Author: Ron Graham
When David rescued the ark of the covenant, he transported it in a new cart instead of the hands of the priests. Uzzah lost his life but David learned a lesson. So can we.
When Eli was an old man, and Samuel was young, the Philistines won a battle against Israel and stole the ark of the covenant. The Israelites had brought the ark from Shilo to the battlefield thinking it would help them win. When old Eli heard that the ark had been captured, he fell backwards out of his chair, and died of a broken neck. The Philistines bought the ark to Ashdod and set it next to their idol Dagon. The idol fell over twice and was broken. A plague of hemorrhoids ravaged the city. So the Philistines set the ark on a new cart and let it return to the Israelites. The ark was entrusted to the house of Abinadab; his son Eleazar was consecrated to be its keeper (1Samuel ch 3-7).
A long time later, David suggested to the Israelites that the ark should be brought from Abinidab’s house to “the City of David” (Jerusalem). The people agreed and "the thing was right in the eyes of all the people" (1Chronicles 13:3-4). Now note the next thing we read: "They carried the ark of God on a new cart" (1Chronicles 13:7). This is how the Philistines had transported the ark on the advice of their priests, the priests of Dagon. Following that example, David and the people transported the ark from its keeping place to Jerusalem. The new cart was driven by Uzzah. All the people joined David in the jubilant journey, celebrating with music and dancing. Yes, what they were doing was right in their own eyes —but was it right in the eyes of the Lord?
The ark didn't make it to Jerusalem. Along the way, toward Jerusalem, the oxen nearly upset the ark, and Uzzah reached out to steady it. The anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah and God struck him dead. David got angry at this outburst from the Lord, and decided not to take the ark into the city. So it was taken to the house of Obed-edom for safe keeping.
We will say nothing of David’s anger, but we must ask what made God angry? We find the reason in a section of the law of Moses instructing how the ark of the covenant must be transported (Exodus 25:10-15). God specifically ordered that there were to be rings on the ark with poles through them. By these poles the priests could carry the ark without touching the ark itself.
David did not use these instructions; instead he transported the Ark on the new cart. This is a classic “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. However, had the ark been transported God’s way, it would not have been jolted, and Uzzah would not have reached out to touch it.
David later saw the truth. On planning the ark’s next move, he adhered to God’s instructions and didn't borrow from someone else’s ideas and methods (1Chronicles 15:1-28)..
David summed it up this way: previously they had not acted according to the due order, according to the word of God. ¶ "Because you, the priests, did not carry the ark the first time, God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek him according to the due order" (1Chronicles 15:13). So "the Levites bore the ark of God with its poles on their shoulders, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord" (1Chronicles 15:15).
The principle is simple: Seek the Lord according to the due order. There are other stories that illustrate this principle: Cain’s rejected sacrifice of vegetables; Nadab and Abihu’s offering of strange fire; the Corinthians’ mis-observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Often we seek the Lord through what pleases us. Instead we must seek the Lord by what pleases him. Many “new carts” are being used in churches today —things the Lord has not commanded.
If we would be true priests to God (Revelation 1:6), we need to get back to using the “rings and poles” —things that are "according to the due order" for nothing less is due God than faithful obedience to God’s order and command.