This teaching is taken from 1st Chronicles and the life of King David. Worship is much more than singing praises to God once a week in church. First and foremost, worship is a life of obedience to God’s Word.
Learn the importance of obedience as worship in the story of David’s efforts to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from a small town and return it to Jerusalem.
Walt Disney was once asked how it felt to be a celebrity. “It feels fine,” he replied, “whenever he needs a good seat at a football game. But it never helped him, he said to make a good film and it never helped him to get a winning shot in a polo game, and he said it certainly never helped him to bring his daughter into obedience. And he said it doesn’t even seem to keep fleas off our dogs – and if it can’t solve the problem of a couple of fleas, then what good really is being a celebrity?”
I wonder if that’s how God feels sometimes in relationship with His people?
- He is the maker of the Heavens and the Earth.
- He is the Righteous Judge and King.
- He is the author and perfecter of our faith.
Yet, when you look at the way He is treated for all His “celebrity,” for all His well-deserved glory, certainly, among the unbelievers, He is mocked rather than worshipped. And even among the believers, among those He calls his children, you and I, God sometimes receives a superficial form of worship in light of what He should expect to receive given Who He is.
What kind of worship does God expect from His Church? And to be clear, what do I mean by worship? For some, it simply refers to that 35 minute part of the weekly church service when you praise God in music. Or maybe for some of you, watching other people praise God in music. Well, that’s a part of worship, certainly, It’s only a small part of it. Worship in its fullest sense is so much more than what we typically think of when we use that word today in the church. The Bible commands that we worship God as a part of our daily life. That our lives itself would be a form of worship to God. Not a once-per-week, 35-minute performance.
I want to start with one specific and perhaps the most important aspect of worship and that is obedience as worship. We are going to start by looking at this concept of obedience as worship by looking at part of the story of David. From the life of King David out of 1st Chronicles 13 & 15. Obedience To God’s Word
1 Chronicles 13:1-4 (NKJV)
The Ark Brought from Kirjath Jearim
13 Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the Lord our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; 3 and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired (sought) at it since the days of Saul.” 4 Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
Let’s pause here. There is some background we will probably need if we are going to understand what’s about to happen in thee chapters of 1st Chronicles.. This scene in 1st Chronicles 13 takes place in the year 977 BC. Almost a 1,000 years before Christ’s appearance on Earth. At this point in history, David has finally achieved his rightful place as king of Israel. Remember the prior king, Saul, had been reigning for a number of years and David being chased by Saul because David had been anointed the new king even though Saul was still on the throne at that time. If you would go back a couple of chapters in this book. In Chapters 11 & 12 you can read how David received the support, at that point, of all Israel, following Saul’s death including the support of those who had previously been aligned with Saul’s family. Remember, when a king died it was natural to think his heirs would assume the place of the throne. But the case of Saul, his death was not to bring another of Saul’s family onto the throne. It was God’s intent David would now take over that role.
So, it had taken a while for Saul’s family to finally understand and agree with David’s kingship. And by now, at this point, David has been crown. And the whole nation now is rejoicing under their uniting of David at the throne. David promptly leads his nation of Israel into a conquest of Jebus. Jebus was the city of the Jebusites. This is important because that city as David took it from the Jebusites, he renamed it from Jebus to Jerusalem and it became known as the city of David…So David in his first act as king conquers Jebus the city of the Jebusites, makes it Jerusalem, makes it his new home.
Now having established himself in the city of Jerusalem as king of Israel, chapter 13 gives us David’s first official act as the king seated in Jerusalem. And what is his first official act? He says we need to go and get the Ark of the Lord and bring it to Jerusalem. The Ark, of course, is Ark of the Covenant. It was the golden chest built by the Israelites while they wandered in the desert centuries earlier. They built it according to God’s instructions out of Exodus chapter 24. The Ark was important for a couple of reasons. The Ark held the Ten Commandments or what was left of them, and in addition to that, over time it had taken on a couple of other artifacts. The jar of manna that had been placed in there at one point and the budding staff of Aaron. Neither of those two artifacts is in the Ark at this point. They have subsequently been taken out. We don’t know where or when. All that is remaining at this point is the Ten Commandments, The Testimony as it is called. That’s one reason why it’s important.
