In 1 Chronicles 13:1-3 we find David addressing all the leaders of his people and proposing that they bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and to a central position of worship in the nation rather than leaving it in one man’s house. He says they need to do this since “we sought not unto it in the days of Saul.” For the backstory to this, read 1 Samuel 4:1-7:2. A quick recap: The Israelites badly lost a battle to the Philistines and essentially tried to force God into action by carrying the Ark of the Covenant into battle. They soon discovered that it is impossible to force God to do anything and the priests carrying the ark (Eli’s sons) were killed and the ark was captured. Eli died upon receiving the news. God did strike the Philistines with plagues for keeping His ark, though, and they sent it back to Israel on a driverless cart. It wound up in Kiriath-jearim in the house of Abinadab. There it stayed for nearly forty years, the first twenty of which Israel apparently didn’t even worry about where it was. Such was the sad state of the nation’s morality. David, however, was as much a moral and spiritual leader as he was a military and political one, and the time had come to bring the ark back to the people.
1 Chronicles 13:4-8 tells us of the festivities planned for this momentous occasion. David gathered all the people together from the southernmost border unto the northernmost. The ark was placed in a new cart. There was singing and the playing of various musical instruments. Note especially their fervor: vs. 8 “And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, even with songs, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.” They were worshiping with all their might. But, of course, something went wrong.
1 Chronicles 13:9-14 tells of the death of Uzzah and David’s reaction. Probably Uzzah meant to show respect to the ark. The oxen stumbled and the cart was bouncing, and he didn’t want the ark to fall out and break into little pieces. So he steadied it with his hand. God killed him. David is described as displeased/angry and afraid. Think about how confused he must have been. He was trying to bring God’s ark back to the people so the worship of God could be restored. He was celebrating this momentous occasion with the whole nation, all of them worshiping with all they had, praising God, and in the middle of all this, God kills Uzza. His reaction in vs. 12 is understandable “And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” He was afraid and unsure how (or if) to proceed. He drops the ark into the nearest available house like a hot potato. It stayed there in Obed-edom’s house for three months while David figured out how to bring the ark, during which time, Obed-edom was blessed.
In that three month interlude, David twice had to battle the Philistines (chapter 14) but he also discovered how to move the ark safely. 1 Chron. 15:2 “Then David said, ‘None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath Jehovah chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him forever.’” So, the Levites were to carry the ark. How did David learn this? Did a prophet tell him? Did God give him a dream? No, it is plainly written in Numbers. 4:15. All David had to do was read the Law already given by God.
1 Chronicles 15:3-13 tells of David bringing together the nation once more and then addressing the Levites. What he says to them in verse 13 is profound “For because ye bare it not at the first, Jehovah our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not according to the ordinance.” So, they were seeking God, but God “made a breach upon” them because they did not seek according to the ordinance or the rule. Well, was their heart right? Yes, remember when they were singing and playing before the Lord, they were doing it “with all their might”, and David, their leader, was the “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14 cf Acts 13:22). Their hearts were in the right place. Well, did they give their best to God? Yes, David did not just take a few of his buddies to pick up the ark, he gathered the nation. As king, he brought everyone, all he had as followers, to celebrate this event. And the cart wasn’t some old jalopy of a cart that had previously been used to haul manure from the stables to the back forty. It was a new cart, never used before, the best to be had for the purpose. Well, was this a grand festival designed to praise the Lord? Yes, that’s exactly what it was. But the Lord was angry and made a breach upon them because, despite all their sincerity and heartfelt intent, they did not seek Him according to the ordinance.
There are other examples of this. Nadab and Abihu were trying to light the altar’s fire so that sacrifices could be made to God but they did not do it as He commanded and were burnt up for their failure. (Leviticus 10:1-2) Jereboam changed the worship practices in fear that his new kingdom would abandon him if they continued to go to Jerusalem to worship (1 Kings 12:25ff). He was NOT changing Who was worshiped. “thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” “Gods” is merely Elohim, the typical word for God, and in every single place in the OT where the God who brought them from Egypt is mentioned, it is always referring to YHWH God. From Exodus to Ezekiel. So, Jereboam wasn’t trying to change who they worshiped, just where they worshiped him, and the priesthood that served Him, and the festivals by which they worshiped Him. 1 Kings 16:19 is one of many passages that records the result. “Israel sinned”. Many were no doubt worshiping their God sincerely, but they weren’t worshiping “according to the ordinance” and so they sinned.
Jesus Himself discusses this. Matt. 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Holding your hands high, with your eyes closed, and calling Him “Lord” in all sincerity isn’t good enough if we aren’t also doing His Father’s will. Also, in John 4:23 “. . . true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” We have to worship in spirit AND truth. We can’t leave either out.
This is important, because there are so many people today who sincerely worship God. Who regularly “play before Him with all their might” and who call out “Lord, Lord”, but they worship in ways not taught by the New Testament. The churches they attend go beyond what the New Testament teaches and/or do things directly against New Testament teaching. They aren’t worshiping “according to the ordinance.” In trying to discuss this with friends and neighbors, how many times have you heard someone say something like “Well, God knows my heart. He will look and see that this worship comes from the heart and He will accept me”. Really? He made a breach against David because he hadn’t followed the ordinance! Are they better than David, the man after God’s own heart? If God didn’t look into David’s sincere heart and accept his erroneous worship, I sincerely doubt He’ll do that for anyone else. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW SINCERE WE ARE IF WE AREN’T WORSHIPING ACCORDING TO THE ORDINANCE. After all, He is God, not us. He gets to choose how we approach Him, not us. REPEAT: He is God, not us. He gets to choose how we approach Him, not us.
While we absolutely cannot reduce our worship to some checklist we can mark off, and our hearts must be in our worship (Isaiah 1:11-15, Hos. 6:6, Micah 6:6-8), we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without doing the will of the Father. Calling out “Lord, Lord” won’t be enough. And that’s why I’m writing all of this. Not to be mean-spirited or hateful, but because I want as many people as possible to make it into the kingdom and that can only happen by doing the will of the Father, “according to the ordinance