In 2 Samuel 6, David has been named king over all Israel, and desires to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. God has finally fulfilled His promise. Over twenty-two years passed between the time that Samuel anointed David to be king and his acceptance by the entire nation as God’s man to lead the nation.
David is a worshipper. He loves God with all of his heart. God has proven Himself faithful, and David has experienced many trials and tests which have deepened his trust in God. He wants to make the worship of God the center of life in his new city, Jerusalem.
Perhaps you have read this story?
The people of Israel go to the house of Abinadab, where the ark has been for twenty years, to bring it “home.” They place it on a new cart, and slowly make the journey towards Jerusalem, with much celebrating and music. In the middle of this joyful time, Uzzah reaches out his hand to steady the ark when the oxen stumble; he is immediately struck down by God!
2 Samuel 6:7 – And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.
You can imagine the response. David is at first angry at the Lord, not understanding why He would respond in this way when Uzzah was simply trying to do a good thing. Then, he becomes fearful of God and is unwilling to move the ark any further. They take the ark and set it aside in the home of Obededom, where it remains for three months.
Later, David hears how God is blessing the home where the ark resides and decides once again to transport the ark to Jerusalem. This time, however, he “does his homework” and searches out the proper way to transport the ark – according to the commandments and ordinances which God had given to Moses.
1 Chronicles 15 gives us the details of what David learned.
Then David said, “No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.” … Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it at the first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.
As I read these passages, I wondered why David did not transport the ark properly in the first place. As a young Jewish boy, wouldn’t he have heard the stories of his ancestors’ exodus from Egypt, and the years of wandering the wilderness? Wouldn’t he have heard at some time how God gave them specific, detailed instructions for every part of the tabernacle and its sacrifices, including how the ark of the covenant was to be made, transported, and displayed? Either he had never been taught, he had forgotten, or he decided on what he felt was a better solution.
Where would he have gotten the idea to transport the ark on a “new cart”?
In 1 Samuel 6, we read the story of how the Philistines had stolen the ark from the people during a battle and kept it for seven months. They knew it represented the power of the Israelite God and thought it would bring His favor. However, it only brought them distress and sickness, striking their people with tumors, so they asked their priests how they could get rid of it.
Listen to their solution:
Now therefore, take and prepare a new cart and two milch cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. Take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. (1 Samuel 6:7-8)
Perhaps David had heard of this event, which happened years before he was born. The reference to a “new cart” is familiar. Would not the ark of the Lord deserve a new cart? Doesn’t it just make logical sense to carry something the shape and weight of the ark on a cart? And, after all, since there was not a true center of worship for the people, the Levites were most likely not practicing their roles in an organized fashion, with each family responsible for their part.
Have you ever tried to do something good for God, but in your own strength and knowledge, even borrowing from the wicked, ungodly worldly practices? Do we ever attempt to accomplish good and spiritual goals using man’s wisdom?
How do we define success in our personal life? Do we measure our lives by the world’s standards? Do we consider our children successful if they meet the world’s goals, or if they are obedient to the laws of God? Would you rather your child be a straight A student and top athlete on his team, with college scholarships offered to him, or one who struggles to get B’s and C’s, but loves the Lord with all his heart?
And if you respond “the one who loves the Lord,” what methods are you using to help him become successful in that respect? Do you structure your life around the school athletic calendar, or do church and family take precedence? Do you spend more time at practice on the field and gym, or is Christ the center of your conversations and your calendar?
Raising children is only one area where it’s easy to find ourselves trying to reach spiritual goals with physical, human methods. It is so easy to define our life by this world’s rules without realizing it. The deception of the world creeps into our marriages, our idea of personal satisfaction and success, our roles at work…every area of our life.
How do we recognize this, and what do we do about it?
We can learn from David’s mistake and change both our thinking and our actions. I see four specific steps we can take to keep from falling into the pattern of living our lives by the wrong standard and measuring success by the wrong goals.
David was a man who recognized his human frailty. He owned up to his mistakes but did not let them define him, because he knew God was merciful, gracious and compassionate – a God who desired to show him the better way.
1 Chronicles 15:13 – …the Lord our God made an outburst on us, because we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.
#1 – Seek the Lord
#2 – Know His Word
#3 – Devote yourself to God
#4 – Make the change
David had to repent of doing things in his own wisdom and seek God’s wisdom. One phrase that is repeated through the stories of David’s life is that he inquired of the Lord. He learned to ASK God what he should do in every situation. We can learn from this. We must stop making decisions based on what we’ve always heard or have been taught and ask God. What does God want us to do?
David had to research the law to find the proper way to transport the ark. Every detail he needed to make the right decision was there, right in God’s Word. We also have the Word of God for wisdom and guidance. We don’t have to guess. We don’t have to ask others. We can immerse ourselves in God’s Word and find the direction we need. We have the directions. We have the handbook. Why don’t we use it?
David realized that those who carried the ark must first be consecrated to God. They had to examine their lives for any known sin and repent. They had to put away anything that was common or unholy in their homes, their thoughts, their speech and their actions. All of their time, energy and resources were to be focused on bringing attention and glory to God. As we learn to daily consecrate ourselves to God, we will be convicted by His Word of the things we need to set aside – the distractions and the worldly standards of measure that we live by. When we are devoted to God, it changes everything. He gets first place in our life: our time, our schedule, our thoughts, our finances, our conversations, and our actions.
David made the practical, necessary adjustments in his plan to bring the ark home. He got rid of the cart and pulled out the poles! Sometimes we also need to make practical, real change in order to stop living our lives by the world’s rules and devote our minds, our hearts and our actions to God’s ways and wisdom. You might have to say “no” to what appears to be a very logical activity. You might have to do something the hard way, rather than the quick and convenient way. You might have to set aside some things in your life that the world tells you are necessary. We cannot be afraid to make those changes, even when we may look foolish to our friends and family.
David’s mistake was costly – it cost Uzzah his life!
Because we live in this age of grace, on the other side of the cross, we do not fear that God will strike us down if we choose to live by the world’s standards rather than God’s. But there is a cost. As a believer, we can waste our life on temporary things and miss the blessing of a life spent for the glory of Christ. And we can definitely bring unnecessary pain, disappointment, and trials into our own lives and the lives of our families. Our spouse, our children, our extended family, and friends are all affected by the choices we make.
This story in 2 Samuel motivates me to examine my life for places that I have been deceived by the world around me…areas where I have let culture dictate my decisions and choices. I want to be fully devoted to God, usable for His kingdom purposes. And I want to do it His way, not mine.