“[David said] ‘And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.’ And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.” (1 Chronicles 13:3-4)
1 Chronicles 13:3-4 reveals an interesting passage. Here, David decides to bring the ark of God to the city, and, in particular, he mentions the reason for wanting to do so: “For we enquired not at it in the days of Saul” (v 3).
You would almost imagine by this statement that the ark of God itself was needed in order to be able to “inquire of God.” Was it? Was the ark of God itself needed in order to be able to inquire of God?
Secondly, let’s see what happened as a result of this “wisdom” which the people heartily agreed with.
“And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.” (1 Chronicles 13:9-10)
A man died. Now the passage (right here) does not indicate that David was the cause, or that poor counsel was the cause, or that a bad decision on David’s part was the cause for this tragedy.
Nevertheless, David gets a “strong check” in his spirit on this one, and decides to halt the proceedings.
“And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (1 Chronicles 13:12)
Something was wrong. David put things on hold. He knew there was “more than meets the eye” here. It wasn’t “just a case” of one man (in this case Uzza) reaching his hand out to steady the ark, and God being angry at one man. There was more to this one than “met the eye.” David knew that instinctively, otherwise he would not have answered the way he did.
David puts everything on hold and waits a while. He needs some wisdom. He gets it. This time, instead of “mere men” transporting the ark, he gets together the priests and the Levites — the ones who had been appointed to do such a job in the first place, but which David had overlooked (I guess he did not think it was that important, but it was).
Now he charges the priests and Levites,
“And [David] said unto them, ‘Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. 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.'” (1 Chronicles 15:12-13)
Now notice what David says here (carefully) — the wording is highly instructive, and ironic in a way, in light of his first reason to bring the ark up to the city. David now confesses, “…for that we sought him not after the due order.” In other words, we did not inquire of God the first time we tried it. We should have. We blew it.
It seems to me that it is very ironic the the very reason David wanted to bring the ark of God to the city in the first place was to be able to inquire of it (see 1 Chronicles 13:3-4 at top). But now he confesses, that because he did not inquire of GOD (not the ARK) that he made a mistake. And notice too (in verse 4 above) that, even though the people were in agreement, yet in the end, a man still died. We cannot always trust the enthusiasm of the people as a good judge of what is good and right. We are still accountable for what we do.
What is the lesson in all of this? First, many are inclined to think that they need a “device” in order to be able to worship God. That is simply not true. While the ark was “of God” and while God dwelt (then) around the ark, the ark was not “God himself.” Devices may sometimes be important (like the ark), but in their absence, we do not them in order to be able to worship God.
The other lesson to be learned in all of this is, we need to do things God’s way. God had prescribed that the priests and Levites be the ones to handle the affairs of the ark. It was really a matter of honoring God. The service of the Levites and priests had not been invoked in bringing the ark to the city, thus God was dishonored.
A general lesson from this is, “Are we doing things God’s way? Are we honoring God in all that we do? Have we really inquired of God before going about our business?” May the Lord bless you today as you consider these things.