The Blessing and Curse of the Ark
“The anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God” (v. 10).- 1 Chronicles 13
After David established his capital at Jerusalem, he moved to bring the ark of the covenant into the city. The ark had been in the home of Abinadab in the Judahite city of Kiriath-jearim for about twenty years when David captured Jerusalem (1 Sam. 6:1–7:2). Now it was time for the ark to be moved to the city where the king of Israel lived. After all, the ark was the old covenant representation of the footstool of our God (1 Chron. 28:2), the symbol of His reign. Since the king of Israel was to rule in submission to and as a representative of the Creator (Deut. 17:14–20; 33:1–5; 1 Sam. 12; Ps. 89:18), it made sense to have the tangible representation of God’s throne in the same city as the Israelite monarchy. Its presence would remind the godly human king that his reign was not absolute, that he served the true king of Israel, the Lord God Almighty (1 Sam. 8:7; Ps. 22:28).
David did not bring the ark to Jerusalem apart from the consent of the people. That is what we learn in today’s passage from the Chronicler, the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles tell much of the same story as 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings, and we will turn to the Chronicler’s account from time to time as we study the Old Testament Historical Books. It should be noted, however, that 1–2 Chronicles were written after the exile, unlike 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings, so the Chronicler often emphasizes proper worship, for he wanted to make sure that the postexilic community of Israel did not repeat the same mistakes as the preexilic generation. The concern for worship is seen, for example, in 1 Chronicles 13:2–4, where the Chronicler uses the same word for “assembly of Israel” that is used for the community gathered for worship. The decision of the community to bring the ark to Jerusalem was a decision motivated at least in part by a desire to centralize the true worship of God’s people.
Speaking of worship, the failure of the Israelites to follow the directions of worship led to the cursing of Uzzah as described in today’s passage (vv. 5–12). We will consider this more in a few days, but the people were not following what the law said regarding the transport of the ark (Ex. 25:10–16), and that ultimately led to Uzzah’s being struck dead. The actual presence of the ark was a source of blessing for an obedient people, as seen in the blessings that came to the house of Obed-edom, where the ark stayed temporarily after Uzzah’s death (1 Chron. 13:13–14).
Today’s passage indicates that the Lord takes His worship seriously. We are not allowed to treat God with irreverence by ignoring what He has commanded regarding worship, and if we do so, there may be severe consequences. Let us seek to be faithful to the Lord as we praise Him, worshiping Him according to the Scriptures.
Passages for Further Study
2 Samuel 6:1–11
1 Corinthians 11:27–30