Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

In a Hurry

David was a pioneer. As he established Jerusalem as the newly formed capital of Israel, he has lots to do. One of the first items on his agenda was to bring the ark of the covenant into the city. This is not the boat that Noah built, but a four-foot wooden box that was covered in gold. It was an important piece, signifying the presence of God. David knew it was essential in ruling a God-centered people. David is all about getting the job done. He convenes the people, purchases a new cart and plans the transport. David is exuberant; dancing and celebration mark the journey. Everything is going great until the ox stumbles.

(2 Samuel 6:6–7 NIV) When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

As I read this story, I am left scratching my head. It seemed that David had all the right intentions. He was eager to bring a central piece of worship into the city. He gathered the nation and called for a celebratory venture. He found the most efficient way to transport a gold covered box that was likely top heavy because of its design. And when someone with good intentions tries to prevent the ark’s destruction, God kills him. David shares in my confusion. He does not understand what happened. The Scripture reads,

(2 Samuel 6:8 NIV) Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

Why? What happened? Are you kidding? Seriously? These are the emotions that David is experiencing. He does more than question God; he is ticked off. Thankfully, the story does not stop here. David returns to Jerusalem without the ark. In time, he cools down and allows God to reveal Himself. The ark goes to the house of Obed-edom.

(2 Samuel 6:11 NIV) The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.

The text tells us that David was afraid, and the LORD blesses Obed-edom. I took the time to survey the Hebrew word for afraid. It the same word that is used to describe Adam and Eve following their sin. It describes Abram and Sarah during times of doubt and uncertainty. It is the opposite of faith. Fear is opposed to trust. David learns that God is not out to get him. Rather God desires to bless him. When David hears of the blessing in the home of Obed-edom, he decides to retrieve the ark. But this time, the operation will take a different approach. David does his homework; he examines God’s instructions from Exodus 25. A cart is not to be used; rather poles, rings and Levites are required to transport the ark. David abandons efficiency and adopts an attention to detail. If you look at the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles, you will notice that David goes to great lengths to make sure everything is by the book.

(1 Chronicles 15:15 NIV) And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD.

David emphasizes in accordance with the word of the LORD. As I reflect on this story, I am reminded that God is concerned with details. While you could debate the necessity of ritual and tradition, it is certain that God is not willing to allow David to rewrite the rules. Sure, he had a lot to do. He was busy establishing a new kingdom. But God wanted David to understand the seriousness of doing things His way. He wanted David to slow down long enough to pay attention to his leading.

As I consider the issue of discernment in churches, I am convinced that we too often get in a hurry. We live in a culture of busy, fast, efficient. We are eager to grow our churches quickly. But we must be careful to pause, to listen to God. We cannot assume that our cultural values are important to God.

I love how the story ends. David goes above and beyond God’s requirements as he brings the ark into the city.

(2 Samuel 6:13 NIV) When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.

Some scholars understand this as a one time sacrifice at the beginning of the journey. Others believe that they are actually stopping to sacrifice every six steps. They would have moving at a snail’s pace. But David was not longer concerned about speed. In this slow procession, David authentically worships. He is wearing an ephod see last post, a priestly garment. He finds himself lost in celebration. David could not have experienced this if God would have winked at the cart-strategy for moving the ark. God was teaching David an invaluable lesson. May we learn from it also.