Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
1 Chronicles 13:1-10
David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our brothers throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us. Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.” The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.
So David assembled all the Israelites, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. David and all the Israelites with him went to Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of god the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubim- the ark that is called by the Name.
They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets.
When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.
For being as filled with wickedness and unbelief our modern world is, we as humans are still unbelievably religious, or maybe the better word for it is “superstitious.” Many people are waiting for the end of the world, supposedly marked by the end of the Mayan calendar this December. People are sighting wars, famine, and crazy weather as all signs of the end of times. Some people are following very complex math systems to arrive at when the end is coming. On top of that, although atheists would try to say it isn’t true, religion is flourishing amazingly (including the religion of atheism.) One of the new popular religions is called Baha’i, which is essentially every religion on earth rolled into one big happy spiritual family. This all seems quite nice, to wrap up everything into an easy to understand form, except for the fact that the groups Baha’i tries to comine actually don’t play well together (something that a quick read of Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, and modern scientific texts will reveal). But it is very appealing nonetheless. Why is this so appealing to the modern age?
Between television, movies, and the internet, we are constantly bombarded by different (and often times, conflicting) viewpoints. But since we’re able to absorb so much in so little time, our minds are beginning to do something absolutely amazing, we’re mentally skimming it all. Just like somebody who is trying to study quickly for a test, as we come into contact with our different forms of information, our brains are collecting things that it thinks are important and storing and remembering bits from here and there. This is a new phenomenon that is being studied since the dawn of the internet. So as we watch TV, check the internet, and so on, our brains are picking out what seems appealing or makes the most sense, while not diving deep into anything. So when it comes to God, we’re doing the same. Most TV shows will admit to there being some sort of godly force balancing life, we like this idea because it gives our lives purpose and if there is a God there must be a devil which explains why there is so much evil in the world. So when our brains catch any evidence of this (no matter how fictional the program may be) it keeps this information and it becomes a fact to us. Ok, so we’ve got some sort of poorly understood God, and some sort of evil force opposing him. Alright, next, when we die what happens? I’ve never seen a TV series that made the claim that when people die, they die. Even supposed atheist characters will usually have some sort of belief that there must be something more after death. Often involving spirits and angels and stuff like that. Ok, so there is an afterlife. Oh, and a person doesn’t like to think of a rapist going to heaven, so only good people get to go to the good afterlife. Well, History channel and animal shows seem to say that evolution is the only answer to how we got here, so our brains take that and assume that evolution is correct. Wrap all of these together and what do you get? Baha’i. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? David ran into a similar problem when it came to how to properly worship God.
As we read, David has decided to move the Ark of the Covenant. Now the ark was built by Moses and his followers in the desert for the purpose of holding the replacement tablets of the Ten Commandments. We know this because Moses reminds us in his big Deuteronomy speech,
So I made the ark out of acacia wood and chiseled out to stone tablets like the first one, and I went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hands. The Lord wrote on these tablets what he had written before, the Ten Commandments he had proclaimed to you on the mountain, out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me. Then I came back down the mountain and put the tablets in the ark I had made, as the Lord commanded me, and they are there now (Deuteronomy 10:3-5).
The ark continued to serve this purpose because when they opened it years after moving it into Jerusalem, the priests discovered, “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt” (2 Chronicles 5:10). Even how, the “God Box” was important to the Israelites because with it came the presence of God and the miracles associated with said presence. For example, much like Moses parted the Red Sea, the ark parted the Jordan River for the Israelites in Joshua 3:14-16,
So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant when ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (The Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
Needless to say, the ark was a pretty important box for the Israelites, so David was completely in the right in wanting to bring it to Jerusalem for the people to be strengthened by it. Now at first David is on the right track, he says, “If it is the will of the Lord,” a common phrase for David but quickly the story turns to “it seemed right to the people.” Suddenly, a Jewish event is turned into a communal religious minded event (such as “happy holidays” as opposed to “merry Christmas”). Nothing seems wrong with this except that David and his posse lose sight of why they are bringing the ark to the capital city; to worship the Lord. They let human wisdom take over from here on in.
