the shoulders of a sanctified priesthood that was set apart for this purpose, a priesthood that had been anointed and was alive unto God.
We are living in a time like no other that ever existed. We are about to witness the greatest upheaval and overturn (a paradigm shift) in the entire history of mankind, and our cherished but Godless nation will never be the same after it has been accomplished. No nation could be in the gross darkness that America is presently in if the Church in that nation were shining as it is called to shine. The awful judgment of America is as sure and as certain as the sun’s rise tomorrow morning.
Our Beloved prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.“ – John 17:21 It looked as though this prayer would be answered in short order as a cross-bearing, sin-hating, love-dispensing Church, first in Jerusalem and then in Antioch, came forth to declare Christ with more than mere words; with their very lives. So long as the apostle Paul and some small handful of others were alive, things seemed to go well, although early on there were clear signs of spiritual departure, declension and limitation in Jerusalem.
James seemed quickly to have taken the leadership there, leaning strangely toward a gospel of some law and some grace (a little leaven’s okay, we often think), of which Paul said there was no possibility. “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” –Galatians 2:21 There seems to be little understanding or recognition of the problem of the Judaizers in the early church. These men wanted to impose the law, or at least some of it, upon themselves and upon the Gentile converts. Paul strongly and vehemently opposed this during his entire ministry and was plagued by those of this sect from the church in Jerusalem, who followed him everywhere he went. It was they who caused him to be beaten and imprisoned repeatedly and, as I said James seems strangely aligned with them.
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision (the Judaizers). And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all...” – Galatians 2:11-14
It doesn’t seem to take long for spiritual decline and limitation to set in. There almost seems to be a law at work that is as sure and unstoppable as the law of gravity. It is not long at all and there seems to be a shift of the center of spiritual activity, of spiritual focus and emphasis, from Jerusalem to Antioch. Man, with his natural tendency toward hero worship and adulation of man, automatically shrinks from admitting that things in Jerusalem were not according to the gospel of the kingdom or according to that righteousness which was to eventually usher in the manifestation and fruit of that kingdom.
“Are you actually saying that the twelve apostles that Jesus left at Jerusalem were less than perfect?” Yes. I am saying that they were just as much “men,” walking in the mixture of Pentecost, as we find today. But in saying this, I do not imply that the gospels and other original Biblical writings of theirs, which make up our New Testament, is in any way flawed or not the direct, inspired work of the Holy Spirit.
When God had summarily arrested his man, Saul of Tarsus, He did not send him to the Bible School at Jerusalem with its noted teachers and preachers. They undoubtedly had the credentials. They had been eyewitnesses to things others would never know unless they told them. They had personally been with Jesus for more than three years. They heard more fall from His very lips than most men of that day ever hoped to hear in their lives. They had been designated by the Lord Himself to help lay the foundations of the Church! What a wonderful opportunity for this young man, Saul of Tarsus! A year or two under this sort of ministry and he could be trusted to be sent (of man) any place with the gospel of the kingdom.
But God did not send His man, who was to become an apostle of apostles, to Jerusalem for instruction and training for ministry. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8–9 God turns this young man toward the desert’s school of obscurity and isolation and a crash course in intimacy with God. There is something infinitely better than merely knowing the Bible. It is knowing the Bible’s Author.
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.“ – Galatians 1:15-19 This man was preaching right away! Actually, when you stop and think about it, God has brought forth a lot of good preaching from the wilderness: John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul, just to name a few. I have yet to find seminary graduation or religious degrees required in the book of Acts.
But we’re speaking of man’s natural propensity toward ox-carts. That is, toward his own ways and methods; toward the work of his own hands, rather than God’s. Just as it was in the ancient days when each of the judges passed away, the people did evil again in the sight of the Lord, so when the apostles moved off stage, things very quickly began to descend into a spiritual decline of formalism and ceremony of such gross proportions that its darkness was to last nearly 1300 years and would be universally characterized as the Dark Ages. It seems there really is nothing new under the sun.
