After 7 years of national division and civil war, David was finally crowned king over all of Israel. He relocated to Jerusalem and displaced the stubborn Jebusites who’d controlled the city for centuries. Once David conquered and secured Jerusalem he officially named it as Israel’s capital. He then began numerous and extensive building projects to improve the city. Among these, David had a luxurious house built for himself made from the finest imported materials.
David also led the armies of Israel on a military campaign to subdue and cripple the Philistines forces. He recognized that they were his greatest threat and decided to take courageous action against them. Under David’s bold leadership, Israel was able to defeat the Philistines in numerous battles and drive them out of Israeli territory. David reclaimed some of the land that had been occupied by the enemy and was able to extend the borders of Israel beyond their previous limits.
Thus far under King David’s rule, Israel was enjoying great growth and success. Unlike his royal predecessor, David realized that the nation’s prosperity was not the result of his own impeccable leadership. He knew that God was responsible for Israel’s well-being and attributed all of her good fortune to the LORD. David had personally experienced God’s faithfulness through years of peril and turmoil, and had developed a deeply committed faith in Him.
This morning’s message is titled “The Ark and the Temple”. In the passages we will cover today, David’s desire to bless the LORD is clearly revealed. God had been so good to him for so long, and David wanted to show his gratitude. Whatsmore, David understood that Israel’s future rested in God’s hands, not in his own.
I. MOVING THE ARK (2 Samuel 6:1-11; 1 Chronicles 13:1-14)
The Ark of the Covenant was arguably the most important artifact in all of Israel. Originally fashioned during the days of Moses, God’s glorious presence was manifest upon the Ark. As such, the Ark was kept shrouded within the Holy of Holies during the days of the tabernacle. It was sometimes carried into battle by the Israelites and was often consulted by the priests and kings. The Ark of the Covenant represented the LORD’s presence, and David desired that it be kept permanently in Jerusalem.
During the judgeship of Samuel, the Ark had been taken by the Philistines after a successful battle. God sent devastating curses and pestilence upon them until they gave it back to Israel. Upon its return the Ark was shuttled around to a few different places before finally ending up in Kiriath-jearim (also called Baal-judah), specifically in the house of Abinadab. It had remained there for at least 20 years.
David sent a delegation of men to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant. They arrived at the house of Abinadab and placed the Ark on a new cart in order to transport it to Jerusalem. As they were proceeding to the capital city David and all of Israel was celebrating joyfully. Along the way the oxen who were pulling the cart stumbled, causing the Ark to suddenly shift. Perhaps instinctually, a man named Uzzah who was escorting the Ark reached out and touched it. The LORD became exceedingly angry and struck Uzzah, who immediately fell dead.
The king’s mood quickly changed from happiness to fear. Seeing what had happened, David was upset with God and decided that moving the Ark to Jerusalem might not be such a good idea. So he diverted the Ark of the Covenant to the house of Obed-edom, where it stayed for 3 months. While it was there, the LORD blessed Obed-edom and his family.
Touching the Ark of the Covenant was a direct violation of God’s law and the clearly stated punishment for doing so was death (Numbers 4:15). Uzzah, who was a Levite, should have known and understood this well. Whatsmore, the presence of God dwelt upon the Ark and to touch it would be a defilement of His holiness. Though Uzzah acted innocently and without malice, his lack of appreciation for God’s law and glory led to his sudden demise.
II. THE ARK ARRIVES (2 Samuel 6:12-23; 1 Chronicles 15:1-29, 16:1-43)
After a few months had passed, David again decided to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. This time, however, he was careful to follow the methods required by God in order to transport it. He assembled a large gathering of Levites and delegated responsibilities to them in accordance with Mosiac Law. Some were to carry the Ark on poles, just as had been done during the exodus. Others were to sing and play instruments as the Ark entered the city. Meanwhile the priests were to be offering sacrifices to the LORD.
The Levites brought the Ark from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem. There was great fanfare and celebration throughout the city. David was so elated that he danced about publicly in the streets. One of his wives, Michal, the daughter of Saul, saw David’s antics and was appalled by his “undignified” behavior. She later confronted him about it, but he dismissed her rebuke. Michal was childless until the day of her death, presumably because she ridiculed David for his uninhibited joyfulness that day.
When the Ark arrived, it was placed in a special tent that David had set up just for it. Additional burnt offerings and peace offerings were made to God. Next the king blessed all of the people who had come to mark the occasion. He also distributed various types of cakes to everyone in the crowd. Finally the king dismissed them to their homes.
In the days that followed, David appointed several Levites (under the leadership of Asaph) to minister before the Ark daily. They were to give continual praise and thanksgiving to the LORD. A special song was composed, compiled of verses from some of David’s previously written psalms, to memorialize the event. It is noteworthy to mention that 12 of the Psalms recorded in the Bible are accredited to Asaph.
III. DAVID’S SINCERE PLAN (2 Samuel 7:1-29; 1 Chronicles 17:1-27)
Sometime later King David had a troubling thought. While he was dwelling in a beautiful and elaborate house, the Ark of the Covenant which represented the very presence of God was residing in a measly tent. David decided that something must be done about this, so he approached the prophet Nathan with a plan to build a temple for the Ark. Nathan initially thought that this was a good idea and told the king to run with it.
That same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan. God told him that he did not want David to build a temple. In fact, instead of David building a house for God the LORD promised to build an eternal house from the line of David. God pledged to not only bless David during his lifetime, but also to establish his throne forever. The Davidic Covenant, as it is known, was accomplished through Jesus Christ - a distant descendant of David. His reign as the King of kings and Lord of lords shall never end.
After Nathan delivered God’s message to David, the king suspended his plans to build a temple. Instead he turned to God in sincere and heartfelt prayer. He thanked the LORD for his faithfulness, kindness, and blessings. He humbly expressed awe that God would secure his kingdom forever. He asked the LORD to continually protect and bless His people Israel.
King David was not a perfect man, as we have already seen and will continue to discover throughout this series. He was, however, a righteous man who had a mature faith in God. David realized that he would not succeed, nor would the nation of Israel endure, unless God was present and active among them. Knowing this, David felt strongly that the Ark of the Covenant, which again represented the manifest presence of God, be located in Israel’s capital. It was this belief that led him to move the Ark to Jerusalem.
What can we learn from David’s conviction? It’s simple really. We will never realize completeness and true satisfaction apart from God’s presence in our lives. Our families will not flourish apart from God’s presence in our homes. We as Christians will be ineffective and fruitless apart from the presence of God in our churches. Our neighborhoods will be weakened by the absence of God in our cities. Our people will be corrupted and led astray apart from God’s presence in our nation. Destruction and condemnation will inevitably come apart from God’s preserving presence in our world. It is God’s presence, or the lack therefore, that will determine our future.
One of the most important things that King David ever did was to bring thing Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Doing so revealed his priorities, and should teach us a valuable lesson about what ours should be. And though David never built a temple for the Ark, his desire to do so showed his deep love for the LORD. He was truly a man after God’s own heart.