The other reason was because of what it meant to the nation of Israel. In their relationship to their meeting with God. The top of the Ark had the mercy seat, guarded by golden angels or cherubim. This was the place God had appointed for Him to meet with the high priest and Moses. You can see that in Exodus 25:
Exodus 25:21-22 (NKJV)
21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark, you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
The ark wasn’t just an artifact, it wasn’t just a token, it wasn’t some kind of religious piece of equipment. This was actually the place on Earth where God has chosen to reveal Himself to men and tabernacle with men and communion with men. God could appear anywhere, we know that. But He has chosen to appear on top of the Ark on the mercy seat. So from the standpoint of the nation of Israel, to be without the Ark was to be without the ability to meet with God in the way God provided. So it became a very important artifact to the nation of Israel. With it came specific rules for how it must be handled, Certain things you could do with it, certain things you couldn’t do with it. For example, no one could look upon the Ark or into the Ark or else they would die. It was to be covered at all times with blue cloth and with animals skins.
It must be handled in a certain way and only the Levite priests could handle it. It had rings on the sides so a pole could slide through the rings, a pole covered in gold and then those poles would be held by the Levi priests as they carried it. And only specific Levi’s. Kohathites, descendants of one of Levi’s sons Only that branch of the Levis were able to handle the Ark. All this is in Scripture, all this background, all these rules, and regulations. The Ark also served as a token of God’s power and grace among men. In the desert, it always preceded the Israelites in their wanderings showing the way. It held back the waters of the Jordan as the nation crossed into the promised land. It accompanied Joshua in the march around Jericho. The ark initially rested inside the tabernacle in the desert. Once the Ark left the desert, once they entered into the promised land. It began to rest at a place called Shiloh. Shiloh was the early headquarters, the capital city of Israel while it occupied Canaan. Then for many decades, many centuries back when the Ark resided in Shiloh, in the tabernacle. In the tent, they had constructed according to God’s instructions. Later, you will know after David’s day when Solomon builds the temple they move it into the temple. That’s where it laid until the temple was destroyed.
But it was always this physical representation of God’s holy presence. It was unapproachable holiness. It was the visible reality of God dwelling on Earth. But with that came all of those special requirements for handling and approaching the Ark because you were essentially approaching God in the way He chose to manifest Himself on Earth. Obedience To God’s Word
Back to 1st Chronicles chapter 13, now with that background. Why is the Ark now the issue for David? Because the Ark is no longer in the Temple at Shiloh. At this point, in 1st Chronicles chapter 13, it’s now residing in the small Judah town of Kiriath-jearim. It is sitting in the private home of a man named Abinadab. It’s being cared for by his son, Eleazar. How the Ark found its way to Abinadab’s home you can read in 1 Samuel chapters 4-7. But here’s the synopsis of it. The Philistines had taken it in a battle. They had taken it back to Ashdod their main city and put it in the temple of their god Dagon and viewed it as spoils of war. In the two years they had it, God showed them they should not have it. God toppled the statue of the Philistine god Dagon and God inflicted the Philistines with tumors which were actually enlarged hemorrhoids creating severe pain. They didn’t understand or like their circumstances and finally thought maybe it is the Ark they captured. But they were not certain it was. So how do they know for sure it is the Ark? They decided to put the Ark on a cart pulled by two mother cows who happen to be nursing their calves. Now naturally if I let go and say go where you want, the cows are going to go right back to their calves because they are nursing. And the calves were nearby. So they set up a test. They said let’s see what happens if the cows go back to their calves. Then they will know it is not the Ark bringing suffering upon them. If they start walking back to Israel with this Ark on the cart, despite the instinct which would have naturally had them going back to their calves, then they will know God is at work. It means it is truly the Ark and they will let it go. As you probably guessed they let it go and it ended up going all the way back until it appeared in this little town called Beth Shemesh, a city in Israel. The men in Beth Shemesh recognized the Ark and they are so thrilled to see God has returned His Ark, they immediately took the two mother cows sacrificed them right then and there to God and burned them as a sacrifice.
