I Chronicles 13
by Pastor Mark Hudson
The author of Chronicles (Ezra?) is concerned to show David as the true king of Israel. The author is also teaching, preaching and encouraging a post-exilic community to return to Jerusalem and restore worship that God has ordained. Therefore, the author is not merely covering history like an unbiased reporter (as if one exists). The author is concerned to show why David is the legitimate King and how important God’s presence and worship is for the people of God.
In I Chronicles 13-16, we have the narrative of David bringing the ark of God back to Jerusalem. The ark of God represents the presence of God. For David to bring the ark to Jerusalem signifies David’s desire to place God front and center in his life and the life of the nation. The ark is not merely an ornament or relic but is where God said He would be.
The difficulty is how David decided to bring the ark from the Philistines to Jerusalem. I Sam 6:1ff, the priests and diviners of Philistia instructed the Philistines to return the ark of God back in a cart. But these priests and diviners were just making things up. They didn’t know what to do with the ark. David, on the other hand, had Numbers 4 that provided detailed instruction about the ark and how to move the ark. Numbers 4:15 taught Israel that “they must not touch the holy things, lest they die.” The sons of Kohath were to put poles through the rings on the ark and carry the ark that way. In Exodus 25:10ff, God through Moses told them how to construct the ark and the two rings on each side of the ark were part of those directions. In v. 14, “And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them.
It is interesting that David goes out of his way to enlist the support of the nation of Israel. In Chronicles 13, David consults with every leader in v. 1. He appeals to the people and God’s will in the next verse. He offers to gather people from as way away as Egypt and the north of Israel and priests and Levites for an assembly. Everyone seemed to agree with the plan (v. 4).
To show that good intentions are not paramount in God’s eyes, we observe that David is not following God’s Word. The instructions about the ark and how to move it were clear and David disregarded them. Yes, “David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets” (v. 8). Sounds like Psalm 150. But it was still wrong. For all the noise, music, and signing, they ignored the clear teaching from Moses. God was going to let them know about it.
That ark should have never been on the cart. Someone should have said, “Wait, this is great we are returning the ark of God to Jerusalem, but this is not the way to move the ark. Where are the poles and where are the sons of Kohath to carry those poles? Yes, let’s move the ark but God has given us clear instructions and commands. Let’s be sure we honor Him by our obedience to His commands.”
You may just want to read the New Testament or read a few isolated verses in the Old Testament you like. However, there is no substitute for reading and rereading the entire Bible, studying the entire Bible, listening and reading sermons (not just one a week). You can’t go to seminary and then sit back and never study and scratch and claw to understand the Bible. Nor can you expect to grow and please God with a half-hearted devotion to God.
It seems to me that one indication you are growing spiritually is you demonstrate an insatiable appetite and desire for God’s Word. A spiritually alive congregation can’t get enough of the Scripture and loves to obey and submit to God’s Word. That seriousness for His word is a joy all itself. No Christian should ever say, “Enough of the Bible, enough of solid teaching, and enough of reflection on the Bible.”
Thankfully, the story does not end here. While the chapter concludes, the ark does come back home. Skip ahead to I Chronicles 15:1-2: “And he (David) prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of the Lord . . .” In chapter 13, the reader may have wondered about David. After all, the Chronicler is portraying David as the rightful king contrasting him with Saul. In 13:9-13, we wonder about David’s decisions, wisdom, and if this is the trajectory of his kingship.
Never dismiss the power of God’s grace. Yes, judgment for disobedience is promised and was delivered. But correction for the good of everyone follows. The ark, the presence of God, worship according to God’s standards commences (chapter 15 is a deluge of Levitical names). Someone got the message! And the people are blessed.
Our simple obedience ushers in a flood of blessings for others. Do you think you are not significant? Think you sins or your obedience doesn’t matter? Sin always invites God’s wrath and obedience is always followed by God’s riches blessing. Pretend you are driving the car for others. If you drive to the right place safely, everyone in your car arrives safely. If you sin, others suffer. If you obey, others are blessed. You matter to God as well as to others.
Our dear heavenly Father, we often ignore Your Word for our own plans that we consider better or easier. We can be cavalier about You and Your call on our lives. Wake us up to be vigilant, prepared, and eager to please You. Open our eyes to the blessings of obedience. Help us to express our love in signing, praise and music along with joyful obedience to You. In the glorious, eternal, loving, giving name of Jesus. Amen.