1 Chronicles 15:11-15 NLTse (11) Then David summoned the priests, Zadok and Abiathar, and these Levite leaders: Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. (12) He said to them, “You are the leaders of the Levite families. You must purify yourselves and all your fellow Levites, so you can bring the Ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. (13) Because you Levites did not carry the Ark the first time, the anger of the LORD our God burst out against us. We failed to ask God how to move it properly.” (14) So the priests and the Levites purified themselves in order to bring the Ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to Jerusalem. (15) Then the Levites carried the Ark of God on their shoulders with its carrying poles, just as the LORD had instructed Moses.
There is no doubt who ordered the Ark’s next move. The author repeated that detail to draw our attention to the fact, David gave the order. There was no account of the pillar of fire, or the cloud leading the way. No one recorded any command from God. No prophet showed up to tell David to move the Ark. It appears moving the Ark to Jerusalem was David’s idea.
We have to keep this in order. There was a two step process to move the Ark inside the temple. Solomon built the temple, then moved the Ark from David’s tent into the temple. There is also a two step process recorded here. David only moved the Ark so far on his first attempt. David went to Baalah of Judah to bring the Ark to Jerusalem on a new cart. Uzzah touched the Ark and died. David left the Ark at the house of Obed-edom of in Gath, where the Ark remained for three months. During that time King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber, and stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace. And David realized that the LORD had confirmed him as king over Israel and had greatly blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. Then David married more wives in Jerusalem, and they had more sons and daughters. (1 Chronicles 14:1-3 NLTse).
While David waited to move the Ark into his tent in Jerusalem, a number of things happened. David started a number of building projects. David married more women, and king Hiram sent messages and materials to David.
At that time Tyre was the major port and trade city of the Middle East. Tyre was the trading capital of the world. If David could reach Hiram and tell him about God, who knows what doors could have been opened? What about those wives David married? With so many wives, how was David going to be the priest of his family? Every time David married another woman, and had more children, his effectiveness as the priest in the family diminished. We have a spiritual clue to that part of the story when the author told us where God decided to stop the Ark. But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. (1 Chronicles 13:9 NLTse). A threshing floor has a spiritual connection to harvesting this world.
We can’t go too far into interpreting symbols in this story, but we can consider how those symbols draw us deeper into small details used to tell the story. A proper study on this subject would include gathering all the parts of this story scattered in other books in the Bible. Here we are only taking a quick look at an overview of this story and how it relates to the temple, and reflects back on the Tabernacle.
If we were to look at all the times the Ark was moved, we would find out how God told Moses to follow a specific process. The fact Moses recorded that process shows, Moses spoke with God before moving the Ark, and everytime the Ark was moved, it was at God’s command. David had to find that process before he built up enough courage to attempt a second move.
Collecting all the data on the Ark’s moves would lead us to Solomon’s dedication of the temple. We know the Ark was eventually moved inside the stone temple. The end of 2 Kings showed how Babylon invaded Israel, then took all the items out of the temple, and eventually burnt it down. How much did the Ark protect the temple? The Ark didn’t even protect the Tabernacle. No one knows what happened to the Tabernacle. Eventually the Ark wound up missing. Everything was gone. Only the descriptions recorded by Moses survived. We have to ask why.
It seems every book I’ve read on the Tabernacle included the temple, weaving them together in a way that made them appear as one of the same. Other books neglected to look at the process, how and why the temple followed the Tabernacle. They also applied the designs of one to the other, assuming the people who built the temple looked at, and possibly followed plans Moses recorded. But the Bible doesn’t contain any evidence to support such theories.
We do find a strange mixture of customs included in the design of the temple, as well as many articles in the courtyard. Some of those items had close ties with Egypt, the land Solomon’s first wife was from.
Here we are studying the order information was recorded, and how those stories are related. Why did God record those stories in the order we find them in scripture today? The conquest of Jerusalem with the temple treasures carried to Babylon, followed by a short mention of Solomon’s connection to the temple, then the priests returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, and finally, David moving the Ark to Jerusalem. This is a strange order. One we need a lot of time to examine.
