1 CHRONICLES 13,14,15 and 16
Two main events occur in today’s readings: The battles against the Philistines and the bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem. The Books of Samuel and Chronicles deal with them in a different order, because of the different emphases of each book. The Chronicles account is not chronological!
The Philistines hear that David is now king over all Israel and realize that this is serious for them, since the northern trade routes are again being controlled by Israelite military forces. So they go for an all-out attack before David has completely established himself in his new kingdom. Twice, before each of the two major battles, David does the right thing, by enquiring of the Lord’s will for him. Each time, the Lord gives him strategic military advice which – of course – makes David’s army completely successful. The Philistine idols are captured and then burned to ashes. As we seek God before making key decisions in our lives, we will guarantee success, for two reasons: Firstly, because God knows the best course of action for us; and secondly, because by seeking God’s will, we are honouring him – so he honours us too.
The second battle involved the army of God marching directly against the Philistines, with David’s troops only providing the rearguard attack. God’s army comprised angelic beings, with the Lord himself as their commander; he is known as the ‘Lord of Hosts’, or the ‘Lord of Heaven’s Armies’. Revelation 19:11 speaks of the Faithful and True One, who leads the armies of heaven, whose name is ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’. This same Commander confronted Joshua by the side of the Jordan in Joshua 5:13-15. Since He is our commander too, why do we engage in so much spiritual warfare without seeking our orders from above?
David then makes arrangements for bringing the Ark to Jerusalem from the place in Israel where it rested when the Philistines sent it back (it was a curse to them!). The day started so well and then ended so badly. Uzzah, one of the sons of the man who had cared for the Ark all those years, reached out to steady the Ark when the cart tilted on the road; God put him to death for that ‘irreverent act’. David was very angry with God and also very frightened since the Lord seemed so unpredictable. Consequently, the Ark did not continue the journey that day, but was left in the household of Obed-Edom for three months – which gave that household three months of amazing blessing!
The presence of God, as represented by the Ark, cannot be taken for granted and cannot be presumed upon. Too often in our church gatherings and in our private lives, we treat His presence with contempt and with a lack of respect or awareness. I am not referring to special places in special buildings, but to the Lord’s glory and holiness in our lives, individually and corporately today. In the Book of Acts, Ananias and Saphira died when they lied to the Holy Spirit. When the Lord is moving in power, it is as though the ‘stakes are raised’ and unholy behaviour is punished more harshly than at other times. So let’s watch out!
After the three months were up, David wanted the blessing that God’s presence provides and brought the Ark up to Jerusalem the correct way this time. Oxen pulling a cart was the Philistine way of doing it, whereas the Lord had specifically commanded that his Ark be carried on poles by the Levites on foot (see Exodus 25:12-15). In the Chronicles account, David repents of his failure to be obedient the first time. The king himself dances in praise in front of the Ark to honour God – and incurs the displeasure of his wife, Michal. David did not care what humans thought of him; he would risk losing all his dignity in giving the Lord lavish praise, and that is exactly what he chose to do. Michal’s punishment for her mockery was to be barren for the rest of her life. We too need to be careful in how we think about other Christians; it has been said that ‘a fanatic’ is someone who loves Jesus rather more than we do! Avoid criticizing others, particularly in the way that they choose to serve the Lord; very rarely does anyone in scripture lose out by being too ‘extravagant’ in their devotion to Him. And most critics are rather reticent about the level of their devotion too!
1 Chronicles 16 describes the new location for the Ark: a special tent that David set up in Jerusalem. At that time, there were two places of worship: the Tabernacle at Gibeon, overseen by Zadok the High Priest, and the Tent of the Ark in Jerusalem, overseen by Abiathar the High Priest. Both centres of worship had their different roles, which were later properly combined when Solomon built and consecrated the Temple in Jerusalem.