Saul never made any attempt to go get the Ark himself. And when it appears in Beth Shemesh I want you to see what happens here. 1 Samuel 6: obedience To God’s Word
1 Samuel 6:19-7:1 (NKJV)
19 Then He (God) struck the men of Beth Shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter.
The Ark at Kirjath Jearim
20 And the men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? And to whom shall it go up from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come own and take it up with you.”
7 Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord.
So that’s how it ended up in this strange little town, in this man’s home. Here you see one of those rules of the Ark being disrespected. God had specified in Numbers 4 that no one may look upon the Ark or its contents or they would die. So the men of Beth Shemesh apparently very excited about the return and just celebrating and arguably they are here worshipping God through the appearance of this Holy vessel and in their excitement they look at the Ark or look upon it or they look in it. And as a result, God judges them for their disobedience. Now if you are like me, you probably wonder at this point, at this moment anyway, was God fair to do this? Couldn’t He overlook their mistake and simply take note they were joyful for its return? They were in a sense worshipping Him. They were excited to see God bring back something so important and Holy to them. Well, naturally the people of Beth Shemesh react in fear and they call for their friends in this little town nearby and tell them to come and get the Ark. They give it to this man Abinadab and ask him to keep it in his home. He ends up keeping it for 20 years. This whole time King Saul could have gone down, retrieved it and brought it back to Shiloh where it deserved to be. But Saul, for the most part, couldn’t care less.
So back to 1st Chronicles 13, David is seated on the throne. The city of Kirjath-jearim is about 9 miles to the west of Jerusalem. Not very far. So David now in the city consults with the Army and says let’s go get the Ark. Why do you think he is interested in getting the Ark? Given its history, this is not something you want to play around with. Given its history why is he now so suddenly interested in retrieving the Ark? This is his first official act as king. Of all the things he could do, that was his first thought. I would argue based on what we see at the end of 1st Chronicles chapter 15 where the Ark actually arrives into the city. If you know the story, David is seen celebrating in the streets. Dancing for joy, singing and leaping because of his excitement and his thrill seeing the Ark return into the city. I would argue based on that, we can fairly say his interests was the right kind of interest. His interest truly was to see God honored. To see the Ark returned, to see it in its proper place. To see the nation of Israel once again worshipping their God in the way established by God in His word. To do what they were supposed to do. He wants to worship God. After all, we know David is called a man after God’s own heart. And I think his heart here is true. So he initiates this campaign to return it. Now I want you to see what happens when he goes about doing this. Now watch what happens as we read further in 1st Chronicles 13: Obedience To God’s Word
1 Chronicles 13:5-14 (NKJV)
5 So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor in Egypt to as far as the entrance of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath Jearim. 6 And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who dwells between the cherubim, where His name is proclaimed. 7 So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. 8 Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.
9 And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. 11 And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. 12 David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?”
13 So David would not move the ark with him into the City of David but took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 14 The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that he had.
That story sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Similar to the one we read about the men in Beth Shemesh but on a different scale. One man here instead of the many in Beth Shemesh. Here’s another group of men celebrating the Ark’s return and trying to do the right thing by God. But again, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt as the saying goes. And in this case, it’s Uzza. He puts out his hand. Now again, it seems like God would give the guy some credit for trying. What he is worried about is the Ark falling off the cart. In light of not wanting to see that happen, he puts his hand out. This is reasonable behavior, isn’t it? And yet, for touching the Ark, which again was an offense under the Law, God doesn’t even wait for a future day, He judges him right then and there and he brings him dead.
Take a second look at the details in the verses we just read. David at the beginning of that passage instructs the men to load the Ark on a cart pulled by oxen. You would expect he is trying to be honoring here by virtue of using a new cart. There was a principal in the East and is still there today where you have things set aside for sacred purposes, separate from those things set aside for common purposes. We call it consecrated. The word consecrated means to set aside for Holy purpose. So the cart being new means David did not take it upon himself to use some common cart. A cart that had already been put into use for common day purposes. No, David went and found a brand new cart and he consecrated it. He set it aside for a Holy and reverential use transporting God’s Holy Ark. You even see in the fact he used a new cart, evidence of David trying his best, it seems, to do the right thing by God in the way he transported the Ark.
Tomorrow we conclude this study on obedience as worship. See how it ties into our lives today
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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