In my devotionals this week I’ve been reading the account of Israel’s use of the Ark of the Covenant as a battle tool against the Philistines. You will remember that it was captured and caused problems to the Philistines (tumors). So the people of Philistia decided to send the Ark back to Israel. Here is where the story gets interesting. The Philistines devised a whole new method of transporting this holy object which was contrary to the prescribed method of carrying it by hand with poles through rings mounted on the sides of the Ark. It just made so much sense and was so much easier and practical to place the presumably heavy Ark (lots of gold and stone tablets) on a new cart and have it pulled by beast of burden.
When the people of Bet Shemesh saw the returning Ark on a cart they had the Levites remove the Ark from this “worldly” means of transportation, chopped up the cart, set it on fire and even sacrificed the oxen on the fire. It’s at this point I will interject a personal opinion that upon seeing the holy things of the Father (the Ark and its contents) being conveyed by worldly means they reacted with proper indignation in rejecting that conveyance, chopping it up and destroying it.
The Ark is then placed in the home of Abinidab and his eldest son Eleazar is charged with keeping guard over the Ark where it remained for some 20 years. After those 20 years David decides to return the Ark to Jerusalem and what does he do? He chooses to convey the “holy things of the Lord” by a method he learned nowhere else than from the world – a fancy new cart. Never mind that just 20 short years earlier this worldly means was categorically rejected as a vehicle for carrying the commandments of our holy God.
And then to top it off, who do we find leading this new means of conveyance? None other than Eleazar’s 2 younger brothers Uzzah and Ahio. This doesn’t work out so well for Uzzah who, with all good intentions, reaches out in support of this new conveyance when the oxen stumble. After 3 months of what I can only presume was some deep soul searching by King David, he realized his mistake and has the Ark carried the “old fashion way” back up to Jerusalem.
Lessons 1) – The weapons of our warfare are not physical (such as the Ark, the cart, a lawsuit, another person, etc.) but rather spiritual weapons which are mighty through God such as discernment and prayer.
Lesson 2) – We must be very careful to discern proper methods of conveying the Gospel and not to quickly embrace some modern method just because it is new, easier or quicker. If the ark is a metaphor for the Gospel/Word of God (as most scholars suggest) then there must be a reason it was commanded to be born on the shoulders of men instead of on some modern conveyance of mans making.
Lesson 3) – We should be quick to reject and/or destroy the ways of the world when there are attempts to introduce those wrong methods into the church. (note: I will leave it to the Holy Spirit to identify what those methods are)
Lesson 4) – Watch yourself and be sure to keep close guard on the things of the Lord. Remember it wasn’t Eleazar who put himself out front for all to see when they started leading the cart up to Jerusalem. I suggest he was humbled and blessed for his role in guarding the Ark. His brothers on the other hand had evidently come to see the holy things of the Lord as common place while the Ark sat in their living room those 20 years. It was this which caused Uzzah to feel entitled to handle the Ark wrongly and disrespect the Lord and His ways.
Lesson 5) – Old fashion doesn’t necessarily mean wrong or ineffective.
Lesson 6) – when we embrace the Lord’s ways there is joy and good success.