David wrote this and other Psalms about his desire to not just follow God’s Word, but to restore His Word to the very heart of Israel by restoring the ark and temple in Jerusalem, Israel’s physical, earthly center. David’s intentions were unquestionably good, his motives the highest possible, but when it came to executing God’s will where these things were concerned he had to learn some lessons the hard way. Many Christians today want revival and truly desire God’s Word to return to the center of the church’s focus and worship, but it takes more than just good intentions to make such a thing happen.
Read verses 1-11
Q: What probably indicates right from the very beginning that something is not right? What is the most common characteristic about David which always seems to predict whether he’s about to be a success or failure?
A: Repeatedly David is a success when he first inquires of the Lord, and a failure when he does not. In this case, he not only fails to first inquire of the Lord, but substitutes inquiring of man.
Q: Given Israel’s history to this point, why might this be a particularly bad move?
A: Because Israel has always experienced failure when substituting someone or something else in God’s place, and success when they place God first. By consulting “the chosen men of Israel”, David’s actions are more akin to uniting the nation under his political leadership rather than uniting the nation solely for God’s glory.
Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader. David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is from the Lord our God, let us send everywhere to our kinsmen who remain in all the land of Israel, also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their cities with pasture lands, that they may meet with us; and let us bring back the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.” Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
— 1 Chronicles 13:1-4
Q: In the parallel account in Chronicles, what distinction is David trying to make?
A: That things will be spiritually different under David than they were under Saul. Whereas Saul was not seeking restoration of God’s Word, David claims this as his intention.
Point: SAYING you want to implement and follow God’s Word is not the same as actually DOING it. David’s obligation was to put act differently than Saul and actually put God’s Word into practice.
Q: What was David’s second mistake?
A: He did not transport the ark according to God’s instructions, which was to be carried on the shoulders of specific Levites. (Dt. 3:27-31; 4:15; 7:9; 10:21).
Q: What was especially egregious about David’s choice to carry the ark on a new cart?
A: This not only completely ignored God’s Law, but duplicated the worldly example of the Philistines, who used this method to move the ark. (1 Sam. 6). In other words, God’s commandments were forsaken in favor of imitating the methods of a heathen nation.
Application: What are examples in churches today where they conform to the ways of the world instead of adhering exclusively to God’s pattern provided in His Word?
Q: What can we conclude is the greater spiritual lesson being taught here?
A: Eventually the human method of doing God’s work fails as exemplified by the stumbling oxen and the near fall of the ark.
Q: What was the third mistake?
A: A man who was not a Levite, who should have never been given such a close position to the ark in the first place, violates God’s Word and touches the ark. Even the priestly Kohathites whose job it was to transport the ark were not permitted to actually touch the ark, but to bear upon their shoulders the poles of the ark.
Q: How do we probably know for sure that David’s heart was not right with the Lord in this matter?
A: By his reaction, first of anger and then of fear. Instead of pausing and seeking God’s counsel as he usually did in order to learn God’s will and reasons, David stops the procession entirely and ceases all efforts.
Q: But if the man was killed for touching the ark, why would it be alright for the ark to remain with Obed-Edom’s family with no risk of something similar happening again?
A: According to 1 Chronicles 26:1-4, this was a Levitical family.
Application: When we continue to fail to seek God’s will or to fully follow His ways in the course of accomplishing His will, one mistake leads to another, each more serious than the last. The only cure for disobedience is obedience.
Read verses 12-19
Q: What did David obviously change?
A: In v.13 it refers to “the bearers of the ark”. In other words, he went back to doing things strictly according to God’s Word and ways.
Now David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, “No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.”…and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it at the first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.”
— 1 Chronicles 15:1-2, 12-13
Q: What was the point of making a sacrifice after taking just the first six steps from Obed-Edom’s house to Jerusalem?
A: David wanted to make sure that they were in compliance with God’s will and pleasure. This pause was worship on their part to acknowledge the past error of not obeying God’s Word and joy for their restoration because they were finally conforming to it.
Application: Do we sometimes get so caught up in what we believe is the accomplishment of things for God that we fail to take the time to worship and acknowledge Him personally?
Q: Why is it significant that David appeared “wearing a linen ephod”?
A: David laid aside the royal robes of the king of Israel in order to lead the procession in the more humble garments of a Levite. This is a complete turnaround from how things began to go wrong in the first place when he first acted as a political leader instead of a spiritual one. Now he was both personally and publicly aligned in the correct spiritual relationship with God.
Q: Why do you suppose Michal looked upon David’s actions with contempt?
A: It most likely reflects the spiritual condition of her own heart. It’s most likely that Michal held David’s kingship and political rule to be more important than his calling to be a spiritual leader, and his celebration was seen by her as weakening or demeaning what she perceived as the only important power, his political position.
Q: What is David’s gift-giving reflective of?
A: He first blesses them spiritually and then physically. The gifts reflect the true nature of his heart.
Application: Just as one mistake leads to another, so deeds of faithfulness lead one to another until the whole will of God is fully and properly accomplished.
Read verses 20-23
Q: What do we know about Michal?
A: She was probably never a suitable wife for David, belonging to Saul’s family. In 1 Samuel 19:13 it clearly indicates that she most likely worshiped idols. In all likelihood she fell in love with David the military hero who overcame Goliath and the Philistines rather than David the man of God. And it’s certainly possible she was not happy with all the other wives who’d come into David’s life since her marriage to him.
Q: What do we know about how David took Michal as his wife?
A: This was one of those cases in David’s life when he did something without first inquiring of the Lord. He “won her”, so to speak, for slaying Goliath, which created a life-time alliance with Saul’s family, something that continued to cause trouble as all ungodly alliances do.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
— 2 Corinthians 6:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
— 1 Corinthians 2:14
Q: So what is this a greater picture of?
A: It’s an illustration of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. To yield to Michal would, for David, be the spiritual equivalent of yielding to the flesh.
Point: It is usually true that Satan has a “Michal” to meet us when we are rejoicing in the Lord and seeking to glorify Him, someone to try and use earthly measures to derail us.
Application: What do you have to do when you know that your heart and motives are right? You have to press on in the joy and strength of the Lord, sometimes even in spite of those purported to be closest to you. There can be no earthly obstacle blocking our relationship with Christ.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
— Matthew 10:37-39
No matter how sincere one’s intentions or pure their motives, there is no substituting the world’s ways for God’s ways.
The only cure for faithlessness is faithfulness; obedience for disobedience.
Nothing and no one can be allowed to create separation from God.