During this time of spiritual darkness, what is called the Roman Catholic Church, or Papal Rome, ascended the temporal throne of world dominion just vacated by Pagan Rome (catholic means universal). It never was really a church. Even though there are some very good and sincere people in it, even some true but misled Christians in it, still it has been, from its very beginnings, an occultic imitation of the true and a very bad one at that. Our complaint here is not with the people and never is; it is with the systems of men which masquerade as the Church, seeking always to keep God’s people in bondage and darkness.
Nothing could so well represent the Philistine uncircumcised mind better than this well-oiled system of churchianity with its elaborate ox-cart of rituals, ceremonies, liturgies, pseudo-kingdom protocol and religious mockery, as the Roman Catholic Church. She was a harlot from the outset with a harlot’s spirit, which she has passed on to each of her Protestant daughters. For she is, in a very real sense, the Mother of Harlots. A harlot is a somewhat nicer word for whore or prostitute. That is a woman who sells herself and her favors to those with the money and the will to purchase them.
The religious harlot makes merchandise of the things of God. She prostitutes them; like turning gatherings into a book shop or a tape store for the visiting minister, where that which has been freely given can now be purchased; like men going on the payroll to become hirelings rather than the shepherds God has called them to be; like adopting the ways and methods of the world in order to keep the people entertained, especially the young people and those with money.
It is a subtle (often not so subtle anymore) and deceptive packaging of that which is supposed to pass for the gospel, so that it appeals to the carnally-minded and those who have no intention of serving God or anyone other than themselves. A carnal church, led by carnal leaders, actually and intentionally, copies the techniques of the world in its desperate, almost feverish attempt to attract more followers. That is what a harlot, a prostitute spirit is, and there is an awesome power to deceive and to captivate lurking behind it.
All this is presented and carried along upon the modern ox-cart inherited from the Mother of Harlots, the Roman Catholic Church System, from the steeple down to the platform and pulpit. Men of the cloth have felt much like David must have. This ox-cart was good enough to get us this far, why change now? Because God will not accept from His own, who ought to know better, what He might accept from those who don’t know any better!
While we were in Kenya recently, I was amazed at just how much so many of the Kenyan pastors and those aspiring to be leaders, with only a few glowing exceptions, are enamored with position, rank in the church, with titles of recognition, with Bible Schooling and the degrees and respect conferred by them. The kingdom of God has nothing to do with religious degrees and titles of recognition. It has to do with the humility of the Lamb of God and that life He so characterizes.
Incidentally, we feel very strongly that God is about to pass the gospel torch in Kenya from the missionaries there to the Kenyans themselves. That is, the missionaries will be sent home or to some other place and the Kenyans will begin to take full leadership of their spiritual destiny, as they should. No one is better suited or better equipped to take the gospel to Kenya than Kenyans.
I remember in one meeting, as I was speaking through an interpreter, I began to address the subject that God would soon bring about great and traumatic changes, not only in the world, but also in the Church. I remember reaching back behind me and putting my hand on the large pulpit there and saying, “This, my brethren, (designating the pulpit) is on its way out. Whether you believe it or whether you do not, it is on its way out.” There were no Amens; only perplexed and puzzled expressions, especially from the pastor. I said, “I don’t mean years and years from now. I mean soon. Very soon.”
I received in the mail just today, a very vivid and explicit confirmation of that statement. Hear it and rejoice ye heavens and you who inhabitant them! It occurred October 20, 1996.
“That day the atmosphere was again thick with the Presence of God – so thick that both and Pastor were quite hesitant to break the profound silence and take the pulpit. Seated in the front row next to, Pastor finally leaned over and whispered, ‘Come on, it’s time for you to step up and take over the meeting.’ The awestruck responded, ‘I’m about half afraid to go up there because I think something big is about to happen.’ And he didn’t budge.
“So after a moment, Pastor stood, walked across the soft-padded red carpet, mounted the 28” platform, grasped the pulpit, and read from II Chronicles 7:14 ‘…What the Holy Spirit is saying to us is that we should seek God’s face, not His hand. We should not be seeking just His benefits, but seeking to know Him.’
“At that instant a loud clap of noise hit the sanctuary and Pastor was thrown backwards. The heavy cast acrylic pulpit was split into two pieces and flung toward the congregation in two directions, landing about six or seven feet apart.