Alright, so they’ve got the ark, and they need to move it, what is the most logical way to move it? By ox cart. Ok, well, this is the Lord’s box, so they figure a normal ox cart is not enough, so they get a brand new cart to move it with. Logically, this plan is very sound. However, God has other plans and strikes one of the members of David’s party dead. Why? Well, there are two main reasons for God lashing out at the ark retrieval team. The first one is revealed a few lines later, “David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” (1 Chronicles 13:12).” We find out that David wanted to bring God to himself. This seems innocent enough by our logic, but God isn’t something that can be moved. He isn’t some gold statue of a fat bald man as some would want you to believe, no, God is indescribable and beyond our means of comprehension. We cannot decide where God goes, nor can we control him in any way. The one way to get God to come near to us is to come near to him. We are told this in James 4:8, “Come near to the God and he will come near to you.” The Israelites were also told this several times, including by the prophet Zechariah when the Lord said to him in , “Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almightily says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord almighty.(Zechariah 1:3)” Notice, God makes a point of clarifying that he is saying it very clearly. If you seek God, you will find God. The Lord says quite specifically, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).” But David didn’t want to seek the Lord; he wanted to carry the Lord (or more specifically, the Lord’s Box) with him as though it were some magic crate he could boss around. But I won’t tarry much longer on this point, we know better than to think of God as a genie.
The more literal problem David faced is that quite simply, he didn’t do his research. Moses wrote the first five books of the Hebrew bible, this was how the Israelite religion was established; it is the foundation of all of their beliefs. However, David couldn’t be bothered to open up his Bible, which is much smaller than ours today. Who was supposed to carry the ark and in what nature was covered in Numbers 4:4-6,
This is the work of the Kohathites in the Tent of Meeting: the care of the most holy things. When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. Then they are to cover this with hides of sea cows, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.
And how the ark was to be carried was made very clear in Exodus 25:13-14, “Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it.” By simply reading his Bible, David could have saved time, and somebody’s life. However, be it laziness or whatever reason, he did not. Of course, later he came to his senses and talked to the Levites about carrying the ark,
It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way (1 Chronicles 15:13).
Not understanding our own religion can be dangerous. And although this illustration from Israel’s history is a simple life and death story, it is important for us to realize that we too need to pay attention to our beliefs as they may affect not only our life but our eternity as well. Luckily for us Christians, we have the living word of God to direct us through not only our relationship with the Lord, but our whole life as well. We used to sing in my church “You word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Actually a quote from Psalm 119:105). If that is true, then we need to be constantly in the Word trying to find our answers in life. Remember “For the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), this is not just some old book filled with old Jewish and Greek writings, it’s alive just as much as our Lord and savior is alive. For speaking of Jesus, John said, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). So if John likens Christ to the Word of God then we should too. And Jesus must be alive for us, for if he is not, we are totally screwed. Paul writes,
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).
How true these words are, if there is no raised Jesus, then Christians are the most pathetic people on the planet. In the same way, if the bible is not alive, then we are chasing a dead religion around, again, to be pitied by all. “But indeed Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and the Word is alive!
As Christians we are divinely privileged with the Word of God, as it works somewhat as an owner’s manual to life. We have the answers to all of the “big” questions right before us, if only we open up our Bibles:
-Is there a God? Zephaniah 3:17,
The Lord your god is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing
-What happens when we die? Daniel 12:2, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
-How do we gain everlasting life (that is, heaven)? John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
-When will the world end? Mark 13:31-33,
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
-What about evolution? Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
-How do I make my own website? Proverbs 19:20, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” 🙂
Let us not follow the world’s view of religion and instead put our faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ, who, along with the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. Jesus himself tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me” (John 14:1). And the only place we can find out what the Lord has to say is in his Word, our Bible.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make your paths straight.”