You’ve all seen the movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The Nazis want the Ark of God because they think it has some magical power. They capture it then find out that God doesn’t like His Ark to be touched by anyone except in the manner He has expressly chosen. Well, that happened to David as well. After King David got settled in Jerusalem, he thought that it would be the will of God to move the Ark of God from the farming community of Kiriath Jearim to the new capital of Israel–Jerusalem. So, he called his officers and the assembly of Israel together to celebrate the Ark coming to Jerusalem. He thought it would be God’s will to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and that God would be pleased. He forgot one thing: God’s instructions on how to properly move the Ark. Instead, David used the method that the Philistines used to return the captured Ark back to Israel. God wasn’t pleased with that way of approaching Him, and someone got hurt. David let a seemingly good idea from a surrounding culture influence him to supposedly “please” God by doing the same thing. That happens today, doesn’t it?
About seventy years earlier (1 Samuel 4-6), the Philistines were beating the Israelites badly in a battle. The Israelite commander thought the answer was to bring the Ark to the battlefield from Shiloh (where it had been properly sitting inside the Tabernacle). Like the movie, the Ark was seen as a magical box. The Philistines captured the Ark and brought it to their territory. However, the Ark represented God’s holy presence with Israel. God made life miserable for the Philistines until they returned it back to Israel. The Philistines put it in a new cart with newly yoked cows (the Philistine way to please their gods) to return the Ark to an Israelite border town. It was eventually moved to the home of Abinadab (a Levite) in Kiriath Jearim where his son Eleazar was put in charge of guarding the Ark.
The method had worked safely. So, David used that same method to move the Ark—a new cart—rather than carefully following God’s instructions given to Israel in Exodus 25:12-15 that required only Levites to carry the Ark with poles through the rings on the side so that no one would touch it. The procession included crowds of people praising God with all kinds of worship music. You would think that God would be pleased with their good intentions. According to 1 Chronicles 13:9-10, the oxen stumbled, Uzzah touched the Ark to steady it which angered God. God ended Uzzah’s earthly life.
Now, before anyone gets mad about this, Uzzah knew better. His family had carefully housed the Ark for all those years! Keeping everyone away from it. Can you imagine that responsibility? Had familiarity removed the sense of awe that the Ark deserved? Were they thinking of the Ark as a piece of furniture representing God rather than God’s holiness Himself? David got angry and afraid of God (1 Chronicles 13:11-12), but he had put Uzzah in this dangerous position. David had used the world’s method to do something honorable, and he thought God would be pleased. Uzzah became the bad example of how not to treat God and His holiness. It certainly captured the people’s attention.
David stewed about this for 3 months. But, he also consulted God’s Word about doing it right. In 1 Chronicles 15, David prepares a place for the Ark, calls together the High Priest and the leaders of all the Levites (the ones who were supposed to move the Ark in the first place), and has them all dedicate themselves to God personally before coming together to move the Ark. This is what David said in 1 Chronicles 15:13, “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” The priests and Levites did everything right “in accordance with the word of the Lord (1 Chronicles 15:15)” and successfully moved the Ark to the tent inside Jerusalem that David had pitched for it. Again, all this was accompanied by rejoicing, worship music and praise before God. Huge celebration! It must have been a fantastic sight and sound. They approached this task God’s way rather than the world’s way. They did it right. Rejoicing not lamenting this time.
How often do we take something from our culture that seems to provide a good solution to our challenges in life (parenting, marriage, surviving in a workplace, relationships, sinful behavior) and think that the logical outcome will be pleasing to God even if the choices we make are not in agreement with what God says in His Word? God gives clear directions on how to approach life His way rather than the world’s way. It’s our responsibility to inquire of Him through the written word accessible to everyone. This story is a great reminder.
Author: Melanie Newton
Melanie Newton helps women learn how to study the Bible for themselves through her Joyful Walk Bible Studies. She also teaches online courses for anyone to grow their Bible-teaching skills to help others—all with the goal of getting to know Jesus more along the way. She has lots of resources available on her website melanienewton.com for you to use in your life and ministry. Melanie believes that it’s always the right time for a Dr. Pepper, that her family is the greatest, and being outside for even a few minutes is a daily necessity. Woohoo!