“The action was explosive in its suddenness. Pastor was unhurt but flat on his back eight or nine feet away and thoroughly ‘slain in the Spirit,’ according to the Pentecostal phrase. Only a non-stop twitching of his right hand showed he was still alive. It took four men to carry off his limp form.
“The half-inch thick plexi-glass type pulpit did not fare so well. It lay in two pieces with a jagged, lightning-bolt-like edge running down at about a 30 degree angle from top to bottom. The base and top were unscathed but the stem middle was severed.
“The pulpit manufacturer went into denial when informed of the split. They firmly stated that if the material were subjected to extremely high pressure – over 57,000 pounds per square inch – it would shatter into tiny splinters, like glass. But they insisted there is absolutely no way it would ever split along a diagonal jagged line, regardless of the kind of pressure exerted.” – End of Quote.
I don’t think men with guns could make me replace that pulpit. Don’t be surprised if pulpits begin disappearing everywhere now. If I had one, I think I’d take it and lock it in a closet somewhere. Yes, God has great patience, but there comes a time when He will no longer brook man’s arrogance or willful ignorance. Uzzahs often require more convincing treatment.
More than once I have seen the mentality of, “Let’s take over the meeting now,” at work. I remember one such meeting which took place at what was billed a “Prophet’s Conference.” A good friend of mine and fellow minister who was at that time from Beaumont, TX, and myself, decided to see what a “Prophet’s Conference” was. It turned out to be a farce.
At one point the speaker obviously left the prescribed program and began to actually confess his sins and shortcomings as he wept. Suddenly there was an awesome, holy hush which fell upon the entire congregation of about 800-1,000 people. It was very noticeable and quite awesome.
The men in charge of the conference were seated over against the wall to the right. When I looked over at them, I was surprised to find that their faces had gathered darkness. I cannot describe it any other way. It was not as though their faces turned black, but had simply become very dark. I did not at first realize that what I had seen was by the Spirit.
As everything seemed poised for some grand display of God’s pleasure and mind, one of the men who were seated next to the wall, in charge of the meeting, quickly strode to the pulpit and took the microphone out of the hand of the speaker and said, “Alright, lets be dismissed to stretch our legs and get some coffee in the lobby and come back in about 10 minutes.”
My friend and I turned and looked at each other in stunned disbelief. We had just witnessed the closest thing to actually pushing the Holy Spirit rudely aside as they maintained control of the meeting. This has happened quite regularly in the past, but it seems that God has now begun to decline being nudged aside.
As God begins to insist upon reigning in His Church we may very well see more Uzziah/Annanias-type incidents occur before man begins to grasp the idea that God means to have His Church conducted along the lines of His own mind and heart.
Where in the early church was there a pulpit? They didn’t need one because they had no New Testament Holy Bible to lay upon it. All they had at first and for many years were some Old Testament scrolls and not everyone had these. The pulpit has come to us much the same way as David’s ox-cart came to him; by way of uncircumcised minds.
It is not my intention to convey to you the idea that a pulpit is, in itself, evil or somehow displeasing to God and that if one but dispenses with the pulpit, all the problems arising from the doctrine of clergy/laity are solved and the blessings of God are thereafter insured. We are here seeking to speak to part of what the pulpit represents– the ox-cart mentality and approach, in direct opposition to the freedom and liberty of the Spirit. There is nothing more symbolic of the separation of clergy and laity than the pulpit, and the principle of clergy/laity is directly contrary to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17:21.
The very term, clergy/laity, is disgusting and spiritually repugnant. Such an idea is raw Priestcraft and is in no way representative of Christ, the lowly Nazarene foot-washer. I know that the five-fold ministry spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 speaks of something quite different from the rest of the Body to which it is given to minister and build up, but that difference is only in their function within the Body. Nowhere can we find grounds for something such as a clergy/laity, which lifts some in the Body to a higher, monarchical place above the rest. There is one, and only one Body and those with ministerial giftings in that Body, though their function is different, if not less, are still but equal to all the others in it.
