Sermon series: Life after Failure
The story of King David bringing the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem is one of failure, judgment, and restoration. A failed first attempt results in a tragic death and public embarrassment, but the second attempt results in praise for God and blessing for nation. What a joy to know we serve a loving God who gives second chances!
Before looking at the two attempts at bringing the ark to Jerusalem, we need to consider one of the worst days in Israel's history - when the ark was captured. The account in 1 Samuel 4 describes the wicked sons of Eli taking the ark into a battle against the Philistines, attempting to use the ark like a good luck charm to secure victory. Israel loses the battle, 30,000 men perish, and the Philistines capture the ark. When the beloved prophet Eli hears of his sons' deaths in battle and the ark's fate, he has a heart attack and dies. Eli's pregnant daughter in-law goes into labor and dies in childbirth. In recognition of the tragic events of that day, the child is named Ichabod, meaning "the glory of the Lord has departed."
The Philistines keep the ark for a short time, but in every city where the ark is taken, the people get sick and develop tumors. Finally, the Philistines return to ark to Israel, where it remains at the house of Abinadab for twenty years. The Bible says during the reign of Saul, "the people did not inquire of the ark." When David becomes king and defeats the Philistines as recorded in 1 Chronicles 12 and 2 Samuel 5, he holds a meeting to discuss returning the ark to Jerusalem. Everyone agrees it is a great idea, so they plan an elaborate celebration inviting people from all over Israel to join the party.
Imagine a church harvest festival with games for the kids, tables for pie and cake, a stage set up for special music, and a parade with the last and most spectacular float carrying the ark of the covenant. Now imagine that the float is really a newly constructed ox cart pulled by the two prize winning bulls from the 4H competition at the state fair.
Everything is going great until an ox stumbles, causing the ark to shift on the cart. A man named Uzzah reaches out to stabilize the ark. When he touches the it, God's wrath pours from the ark killing Uzzah and ruining the parade. The event was tragic and a horrible public embarrassment for David. This was his first official civic activity designed to show God's choice of him as king and his unique leadership as the political head of a nation. The people knew he was a great warrior, but leading a nation required additional skills. This parade included thousands of soldiers, leaders from all parts of the country, and coordination of civic responsibilities requiring months of planning. When you realize what a public embarrassment and significant failure this event was, we understand why the Scripture says "David was angry." Imagine how the Prime Minister of England would have felt if he had to cancel the Olympics because something went wrong with the opening ceremony.
After three months David learns about the blessing of God upon the house of Obed-edom, where the ark was left when the parade was canceled. His successful second attempt to bring the ark into Jerusalem reveals several important principles for carrying the glory of God or living with God's blessing upon your life. The ark represented the power, the glory, and the presence of God. David was a man after God's heart, but he made some foolish mistakes regarding God's glory. Now he takes a different approach to accomplish a task in which he had previously failed.
I. Submit to Scripture
The first principle of carrying the glory of God and overcoming failure is to submit to Scripture. After failing to bring the ark to Jerusalem, David researched the Scriptures to discover the specific instructions for transporting the ark (15:1-2). This revelation has enormous application for New Testament believers. David learned that the ark was supposed to be carried by priests, not displayed on an ox carts. The Old Testament priests literally carried the glory of God upon their shoulders. These specific instructions were a picture of the amazing truth proclaimed in the New Testament concerning those who follow Christ. The Bible describes Christians as "a royal priesthood declaring the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1Peter 2:9).
In David's first failed attempt, he called a committee meeting where everyone voted unanimously to build a new ox cart for the ark and sponsor a giant party celebrating the defeat of the Philistines. There is a huge lesson in this story for Baptists. God's will is not determined by Robert's Rules of Order. The majority can be wrong. God established the rules for transporting the ark, and it did not matter how many "yea" votes the committee received. They were wrong, and God's Word was and is always right. In the second successful attempt, David did it God's way.
II. Be sensitive to the sacred
The contrast between the two attempts is startling. While the first attempt was a carnival atmosphere, the second was a reverent yet joyful experience. The first parade was filled with fanfare, the second was filled with blood. Notice how the priests traveled. After the priests took six steps, they sacrificed a bull. This happened seven times as recorded in 1 Chron. 15:26 and 2 Sam. 6:13. The road to God's glory is filled with blood. Hebrews 10:19 says, "we enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus." The entire second journey to Jerusalem is a blood-stained road of worship exalting the one true God who delivered Israel from enemies and secures the future success of the nation.
At the first parade, David was dressed as king because to acknowledge his military exploits. By the time of the second attempt, David grew in his appreciation that God does not share glory, so the king of Israel refused to wear the royal garments. Instead he wore the same linen ephod as a common priest. The second journey was all about God. Psalm 24 provides a brief snapshot of this truth. Scholars believe this psalm was sung as the ark was being brought into the city. The psalm asks the question, "Who is the king of glory?" The answer illustrates the effort to move all attention away from King David and give praise to almighty God. "Who is the king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle" (Ps. 24:8). To carry the glory of God, we must treat the sacred with reverent sensitivity.
III. Sanctify your soul
Part of being sensitive the sacred is preparing ourselves through sanctification, which means to be made holy or set apart for divine purpose. First Chronicles 15:12-15 describes David's exhortation for the priests to "consecrate themselves" in preparation for carrying the ark of God. As New Testament priests we must also allow God to cleanse us so that His glory will shine in our lives. The Bible says if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us form all unrighteousness. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to cleanse himself to be a vessel of honor, made holy, useful to the master, and equipped for every good work (2 Tim.2:21).
As a royal priesthood, we must embrace the call to be separate from the world and be holy, because our Savior is holy. We will never experience sinless perfection on earth, but personal holiness is a deep recognition and resolve to allow the light of God's goodness and grace to shine through us. Jesus said to let your light shine. The sad reality is that many Christians, those who have been redeemed to be a priest carrying the glory, have such sin-filled and world-infested lives that no one can see the glory.
The ark of God resided at Abinadab's house for 20 years without any manifestation of power, blessing, or glory. How long will the glory of God remain dormant in your life because of an unwillingness to repent of selfishness and sin? God will not share His glory.
Have you failed at some point in you life? Have you tried to do the right thing, but everything turned out wrong? Maybe you knew what you were doing was wrong, but you did it anyway. Regardless of how you ended up in the pit of failure, God has a way out. He will light the path with His Word. Remember, the path is paved with the blood of Jesus. Call on Him today!