We continue the journey from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem with the Ark of The Lord. Something happens along the way that stops the whole process. Uzzah touches the Ark and dies for it.
When we left David and all those who were with him they were celebrating the return of the Ark of The Lord to the people. Israel had the Ark back for about 20 years but only one family had access to it and benefitted from its blessings. Now the people were escorting it Jerusalem where all of Israel would share in its blessings and presence. Let’s pick up where we left off.
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The procession could be heard for miles around! It was a joyful sound. Singing, shouts of praise, musical instruments joining in; harps, lyres, tambourines, castanets, cymbals and even trumpets. All these an offering of praise and thanks giving to the Lord.
It was a slow march with all the excitement but none complained about it. The oxen were content with the slow plodding pace too. Ahio directed the oxen’s path and Uzzah kept close watch on the precious cargo contained within the cart. It wasn’t always easy directing the cart because those praising God weren’t always watching where they stepped. More than once Ahio had to quickly turn the oxen to prevent some enraptured praiser from being trampled under hoof.
The journey was exciting and tiring. But it was nearing its end. The city of Jerusalem could be seen in the distance. Despite the fact that the musicians and singers had been offering praise the entire journey, the sight of Jerusalem sent them into a fevered pitch. Joy was running out their very pours!
The procession was passing near the threshing floor of one local landowner; Nacon. The praisers movements caused Ahio to have to redirect the oxen more often. As they neared the threshing floor one of the oxen stumbled, sending a shudder through the cart. Uzzah was quick to react. He was determined that no harm come to the Ark so he reached out to steady it.
This act of protection would be the last act Uzzah would ever do. God was angered by Uzzah’s action and struck him dead on the spot. Uzzah fell to the ground like a stone that had been dropped from a great height.
At the same moment Uzzah’s hand touched the Ark of The Lord, a sound rent the air. It was like the crack of a whip. With the sound a heavy presence also descended upon the entire congregation. All eyes turned to the cart that carried the Ark. Beside it lay Uzzah.
Joab was instantly on guard. He began scanning the crowd for danger.
“Did anyone see what happened” asked David.
Ahio answered, “The oxen stumbled. I assume Uzzah tried to steady the Ark of The Lord.”
David knew without a doubt that this was an act of God. But why would God punish Uzzah for trying to help? His heart sank. “I have caused this man’s death. The Lord must not have wanted me to bring His Ark to Jerusalem.” These thoughts flood David’s mind as he looked at the lifeless man before him.
Grief and anger struggle with one another in David’s heart and on his face. He wrestles them both into submission while he addresses the crowd. “The Lord has been angered by our actions today. We must all return to our homes. The Ark of The Lord will go no further today. I will seek His will and forgiveness. Please… go home.”
No one argues with David. The oppressive air that settled with Uzzah’s death still covers everyone in the crowd. Slowly the people begin to turn towards their homes and the crowd breaks up. David’s soldiers remain.
Obed-edom had been part of the procession. He was well known to David as a righteous man of good reputation. He is a Levite in the town of Gittite. David saw him as the crowd was breaking up. David instructs Joab, “Go and bring Obed-edom back to me.”
Joab departs on his mission and returns within moments with Obed-edom at his side.
“How may I serve my king” inquires Obed-edom.
“I have need of your home as a shelter for the Ark of The Lord. How can the Ark of The Lord come to me?”
“I will gladly offer my home and my services to my king and my God.”
David nods and the much smaller group makes it way carefully to the Ark’s new destination. Once they reach the home Obed-edom asks them to wait while he prepares a place for the Ark to rest in safety. After a suitable place has been arranged, David’s men carefully lift the Ark by the carrying poles attached to it. They then bring it into the inner room Obed-edom had prepared.
“How long is the Ark of The Lord to remain with me my king?”
“I do not know. I will seek the Lord. If you have need of anything to care for the Ark while it is in your care, I will be more than happy to provide it. All you need do is send word to me.”
“It is an honor to serve, no matter how long my services may be needed. I await your command.”
David and his troops leave as the sun is sinking in the sky. This day has certainly not gone as expected. David goes directly to his own home upon their return to Jerusalem. His heart is heavy.
In the solitude of his room he cries out to God. “Why Lord? Why did You strike a man who was trying only to protect Your Ark? What sin did he commit that deserved death?”
David hears no definite answer from the Lord. He begins to think over the events of the day. “I must have sinned to have created this situation. If the Lord is silent in my prayers, perhaps I will find answers in His words.” David calls for his attendant to bring him the scrolls.