Some seminaries actually teach that a certain social distance must be maintained between the minister, or clergy and the laity in order to preserve the respectability of the clergy. Have you never wondered why some ministers seem so unapproachable? Where did such an idea originate anyway? I have not researched it, but I have a very strong suspicion that it originated in the dark and putrid bowels of the Roman Catholic System. It came from the idea that those whom God had given as gifts to the Church, to watch over and build it up, were really meant to rule over it. Diotrephes, of III John 9 was a true forerunner of this sort of thing.
There is also the teaching that Moses is a type of the clergy and that God speaks to the clergy as He spoke to Moses. If the laity, the people, needs to know anything of God, it must come to the clergy to find the mind of the Lord. This is error also and is a deadly form of Nicolaitanism, or a seeking after power over the laity. Moses was not a type of the clergy, but of Christ. “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet (Jesus Christ) from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me (Moses); unto Him shall ye hearken…” –Deuteronomy 18:15
Nowadays things have developed to the point where we now have men who appoint their wives (or husbands or children or friends) as co-pastors, as if pastor was not a gift to be received directly from God at all, but rather some kind of franchise that can be distributed and bestowed on a most-favored basis. I suppose it does help to keep peace in the family, but such holy things were never meant to be treated in such an insensitive and profane manner.
If God gave to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers on what seems to be a fairly equal basis, and everywhere we look in the Bible, we find elders/bishops/presbyters (these terms are synonymous and are used interchangeably in the Scriptures – Titus 1:5 and 7, while the terms, pastor and elder are never used that way), always in the plural, over the government of the local church, how did the pastor come to gain the place of authority and government of a one-man rule over the local church that they everywhere seem to enjoy today? It obviously is not what God originally ordained.
It was Bishop (notice how quickly it went from bishop with a lower case “b” to the upper case “B”) Ignatius of Antioch, who died only about 115 AD (this is only about 80 years removed from Christ), who first used the word, “catholic church,” which meant universal, and was the first to speak of one Bishop at the head of the presbyters and deacons in each congregation. “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” whispers the epitaph from the tombstone of every man who has lived and died since Adam.
Ignatius also urged the monarchical (as in emperors and kingly sovereigns) episcopate (government) as a necessity for the Church. This was expedient for the maintaining of control and authority and was the beginning of the separation between clergy and laity and was but a short step to one Bishop (Pope) over the whole Church. I want you to note that it was from our much acclaimed “church fathers” that such things were passed down to us; things which actually led the Church down into a spiritual stygian darkness never to be equaled again. Are we to refer to them for authority or resolution on matters of question?
The truth is, God’s manner of government is a plurality of elders who watch over the local church on a co-equal basis. I mentioned this to a very well-known, widely recognized American minister whose books sell very well across the nation and in other nations also, a few years ago and he said, “Yes, I agree that it is God’s true order, but it just doesn’t work.” Yes, I’m serious. He really said that. It never occurred to him that it isn’t supposed to work unless God is truly given His rightful place in the local assembly.
The reason such stringent, fruitful requirements are the standard for elders and not for pastor, is that elders (always plural in the Scriptures) have the responsibility of the government and the welfare of the local church and the pastor does not. Elders, unlike the pastor, must display certain fruit in their lives, and fruit is very much different from gifting. Elders are appointed of men (apostles, either directly or indirectly – Titus 1:5). Pastor is a gift directly from the Lord (Ephesians 4:11). A pastor can be an elder (I Peter 5:1 and II John 1 – In these examples Peter is both an apostle and an elder and John was an apostle who, we are told, pastored the church of Ephesus and refers to himself as an elder also) but is not automatically an elder. An elder is not a pastor unless he has that gift… from the Lord directly or by the impartation of the gift through the laying on of hands of the elders and prophecy (I Timothy 4:14).
I read in a publication recently that pastor and elder are synonymous terms because elders feed the flock and that makes the elder a shepherd. They are not synonymous terms. Elders sometimes teach and feed the flock of God but not all elders labor in the Word. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine.” – I Timothy 5:17 This obviously implies that some elders do not labor in the Word and doctrine.
