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1 Chronicles 13:5-6 The plan to bring the ark

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, December 12, 2023

5 Then David assembled all the Israelites, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. 6 David and all the Israelites with him went to Baalah of Judah (that is, Kiriath Jearim) to bring up the ark from there, the ark of God the LORD, who is seated between the cherubim—the ark that is called by the Name.

Kiriath Jearim is in the hills a little over four miles from Jerusalem. Today it is just moments away from the city on Israel’s Highway 1. David brought Israelites from every part of the nation, from as far southwest as the Shihor River (also called the “Wadi of Egypt” or “the Brook of Egypt”) and from as far north as Lebo Hamath, north of Damascus. David invited Israelites from all over the land, from every village and dwelling where Israelites lived, near and far, to take part in the procession.

Why? We can understand why David wanted all of Israel to join together in the decision to transport the ark. But why did David want so many people to be involved in the actual procession?

First, he wanted them to know that the ark was being moved, so that they would know where to go to worship. The ark should have been brought back to the tabernacle. But was the old tabernacle ruined? Jeremiah proclaims God’s word: “Go to my place in Shiloh, where I first made a dwelling place for my Name. See what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel” (Jeremiah 7:12). The city was ruined. “In Jeremiah’s time, Shiloh was little more than a few rocks in the wilderness.” Was that a glorious church that withstood the test of time? No. Its people (for the church is people and not bricks or stones) did not stand the test of faith.

Second, David wanted them to take an active part in worship, and moving the ark was an act of worship, done with solemnity and ceremony, and according to specific instructions from God, and involving all of the tribe of Levi in the move. There would be procession, music, the blowing of horns, prayers, and other worshipful things being done.

Third, the pattern of worship before the ark would be renewed. No one in David’s generation had ever worshiped at the tabernacle with the ark intact and inside, save for a few very old Israelites who remembered Shiloh in the days of Eli and young Samuel. But young Samuel had died of old age before Saul was killed on Mount Gilboa. So it was time for the people to renew the pattern of worship set forth by God on Mount Sinai.

So far, we have been giving David the benefit of the doubt that things were done with the best intentions and for the good of the people (since so very many people were involved) and we are taking his words and actions in the kindest possible way. It may be that most of us reading these verses already know the terrible disaster that was about to happen, but up to that point, which is to say, here in the verses before us, shouldn’t we assume that everything David was doing was for the good of the people, for the good of the Old Testament church, and for the glory of God? There is nothing here to suggest anything else. For example, there can be no selfish reason that David was doing this. David was not in the habit of glorifying himself or anybody else apart from the Lord God. So gathering thousands of Israelites to come and watch, to line the highway from Kiriath-Jearim to Jerusalem, to invite them to come, sing, pray, and cheer for this event, was nothing else than to glorify God among God’s holy people.

One of the Psalms of Asaph, Psalm 80, seems to fit an occasion like this. Perhaps it was written later, but let us examine some of its words and merely apply them to what was taking place here in the second decade of David’s reign.

“Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim” (Psalm 80:1). The reference to the ark reminds us of the two golden angels, cherubim, that covered the cover of the ark by spreading their wings over it (Exodus 25:20).

“Before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh” (Psalm 80:2). The northern tribes were not always a part of the true worship at the tabernacle or the temple. In fact, only during the days of the Judges, and of Saul, David and Solomon were people from Ephraim and Manasseh to be found in the Lord’s tent.

“(Your vine) sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Bears from the forest ravage it, and the creatures of the field feed on it” (Psalm 80:11-13). While this could speak to the destruction of Jerusalem, that happened many centuries after Asaph’s lifetime. This moment and the destruction of Shiloh fits the Psalm’s words better.

“Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:19). The goal of this move of the ark was to restore right worship in Israel. Notice that Asaph’s words pay attention to two of the main goals of worship: first, to give glory to God (“O LORD God Almighty”), and second, “that we may be saved.” This is why we confess in the creed, “I believe in the Holy Ghost… the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

This is why we worship. This is why we give thanks to Christ our Lord. This is why we look forward to our own resurrection.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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