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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 13:7-8 The ark begins to move

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, December 13, 2023

7 They moved the ark of God on a new cart from Abinadab’s house, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs, lyres, harps, drums, cymbals and trumpets.

There is a lot going on here. A little more detail is given in 2 Samuel 6, but we get the idea. There was a brand new cart, never been used, to put the ark on. There were a couple of men who were guiding the cart. They weren’t riding on it, but one of them, Ahio, was leading the oxen who drew the cart. There was a lot of music, and there was a lot of dancing—fierce, energetic, vigorous dancing. Lots of songs were being played and sung.

We’re missing some things, though. What had God commanded about the moving of the ark? Perhaps David himself wasn’t aware of the details God gave about moving the ark. But his priests and Levites didn’t seem to be aware of any of these things, either. We should not necessarily blame David for these oversights. David was a former shepherd, a musician, and a military captain who was now king, but he was no Levite.

Moses said: “Whenever the ark set out, (I) Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’ Whenever it came to rest, (I) said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel’” (Numbers 10:35-36). We are not told whether David said anything like this, and David is not one to pass up quoting the Scriptures if he has an opportunity.

Again, Moses said: “At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name, as they still do today” (Deuteronomy 10:8). The two men in our text, Ahio and Uzzah, were either the sons of Abinadab or descendants of that man. It had been at his house that the ark had rested for seventy years (see 1 Samuel 7:1). We don’t really know whether Abinadab and his sons were Levites or men of Judah. The text doesn’t specify this. We can pore over the names in the lists here in Chronicles and come up with an Ahio or two from Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:14,31). Or maybe three—another one from Benjamin is in chapter 9. And while there’s an Uzzah from Levi (1 Chronicles 6:29) he isn’t the Ahio’s brother or cousin, nor is he Abiniadab’s descendant (son or otherwise). So we don’t know if these escorts were Levites at all. And if they were, they really should have known better. If they weren’t, then the Levites and priests who served David were responsible. They should have known better, but they did not speak up.

Moses also said: “He inserted the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it” (Exodus 37:5). What rings? What poles? What is this about carrying it? David’s men were using a cart or a wagon, which is what the Philistines had used. Was that the best example they could come up with?

Every winter when the snow begins to fall, I remind my sons that when the first real snow falls, nobody at all remembers how to drive. Everyone will make mistakes, so be careful (I call this “Bachelor Rule 26.” There are 31). Somehow it seems as if, ever since Moses and Joshua died, every time someone tried to move the ark, nobody remembered exactly how to do it. Here they were, taking the ark out for a drive, acting as if everybody knew exactly what they were doing. The problem is that nobody remembered any of the important rules God had laid down for doing this.

Who was supposed to announce and pray, “Rise up, O Lord!”? Seems like he was too busy playing the harp and dancing. What could go wrong when there’s more enthusiasm than planning or leadership? “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield” (Proverbs 30:5).

Where were the Levites who were supposed to transport everything? Levites? We have everybody involved. What’s so special about Levi? Who needs the church leaders when we’ve got great music? What could go wrong? “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous; but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).

Where were the priests hefting up the ark on poles and carrying it on their shoulders? Oh, we use modern transport. We’ll use a cart like the Philistines, and oxen like the Philistines. Philistine tradition is just as good as God’s law. What could possibly go wrong? “The Lord is to be feared above all gods, for the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens” (Psalm 96:4-5).

I’m not sure I can bear to watch. Tell me when it’s over. In fact, let’s look away for a couple of days. We’ll return to this scene next Monday.

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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