Posts tagged ark of the covenant
Have you ever set a course, known exactly where you were going and the right way to get there, only to be tripped up along the way when you tried to take a shortcut? It happens to me all the time and it happened to David (and more directly to Uzzah) when the Israelites were returning the ark of the covenant back to its rightful home.
You see, there was nothing wrong with taking the ark back from Kiriath Jearim. That was a great idea! I even think that an accidental touching of the ark might have been forgiven if circumstances had been different. But here’s the thing: God had laid out very specific instructions for the transportation of the ark. The whole time that Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness, setting up and tearing down the tabernacle, the ark was carried in the specified way.
But when David and his men went to recapture the ark and bring it back to Israel, somebody had a bright idea. Work smarter, not harder, right? Instead of carrying the ark all that way on poles, why not just throw it on a cart and roll that bad boy on home? Who could argue that the cart wasn’t a more efficient mode of transportation for the gold-laden ark?
But God had a larger point to make. You see, throughout history, from the very dawn of time, a pattern had emerged among God’s people. Time and time again, things had gone from really good to really bad – from honoring God to defying him – and the common thread that ran through each episode was a singular idea: compromise.
God laid out specific plans for his people, but somewhere along the way, someone said, “Well, surely he won’t mind if we just…” From the serpent telling Eve “you’ll surely not die” to the Israelites in the wilderness who insisted on trying to store up extra manna, to those who decided to adopt some of the worship practices of the nations they conquered, it was the people’s appetite for compromising God’s instructions which eventually led to the downfall of entire civilizations.
This time, God wanted to put an end to the compromise before it started. David’s reign had the potential to change everything for God’s people, but they needed to know that he would not stand for compromise. And so, when they threw that ark up onto a cart and hauled it away, God had to do something. And when one of the oxen stumbled and the cart became unstable, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark – something he wouldn’t have had to do if they had simply followed God’s instructions for transporting the ark.
God made it very clear to the Israelites that he wouldn’t accept compromise. I think he still makes it clear to us today. As much as we love and embrace the idea of grace, we should equally embrace God’s instructions for our lives. He may not strike us dead for compromising (though he reserves that right), but it is my firm belief that God gives unfathomable blessings to those who follow him closely – those who manage to love and embrace others (as we are commanded to do) while refusing to compromise their faith.
When the Israelites took the ark back home, they were literally taking God’s dwelling place – and his presence – with them. What would happen if you and I purposefully set out to restore God’s dwelling place in our own hearts and minds? And what if we were unwilling to compromise – unwilling to take shortcuts – in preparing that place for him? Perhaps, like Obed-Edom, the Lord will bless our household and everything that we have.
Today’s Reading: Numbers 7
When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him. (Numbers 7:89)
A new day had dawned for Israel. Previously, the Lord had spoken to Moses on a mountaintop – a place where Moses would go by himself, be gone for days and, eventually, return with a message from the Lord. Now, God had come a little closer. God had instructed Moses to construct a place for him – to have a recognized meeting place where they could talk. And now, after the tabernacle was dedicated (with a LOT of animals and grain) it finally happened.
No longer would Moses have to trek up into the mountains to meet with God. No longer would he have to be away from his people for days. Now, God was nearer. And so, this was no insignificant day. For Moses, it had to be a huge relief. Not only would this make his life a little easier, but it was a confirmation that all of this work had not been in vain. And even more than that, it was a confirmation to the people that Moses still “had it.” He was still God’s man for the job.
I think it’s interesting though that, once again, God’s actions in this story serve as a foretaste of his work of salvation through Jesus. You see, this pattern of God drawing nearer to his people would continue several thousand years later as Jesus’ life and death brought an end to the temple curtain that separated those who were “in” with God and those who were not. God would, once again, draw closer to his people.
Through Jesus, we are able to approach God in our daily lives, much like Moses could approach him in the tabernacle – here, instead of up there. The lengths to which God would go, not once, but twice, to make himself more accessible to us – even though we didn’t deserve it – are astounding. God bent over backwards to make it easier for us. And he continues to do it over and over and over again. How often do we take time to recognize that generous gift?