All night David pours over the scrolls that contain the Law of Moses. He pays special attention to the rules and regulations governing how the Ark is to be transported and who is to touch it. He realizes that he put his own men’s lives in jeopardy by having them carry it into the home of Obed-edom. Obed-edom was of the line of Levi so placing the Ark with him should please the Lord.
David will go to the priest at Gibeon this day and ask that they make a sacrifice of atonement for him. His heart convicts him for not following the Lord’s regulations in moving the Ark. He is still hurt by the fact that the Lord struck Uzzah down as he tried to render aid to the Lord Himself.
David mind turns next to Uzzah’s own heart and how it may have led to his death. “Is it possible that Uzzah’s actions spoke of his deep lack of faith in the Lord? Uzzah had cared for the Ark of The Lord in his father’s house for nearly 20 years. He would have known the regulations governing how to approach it. He would have known not to touch it. Would his reaching out to steady it have indicated that he didn’t believe, or at least trust, that the Lord could care for Himself? If the Ark were truly in danger of falling, would not the Lord Himself right it?”
“The Ark is the symbol and dwelling place for God’s most holy presence and He is MORE than capable of caring for it. Its time with the Philistines proved that if nothing else” thinks David. This settled in his heart he is finally able to let go of the anger he feels. But he is still unwilling to ‘tempt’ the Lord by moving the Ark right now.
Life returns to normal within the kingdom of Israel. David still longs to bring the Ark of The Lord back to the people. He is patient though and waits upon the Lord to lead this time.
Three months pass without incident. David has kept watch on the family of Obed-edom. Today his advisors share a good report on this front.
“The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the Ark of God” (verse 12b).
David is very encouraged by this report. “It is time we bring the Ark to the rest of the people. It appears the Lord’s anger has passed. Send word to all of Israel to assemble again for in one week’s time we will celebrate the return of the Lord’s favor to the nation.”
Word went out within the hour. Before the week was even over the people were covering the hills around Jerusalem in anticipation. This procession would be shorter but no less heralded.
The day dawns and David nearly leaps from his bed again. All is in order and ready to go by the time the morning sacrifice will be offered in Gibeon. At the head of the procession this time are a large group of Levites. They will carry the Ark of The Lord as the Law demands. There are also herders who are bringing along a large herd of sheep and oxen for sacrificial animals.
The crowd nears the door of the house of Obed-edom. He has heard their approach and welcomes them. “Welcome to my home my king. How may I serve you?”
“Is the Ark of The Lord ready for transport?”
“It is my king.” Obed-edom leads the way for the Levites who will carry the Ark. “It stands ready.” He nods and backs away to allow the four men access. They carefully lift it and carry it outside the house.
As soon as David sees the Ark of The Lord with its coverings his face shines. He takes a deep breath. He is determined to give full honor and praise to the Lord on this journey.
David called for Abiathar. “Please begin our journey by making a sacrifice to the Lord.”
Abiathar sacrificed both an ox and a fatted lamb in the yard of Obed-edom. He also remained at David’s side for he knew this was just the beginning of his work for this day. David had instructed him that sacrifices were to be made the whole way to Jerusalem. The Levites carrying the Ark of The Lord were to take six steps and then stop. Abiathar would offer another sacrifice to the Lord at that point. Then the journey would proceed another six steps.
This journey was as joyous as the earlier phases of the last journey. The people were awed by David’s care in following the Lord’s command as well as his rendering Him honor. Though the distance was much shorter the trip still took all day.
David, a man of praise and worship, was overcome with joy and praised the Lord with ALL his heart, mind, and body. He sang and danced before the Lord. He wore only an ephod, a plain white garment, as he meant to bring NO honor to himself as king.
“So David and all the house of Israel brought up the Ark of The Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn” (verse 15).
(to be continued)
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I love this story! I would have loved to dance with David. One of my favorite praise songs says I will dance like David danced. I cannot begin to imagine the joy David must have felt that day. To finally have the presence of the Lord back with His people! They had been without it from the time he was a child. This was the very presence of God going to be ‘living in’ his city. What an honor!
Father God, I’m SO GRATEFUL that Your presence is always open to me. I don’t have to look for a symbol of Your presence and go there. You allow me to come to You in spirit at ANY time. That makes my heart leap for joy!
I also need to be respectful when entering Your presence. Like David, I can come in the wrong way. My heart is to focus on You and give YOU priority. I have to lay aside my own plans and let You lead me where You will. Thank You for welcoming me. Thank You for putting music into my heart too, and for the times when You have led me to dance like David danced!