David and the Ark of the Covenant

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is such a huge benefit in reading scripture in different chunks each time. A couple of weeks ago I was reading in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles about David bringing the ark to Jerusalem. Maybe I’d never read these chapters butting up against one another before, but as I read this time the whole story came into focus with such practical application.

Remember the setting: David has eluded Saul’s murderous plans for years. Saul is finally killed in battle. David is made king–first over Judah, then over all the tribes of Israel. When this happens, David, in his exuberance over God fulfilling His word, wants to bring the Ark of the Covenant, the very presence of God, into his ruling city of Jerusalem.

A very worthy, worshipful goal. But in a departure from David’s usual way of acting, he doesn’t inquire of God about his plans. Instead, according to I Chronicles 13, David consulted “each of the his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.” (1 Chron. 13:1) But he didn’t stop there. He then consulted “the whole assembly of Israel.” (1 Chron. 13:2) What was the response? “The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.” (1 Chron. 13:4) Uh-oh. This should have been David’s first clue that something was wrong. Their words seem to mimic the days of the judges when “everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

David was so overjoyed with his desire to honor God he couldn’t see the error of his heart in the midst of it. Do you know the story from there? They carried the Ark toward Jerusalem, but not in the way prescribed by the Lord. The result? Death to the one who touched it.  In ended with David becoming afraid of God. (I Chron. 13:12) I’ve been there, have you? You did something good and right and seemed to get struck down in the midst of it? Did you come away afraid of (or angry at) God?

And yet here’s where the Chronicles version gets interesting. In 1 Chronicles 14, Hiram, King of Tyre, sends gifts. David is blessed with more sons. Apparently life went on in spite of the fiasco with the Ark. Then the Philistines gathered against Israel and what is David’s first response? “So David inquired of God: ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines?'” Had he ignored this step of the process with the Ark because it was a “good” activity instead of a dangerous one? Or had his arrogance at being crowned king overcome his usual practice of humility? Whatever the case, David quickly returned to his mode of operation–he inquired of God before he made a move then listened to and obeyed the plan God gave him.

The Philistines were defeated. David’s fame spread. Somewhere in those three months that the Ark remained on Obed-Edom’s threshing floor, David realized his error and rectified it. In 1 Chronicles 15 David is ready to bring the Ark to Jerusalem again. But this time he has specific instructions for the priests and the people. It is done in accordance with God’s commands. The Ark comes into the city accompanied by great joy.

Does your life ever mirror David’s? Mine does. I go along listening to God, obeying His voice then wham! For whatever reason, I slip into thinking I know God’s mind before I ask. I might even consult with others who approve my plans. But if I’ve neglected to inquire of God specifically, I’ve acted presumptuously and I have sinned. The good news is that David’s story shows God’s kindness that leads to repentance. If I continue to seek Him, He will show me my error and very often even give me another chance to do the same activity according to His ways instead of my own. I’m so glad we serve a God so great in mercy. Aren’t you?


4 comments on “David and the Ark of the Covenant

  1. Oh, I devoured this post, Anne. Because I empathize with David. I slip into thinking, “oh yeah, I’m so in tune with God I obviously know what He’s thinking…” and then, like you said, wham…and how prideful of me is it to think I know what He’s planning? But oh how I loved these couple lines in your post:

    “If I continue to seek Him, He will show me my error and very often even give me another chance to do the same activity according to His ways instead of my own. I’m so glad we serve a God so great in mercy.”

    God is so, so faithful to say, “Um, Melissa, you messed up. What you thought was listening to Me was actually you listening to you.” And like you said, He gives me a chance to listen to Him all over again.

    • I’m just continually amazed at the mercy of God to redirect my heart that wants what He wants though it often gets off track. So glad this spoke to you as it did to me!

  2. I often feel unsure of what God wants. I felt like earlier in my faith I was more sure. I don’t know if it’s b/c I’m not as quick to rush to say I know what God wants or if it’s due to other reasons.

    I feel like David is the brother of my heart. So identify with him.

    • I hear you, Wendy. I think that being unsure does happen more in our maturity as we begin to try to untangle what we want from what God wants. And I agree about David being the brother of our hearts. How many times to I go to others for advice instead of to God? And how often, when I mess up, do I sit and wallow in my mistakes? I love that God doesn’t give up on David and that David’s heart is always soft toward God’s revelation of his sin. And such is the encouragement of Scripture!

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