1 Chronicles 13 (NLT)
David Attempts to Move the Ark
David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.
Ah — but he did not inquire of the Lord.
2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”
In Israel’s traditions the ark symbolized the presence of God. It was constructed to occupy the innermost and holiest part of the tabernacle made long before the writing of Chronicles, and long before David, in the desert period. Above this ark was a throne, “the mercy-seat,” flanked by cherubim, and upon which the Lord was pictured as dwelling (Exod. 25:10ff). The same conception is reflected in v. 6 of our passage. Clearly it was important to David to have the ark in the city which he was to make his capital, and which was to become the centre of Israel’s worship.
The ark’s immediate pre-history had been somewhat chequered. The story of its movements in the war against the Philistines is told in 1 Sam. 4:3-7:2. Having been borne into battle by Israel, in an attempt to harness the power of God, it had actually been captured by the enemy. The Lord, however, having been unwilling to be used even by his own people as a kind of lucky mascot, was equally unwilling to have his ark abused by the Philistines, who had consequently suffered from its presence and sent it back, whereupon it was accepted by the people of Kiriath-jearim, an obscure village a few miles west of Jerusalem, where it had remained untended during Saul’s reign.
Behind Israel’s failure to handle the ark properly in the Philistine wars was the constant danger that they would misunderstand its significance. The idea that God dwelt “above the cherubim” could so easily lead to the belief that he could be manipulated, that he was at the disposal of his people, rather than that they should serve him.
–J. G. McConville
4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house.
God’s instructions were that Levites were to carry the ark. It was not to go on a cart, new or otherwise!
Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.
9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.
11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.
12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.
Israel’s respect for her God was marked by her attention to the outward manifestations and symbols of God’s covenant (although this by no means substituted for the devotion of the heart, cf. Deut. 30:10). The importance of right attention to the trappings of worship, however, placed a huge responsibility on the religious leaders. And this is the correct perspective on the Uzzah story. Uzzah is the victim of carelessness on the part of his leaders, ultimately David himself, as is made clear in 1 Chron. 15:13 — “We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” David goes on to prescribe rigorous attention to the regulations that pertain to the bearing of the ark, in recognition that there had been a failure in this respect before.
David’s anger and fear in connection with the Uzzah incident is that of one who has been discovered in a fault. Perhaps he had come to assume that the Lord was irreversibly with him, and had become casual in his devotion. Perhaps he had come to trust in his own strength. In any case his exclamation in v. 12 is less pure enquiry than petulant self-justification. His naming of the place Perez-Uzzah belongs to his attempt to deflect the blame for the incident upon God. Even his stationing of the ark at Kiriath-jearim rather than taking it on to Jerusalem may reflect the same temper. Thus a disturbed conscience prefers to find means of excuse rather than seek immediate restitution. David is great enough to overcome his pique in the end (chapter 15). But the immediate effect of his attitude is delay and frustration (however great the temporary advantage of Obed-Edom, who was it seems a Levite, cf. 26:8, and whose experience represents the other side of the coin from that of Uzzah).
–J. G. McConville
This song comes originally from William Walker’s “The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion.” This beautiful arrangement HERE is by Craig Curry, and the choir is The Deo Cantamus Chorale.
“Do Not I Love Thee, O My Lord”
Do not I love thee, O my Lord?
Behold my heart and see:
And turn each cursed idol out,
That dares to rival thee.
Do not I love thee, O my Lord?
Then let me nothing love;
Dead be my heart to every joy,
When Jesus cannot move.
Within the darkness of this heart
Other gods would vie for my affections
But Thou art exalted
Thou art exalted
Thou art exalted far above all gods!
Thou knowest I love thee, dearest Lord,
But O, I long to soar
Far from the sphere of mortal joys,
And learn to love thee more!
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.