At least we learned one thing from the order of those events. We learned how scripture sends us to other books with a little different view of the events. We learned how scripture teaches us how to study scripture in a way many people miss, or don’t want to pay attention to. Like David, they want to find an easier way to study. Wasn’t moving the Ark with a cart and oxen easier than carrying it? Wasn’t a new cart pointing to a new and easier way of studying scripture we often hear people boast about? Symbols can be very useful in studying scripture, but they will never be a substitute for God’s Spirit. We can’t say, this symbol means this, or that symbol tells us that, without spending a lot of time on those stories, and time at the foot of God’s throne.
We know someone had to look back in scripture to find the answer David needed. Isn’t that a clue telling us where the spiritual meaning of this story is, or at least a part of it? What kind of students would we be if we only wanted to look at parts of the story that interested us? Wouldn’t we be as self centered as the author told us David was?
What do we get when we look at David ordering the priests to purify themselves? What about David? What did he do to purify himself? Was David’s job complete when he pitched a new tent in Jerusalem for the Ark? Did David really pitch that tent, or did he command other people to do it for him?
When we see a series of events containing questions, we can now look in the mirror to ask ourselves, do I do the same thing? Do I come up with ideas to serve God, then tell other people what to do instead of setting the example they need? In a way it seems David was a little unsure about his plan. Instead of taking chances, he put other people in charge, giving them the responsibility in case anything went wrong, but having a door open to take all the credit in case everything worked out okay. Is that a plan you tend to follow?
What about looking in the mirror to see if you were the one to study a subject, or did you plan on having other people open scripture, find the answer, then fill you in on major details? If that your preferred method of studying scripture? This story is full of tough questions to ask yourself.
What about telling the priests to purify themselves? Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you do the same thing. Do you expect people to purify themselves, break habits, eat, drink, dress, and worship in a certain way while you take an easier path in life? Do you think you purified yourself by telling other people what to do, while you have no idea what God needs to work on in your life? Is that imagine in the mirror complete before you take your own brand of purification out to the world?
For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:23-27 NLTse).
Too often we forget the all important steps in Bible Study. Look at the physical aspects of the story. Learn to pray about the story, giving the Spirit time to sit down and teach you aspects you never understood or saw before. Gather all the information on the subject, such as other accounts of the story in scripture. Look at the events leading into the story as well as the results in later chapters. Once you see the physical aspects, look at how those details apply to your life. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Make a list of what questions to ask. A close connection with God’s Spirit is vital at this stage. He will know how to point out conditions in your life you never knew existed. When you think you’re ready to take a message out to the world, wait. Don’t jump the gun. The personal message God gave to you is not a one size fits all, this will fix the world’s problems type of message. Don’t take a personal message, tinker with it a little bit, then think you have something new. God’s message is like a glass ornament. You start hammering on it, and it has no choice but to break.
The author told us David asked one question, how to carry the Ark. Nothing about when or where to carry the Ark. That looks a little like the laws of the prophets where a prophet has to tell people how they talked to God, what the message was, and often where and when. What do we get when asking only part of a question, other than part of the answer? This is another issue to take to that mirror.
The priests took orders from David. It seems the priests carried out those orders without question. That brings up another question to ask yourself. Do you accept information, or orders from people without questioning if that was their role, what authority they have, or where their information came from?
It seems the deeper we look into any story, the more questions are presented. That’s how the Spirit works. Most of the questions center around self examination. You have to work with the Spirit to find those questions, and continue to work with the Spirit to find the answers. That’s just how the Spirit works. When Bible Study is nothing more than gathering material to support a preconceived answer, that is not really Bible Study. Using the Bible to produce evidence to support man made ideas is a lot like moving the Ark without God’s permission. What little is taken out of scripture and placed into man made concepts is like taking the Ark out of the environment God designed, then trying to figure out what the Ark really represents.