This series is not being written primarily as an exegesis of 1Chronicles 13 and 15. It is written also to bring to light the root problems of what I will call the Uzzah Syndrome that is becoming more and more prominent in the church today. A syndrome is defined as:
- a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.
- a set of concurrent things (such as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syndrome)
So many of us are familiar with the story of David’s desire to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. Yet, truth to tell, aren’t we also puzzled by the consequence of his actions. How is it possible that such noble intentions meant to honor God and agreed upon by all the “elect” of the Lord could have resulted, not in glory to God, but in His total displeasure and even in a man’s death? 1Chronicles 13 and 15 are chapters that deserve careful scrutiny lest we sin against the Lord ourselves in a similar manner and reap the same consequences. Yet there is more here at stake than our individual sins. It is, as it was in David’s time, the Body of Christ for which we must be concerned.
THE HISTORY OF THE ARK
The Ark of the Covenant represented the Presence of the Almighty God. The Ark had been captured by the Philistines through the irreverent actions of Eli’s sinful sons, Hophni and Phineas (1Samuel 2 and 4). When the Philistines captured the Ark, God’s people lamented that “the Glory had departed from Israel” ( 1Samuel 4:21-23).
As long as the Philistines kept the Ark, sickness and plague abounded (1 Samuel 5). Eventually, the Philistines – a heathen people who worshipped idols – put the Ark on a cart and returned it to the people of Israel. Throughout his reign King Saul had little regard for the Ark nor for inquiring after it. The worship of Yahweh was diminished to such an extent that Saul lowered himself to seeking guidance from a medium, the witch at Endor (1Samuel 28). For forty years the Ark was neglected. David wanted to bring it home to the new capital city as a sign that the Lord was once again in the midst of His people. His plans, however, went seriously awry. If we do not study the lessons contained in the following chapters, we place ourselves in grave danger.
13 Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the Lord our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; 3 and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul.” 4 Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
– 1 Chronicles 13:1-4New King James Version (NKJV)
The complimentary chapter, 2 Samuel 6, states there were 30,000 “chosen men” present, including the priests and Levites. David’s invitation was to “all the brethren everywhere” to join with them. The stipulations for proceeding with this endeavor were so honorable, so eminently good- intentioned: “if it seems good to you and if it is of The Lord our God.” All the assembly agreed to proceed “for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.”
It was always the responsibility of all God’s people to be well-versed in His Word. Yet, these ordinances had been out of use for a long time “for [the people had] not inquired at it since the days of Saul.” The true worship of God had been neglected for basically forty years.
The ark was then neglected; and the generality of the people either lived in the gross neglect of the solemn worship of God, or contented themselves with going to Gibeon, and offering sacrifices there, not caring, though the ark, the soul of the tabernacle, was in another place. (Poole, Annotations on the Holy Bible)
However, in the midst of all these pious preparations, there was one serious problem. David said “ if it is of the Lord our God.” No place does it say that David ever consulted with God even though he asked everyone else. If David had inquired of God, surely God would have reminded him to seek His Word on the proper method of transporting the Ark and it’s worship.
Before proceeding, bear in mind these three truths:
- All the people involved had the best of intentions for their actions. In fact, David was regarded as a man after God’s own heart. Yet good intentions can often be translated as driven by self, not the Spirit.
- The reasons why their plans to glorify God went so horribly awry are increasingly common in the body of Christ today.
- In the end, God, in His mercy, accepted their repentance and gave them a second chance to right their wrongs and He will do the same today.
THE HANDLING OF THE ARK
God had in His Word given specific instructions as to how the Ark was to be transported. He will never leave us ignorant of His Divine will if we seek it. Exodus 25: 12-15; and Numbers 1:50, 7:9 make it clear that the Ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites, and only of one specific family of Levites, that of the Kohathites. These men were to be consecrated to the Lord and their responsibility to the Lord was a serious one indeed for what they carried was holy.
Uzzah was a Levite but not of the family of Kohath. He was the son of Abinadab, in whose house the men of Kiriath-jearim placed the Ark when it was brought back from the land of the Philistines.
The Ark had been brought by the Philistines in a cart (1Samuel 6:7). They were a heathen people, worshipping Dagon and Baal, not God’s chosen people and not well-versed in His commands. The Philistine’s ignorance was forgivable. However, God’s people should have known that to place the Ark, God’s most holy thing, on a cart – even a new cart – was against God’s specific command. Part of Uzzah’s problem may have been that he had grown too familiar with this “object” that resided in his house all those years. Perhaps the reverence was gone.
You must keep all of My commandments, for I am the Lord. You must not treat Me as common and ordinary. Revere Me and hallow Me, for I, The Lord, made you holy to Myself and rescued you from Egypt to be My own people! I am Jehovah ! (Leviticus 22: 31-33, Lindsell Study Bible)
Remember also that the worship of Yahweh had diminished to such a state during Saul’s reign that he was reduced to seeking guidance from the witch of Endor, a medium (1 Samuel 28). All in all, the reverence for the Holy Presence of God was at an all-time low due to a progressive period of gradual but deep disintegration. All this decline occurred in little more than a generation.
Finally, when we arrive on the day of bringing the Ark into Jerusalem, all these sins accumulate. We see that as one sin led to another, death resulted. Yes, death. First we have the lack of adherence to God’s Word. Then we have the lack of consecration of Uzzah and his brother and their “familiarity” with the Ark. It mattered not how noble were their intentions nor how united they all were in their desire to please God. All that mattered was that God’s will was not obeyed in its fullness; He and His Word were not treated with the holiness of which they were worthy. If we are to truly please God, we must please Him in the way He has commanded, not in a way pleasing to us. No matter how outwardly “holy” it appears – if it is not according to His express commands, He will not receive it. Cain may have offered up the choicest vegetables in the garden, but it was only the bloody sacrifice that God would accept.
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
“Building the Ark of the Covenant” By Philip De Vere [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Giovanni Battista Franco, “The Philistines Place the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon“. 1540. This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
“The Ark Brought Back to Jerusalem“. The Ark Brought to Jerusalem by David, as in 2 Samuel 6:1-12, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company