King David is one of the most dynamic and compelling figures in the Old Testament. He is a man of action and a man of passion. He is brave and bold, as a youth, defying giants and as a man, displaying valor and grace and compassion to his friends and even to his foes. David is a man after God’s own heart, a man who fiercely loves Yahweh and seeks to know his God with all his soul. Yet, David is also a man with weaknesses and flaws that almost destroy him. A careful study of his life and exploits provides us with many lessons of what to do and what not to do as we, too, pursue the Lord.
In 1 Chronicles 13, David is contemplating a significant decision: “What to do with the ark of God?” The king then consults with the leaders of Israel (13:1) and decides to bring up the ark of God to Jerusalem. This seems like a good idea because “the thing was right in the eyes of all the people (13:4).” But there is something wrong here, because while David consulted with men, there is not even a hint that he consulted with the LORD. David did not seek the LORD (Psalm 63:1) and David did not wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 40:1), but instead he sought the counsel of those who would agree with him, which is a dangerous path (See Rehoboam’s decision in 1 Kings 12:13-14).
As a result of the unwise, godless counsel, David and all Israel come up with a bad plan. They decided to carry the ark of God on a new cart being pulled by oxen. Now, this should sound familiar, because this is exactly what the pagan Philistines had done when the ark of God was with them and the LORD was killing them and tormenting them (1 Samuel 6:7-8). The Philistines, who were completely ignorant of the Law of Moses, had placed the ark on a new cart, but now the anointed king of Israel, along with the priests and the Levites (13:2) and all the people, the very ones who have received the Law of the LORD and who have been entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), do what the pagans did! Instead of carrying the ark as prescribed by the revealed word of God, the people throw it on the back of an ox cart (13:7) and begin celebrating before God with all their might (13:8).
While David’s heart and the hearts of the people may have been in the right place, the LORD’s anger is burning. The best of intentions does not change the fact that David is in flagrant sin. He has disobeyed the clear instruction of the word of God and has treated the ark of God without reverence or holiness. All the passionate celebrating is meaningless if the actions are disobedient and are contrary to the LORD’s revealed will. As a result of David’s disobedience, Uzzah is directly in harm’s way, and when he reaches out to touch the ark (13:9), the anger of the LORD breaks out against Uzzah and strikes him dead. Because of his disobedience and because of the outburst of the Lord’s anger, “David was afraid of God that day (13:12).” So, the ark is placed in the house of Obed-edom as David goes back to Jerusalem.
This chapter is packed with lessons and principles. What can we learn from this incident in the life of King David?
First, we can learn lessons about making decisions. We see that David is faced with a significant decision. For all of us, life is full of decisions, and some of them are significant. So, the first thing that we need to do is recognize when a decision is significant. There needs to be a voice inside our head that bellows, “This is a biggie! You want to get this one right! Don’t mess it up!” Notice that David did not treat the moving of the ark as a significant decision and so he did not work very hard to see if it was the wise thing to do. Don’t make David’s mistake! Slow down and be careful with big decisions.
Once you recognize a significant decision, you need to seek counsel and find wisdom. You must turn to the Lord and to His Word. This is the reason it is so critical to know the Word of God very well, to know how to pray for wisdom, and to surround yourself with godly people who can advise you from the mind of God. So then, you will seek the Lord directly in prayer, seek Him by careful and alert Bible study, and seek His will by listening carefully to godly counsel, even from people who may not agree with you. Again, we see that David did not seek the LORD’s will but decided that he and the priests and leaders of Israel were the ones to make this decision. “No big deal! We got this one.” As a result, David creates a bad plan that disobeys God’s Word and leads to disaster.
Next, while we seek the Lord’s direction and seek to know His will regarding a decision, we must also actively wait for the Lord’s guidance. Instead of waiting for the LORD to give His answer, David creates his plan and then rushes that plan into action. A wiser course of action would have been to create a plan and then, in a sense, offer it to the LORD for His stamp of approval. If we seek the LORD, then He will answer His people (Psalm 91:15), but if we simply plunge ahead, the LORD will often allow us to experience the consequences of our hasty decisions.
Also, we see that David and his counselors seem to listen to worldly wisdom. Notice that David’s advisers tell him to put the ark of God on a new cart. There is almost certainly a connection between what the Philistines did with the ark in 1 Samuel 6 and what David is advised to do with the ark in this chapter. The fact that in both places in Scripture the ark is placed on a new cart must be more than a coincidence. Most likely David’s advisers had heard about what the Philistines did with the ark and decided that was a good plan for David, as well. The point here is that the disciple of Jesus must be very cautious about the world’s wisdom. The world has a very different standard of honesty and the world has different goals for what the world does. The world is greedy for money and lusts after sex and fame and power, and the world is controlled by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), by the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:3). Thus, the world uses different means than believers and has different objectives than believers. Because this is the case, the disciple of Jesus must be cautious with worldly advice.
Another lesson that we can learn from this passage stems from the experience Israel has with worship. Observe that, despite that fact that David and all Israel are celebrating before God as the ark is being moved to Jerusalem (good), the anger of the LORD is nevertheless burning, because they are disobeying the LORD’s clear instruction about how to transport the ark of God (BAD). The lesson is that, if the actions are sinful and opposed to the commandments of the LORD, no amount of good intention or “good” behavior will remove the LORD’s judgment. Until the sinful or disobedient behavior or belief is removed, the LORD’s displeasure remains. (Psalm 66:18) In other words, there is no amount of good that will outweigh even a small amount of “bad.” The disciple of Jesus must repent of all known sin, not try to offset the sin with some sort of “good works.” Attempts to please God through good works are filthy rags before the LORD (Isaiah 64:6).
These are some of the lessons from David’s mistakes in 1 Chronicles 13. But the next chapter shows that David learns from his mistakes and corrects his errors. I will take a look at those events in a future blog.
SDG rmb 9/16/2019