David was a man after God’s own heart. He was a prophet. God had raised him up to be the greatest king that the people of Israel would know (besides Jesus). But he was also human. He made mistakes. We can learn from his mistakes.
One of David’s mistakes is recorded in 1 Chronicles 15:12&13 (NKJV) – David speaking to the Levites: “…..sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”
You may remember this story. David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem for the first time. A man named Uzza was driving the cart that was carrying the Ark. When the oxen stumbled, he reached out and touched the Ark and the Lord struck him dead. This first movement of the Ark of the Covenant is recorded in both 1 Chronicles 13 and in 2 Samuel 6. Later, David moved the Ark a second time, but this time as God had instructed, using the Levites as carriers and also using the poles that were designed for this purpose rather than the cart. Let’s look closer at what happened.
The background of the situation is that David became king in the place of Saul, as the Lord had decided, since Saul had disqualified himself by doing many things to anger the Lord. David was anointed to be king when he was a young shepherd boy by the prophet Samuel, but spent many years running from Saul, who wanted to kill him. Finally, Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle against the Phillistines.
One of the first things David did when he learned of Saul’s death was to inquire of the Lord. The Lord instructed him to go to Hebron, where the men of Judah came and anointed him king over the house of Judah. Saul’s son Ishbosheth was made king over the remainder of Israel. Later Ishbosheth was assassinated, so all the remaining tribes of Israel, with the elders, came to David and anointed him king over all of Israel. It was at this time that David decided to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
The record in 1 Chronicles gives more information about the situation. Starting at the end of chapter 12, we see that David and the people of Israel are celebrating: “And they were there with David for three days eating and drinking, for their brethren had made preparation for them. And also their neighbors, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on asses and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of meal, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.”
In 1 Chron. 13, we see that David decides to consult with the commanders of the army and other leaders: “David consulted with the commander of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, ‘if it seems good to you, and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send abroad to our brethren who remain in all the land of Irael and with them to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasture lands, that they may come together to us. Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us; for we neglected it in the days of Saul.’ All the assembly agreed to do so for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.”
It seems that the error here was that David consulted with the leaders, rather than consulting the Lord directly. When David learned of Saul’s death, he inquired of the Lord directly for what he should do next. Why on the occasion of moving the Ark to Jerusalem, does he instead consult the people?
One interesting difference in David’s situation is the fact that it is a time of celebration and joy for David. After many years of fleeing Saul’s unjust wrath and attempts to murder him, and being an outcast from his people, knowing that God had anointed him as king, finally, David is embraced by the entire nation of Israel and is exalted as their king. The people bring food and drink for a celebration that lasted for at least 3 days.
In contrast, when he first learned of Saul and Jonathan’s death, he is broken, distressed and in mourning, he tore his cloths, wept and fasted for Saul and Saul’s son Jonathan, who was his close friend, and was like a brother to him.
In a time of brokenness and distress our flesh is subdued and we are less likely to be influenced by our fleshly motives or thoughts. In times during or right after a celebration we are more vulnerable to our fleshly thinking. Our guard is down. I don’t know if this was the case for David or not, but it would seem likely. Here he was with all of his people, rejoicing and celebrating his being established as king. God finally came through on His promise and lifted up David and delivered him from his enemies. During the celebration, David pulled together the leaders and consulted with them. Somehow it was determined that rather than carrying the Ark of the Covenant using poles and the Levite priests as carriers, as the Lord had instructed them in the past, they would use a “new cart” to take the Ark to Jerusalem. We don’t know if it was David’s idea to use a new cart, but regardless, he endorsed it. Maybe someone thought that since it was a “new” cart it was honoring to God. The celebration continued with a parade with music surrounding the ark, until Uzza died.
There’s a warning here to be cautious right after times of victory or celebration. We are vulnerable and our enemy, Satan, is aware of this. We must not give him opportunity to indulge any of our carnal desires or carnal thinking. Satan knows how to appeal to our flesh. He did so with Eve in the garden and will tell us similar lies today. He comes as an angel of light to deceive us. We may even think we are pleasing the Lord. David may have thought that since all the leaders and people thought that this was a good thing, that he was aligned with God’s will. Obviously, he later found out this was not true.
As I mentioned earlier, we should not think that consulting people is a substitute for consulting God. You may say that David was a prophet and he could hear God’s voice, so it was different for him than you. I disagree. God is able to communicate to us just as surely as He did to David. We can know what God’s direction is in our circumstances. We must ask Him first. We must take it to Him in prayer first. We can hear His still small voice, or be shown in the scriptures, or by some other means of communication. He is our Shepherd and we, His sheep, can hear His voice. We know His leading. The key is to go to Him. Ask Him for clear guidance. Ask Him for wisdom for your circumstance. He is faithful to supply what you need.
It is easier for us to run to a man. A wise, godly man will direct you to God anyway, and admit that as a human he is not capable of giving the direction that only God can give. Only God knows the future. Only God fully remembers the past (we forget so easily). Only God sees the full picture of the present. Only God knows people’s hearts and sees their thoughts. Men can only guess. God has a purpose and a plan that no other man knows or understands.
God had a reason and purpose for the instructions He had given for carrying the Ark of the Covenant. There were also warnings about touching God’s Holy things, that people would die if they did (see Numbers 4:15). Who are we to question God’s authority on these things? If David would have inquired of the Lord, he would have been instructed by the Lord on how to transport the Ark of the Covenant properly and the death of Uzza would have been averted. When we make our decisions based on our own logical or carnal thinking, and rely on the council of men rather than the direction of the Lord, we put ourselves on a dangerous path that will result, maybe not in death, but in some kind of negative outcome.
Take the time to inquire of God for everything. Go to Him directly. Go to Him first. Learn to hear his voice. Learn to know His guidance and direction. His ways are the best. It takes such a little amount of effort for us seek Him, and yet we don’t do it as much as we should.
The song writer was writing about this truth in this old hymn: “Oh what joy we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bare. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
We all make decisions on a daily basis. Some are minor, but many are major. My exhortation is to include God. Inquire of Him. Seek Him for an answer and He will guide you. I believe that David learned his lesson. I think that in the future decisions he consulted the Lord first, and not men. (see 1 Chronicles 14: 10&14) Will you?