The reason I am addressing this subject is that I am convinced in my heart that we turned a corner in God last October around the time of Tabernacles. I do not yet know what kind of corner it was or just what results should be expected, but I have the notion that many who have been called, anointed and gifted will no longer be able to continue with their church business as usual. Like the brother mentioned above in the pulpit-splitting incident, God has too much invested in these beloved men and in all His precious people to allow things to continue as they have in the past. What was acceptable in Pentecost is not acceptable in Tabernacles. In Pentecost “a little leaven is alright;” in Tabernacles it is forbidden.
We are on the verge of something more extraordinary than the shattering of plastic pulpits. What God is about to shatter is a modern religious ox-cart of enormous proportions, along with the destruction of that frame of mind (rational mind) that naturally leans in that direction and avidly supports it. Not only so, but when we hear the words, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.“ – Revelation 11:15 let us understand that every kingdom which men have built, whether in religion, in the secular world or within our individual selves, is coming down! Look for it. It is on the way.
We have been listening to the sounding of the seventh angel’s message concerning fullness and all it entails in order for those so elected to enter into their inheritance as sons, soon to be manifested and displayed to a shocked world and an equally astounded Church. I have no doubt that the hearing of some of us has been dull and the sound of that trumpet has not penetrated into the depths of our spirits sufficiently.
I also have no doubt that God is about to move by His Spirit in such a manner as to cause a holy alarm in us that is meant not only to stir but to move us from our spiritual lethargy to a believing posture in Christ, with all our supersensitive faculties at full alert for what is about to transpire. All these kingdoms are coming down for one purpose – that the Lord and His Christ – His whole Christ – might begin to reign and execute the mission and design of God in the earth!
Just as Jesus Christ, after the flesh, was introduced by the ministry of John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah, even so, Christ after the spirit, has been and is still being introduced by the very ministry in the Spirit that John was a type of in the flesh. This ministry has not come to His people from the Bible Schools and Seminaries of man any more than John’s ministry came from the school of the prophets.
Such a ministry always comes from the wilderness of isolation and obscurity. It is a ministry which does not claim to be the Christ and does not claim for itself the bride. Instead it preserves and presents the bride as a chaste virgin to Christ and recognizes when its ministry and purpose is finished without entering into competition with the Lord. Only such a ministry has been ordained of God to usher in the advent of the whole Christ. Only such a ministry as is no longer hungering after a name of recognition, a bigger church or a pulpit, is fitted to such a responsibility.
If He must, God will do more than shatter pulpits in order to get His point across. It is His Church, not ours! Priestcraft, clergy/laity, nicolaitanism and all that prevents His Church from truly becoming ONE shall be dealt with in no uncertain terms.
Those who insist on keeping the reins of control in their hands instead of turning it over to the Holy Spirit, the true Vicar of the Church, may well find themselves being entirely removed out of the way. He will have a people who are one in Him because they are one with Him.
Some have interpreted this pulpit-splitting incident as God destroying the old order so that He can now begin to build the Overcomer Church. This is nonsense. I do not doubt in the least that He is moving past the boundaries of the old order, but the Church is not, and never was meant to be an end but a means to an end. C-H-U-R-C-H is not God’s ultimate thought or end. It is merely a means to that ultimate thought and end. That ultimate thought or end is a perfect man in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; a whole new human race; a people made in His likeness and image through the operation of the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher; not yet another Church. The idea of an Overcomer Church reveals a great lack of understanding concerning the purposes of God and His highest intentions.
Just as certain as there are problems now in the Church, problems owing directly and indirectly to the ox-cart rationale, even so is it equally as certain that God has not left Himself without an all-wise means of repair. The sons of God with authority are that means of repair, not only for a developing Church, but also for a blind, confused, and lost world. I believe that what is happening within me is also happening in so many of God’s remnant just now.
Everything in my world is standing on tip-toe with outstretched neck as never before, eagerly, excitedly awaiting this manifestation of these sons of God. What so many of us are experiencing within ourselves is nothing other than the breaking of the fifth seal within us, as we lie as dying-yet-living souls under the altar, crying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given to every one of them: and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” – Revelation 6:10-11
Let us who would see our Savior-God begin to truly reign in us, continue, without discontent, to be counted as foolish as the apostle Paul was; as unfaithful as David was accounted of his Saul; as barren as Hannah; as weak as Jesus – for, glory to God, hereunto are we called!
OX CARTS [Larry Hodges] 1