1 Chronicles 13:7–14 (NKJV) So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” So David would not move the ark with him into the City of David, but took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house three months. And the LORD blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that he had.
We are often told that successful leadership involves thinking outside the box. Our world embraces anything that is different and brings hope. There must be a level of creativity that sets the standard for a new normal. God displayed this type of thinking throughout the Bible. One of my favorite examples involves the story of Obed-Edom and the Ark of the Covenant. Obed-Edom is one of those relatively unknown Bible characters whose life was changed one day when he suddenly found himself in the presence of God.
The Ark of the Covenant is an iconic representation of the glory and presence of God. It contained the tablets into which God carved the commandments. Under ungodly leadership, the Israelites made a foolish decision to carry the Ark into battle and it was captured by the Philistines. The Philistines had issues with the power of God’s glory and returned the Ark to Israel, dropping it at the house of Abinidab.
When King David rose to power, he decided to rebuild the tabernacle and restore the Ark to its rightful place. The Ark was placed on a cart pulled by oxen and taken down the road toward Jerusalem. Along the way the oxen stumbled. Uzzah, one of Abinidab’s sons, stuck out his hand to steady the Ark. The moment he touched the Ark he was struck by God and fell dead. David questioned his decision to move the Ark and began to look for options. As he looked around, he saw a house and instructed the people to take the Ark and put it in that house by the side of the road. Obed-Edom lived in this house with his wife and eight sons.
Obed-Edom embraced the presence of God. I’m sure he was apprehensive after watching Uzzah die. The Ark did not become an unwelcome part of their home, it became the center of their home. Their life revolved around the presence of God. In just three short months, it saturated their life and the Lord blessed his home and all that he had. Obed-Edom’s approach to the presence of God caused others to want God’s glory. David saw what was happening and had the Ark brought up to Jerusalem. Obed-Edom was so addicted to the presence of God that he followed the Ark to Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles 15:16–17, 20 (NKJV) Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy. So the Levites appointed… Obed-Edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah, to direct with harps on the Sheminith
The devotion of Obed-Edom brought promotion. Obed-Edom was promoted to door-keeper for the Ark. His devotion affected his family as all eight of his sons became doorkeepers in the temple. Eventually, Obed-Edom was appointed to treasurer for all of Israel.
There is a stark contrast between Uzzah and Obed-Edom involving how they viewed the presence of God which the Ark represented. The Ark had been in the house of Uzzah for over 20 years, yet it was obviously not respected. When it came time to move the ark, God had given Israel specific instructions on how to carry it. The Ark was to be held by poles and carried on the shoulders of the priests. Man was not to touch it in reverence to the glory of the Lord. Yet we see it loaded on an ox cart like a common piece of furniture, and pulled down the road. The ox has always symbolized work and burden. Uzzah and his house treated the Ark like it was in their way. The presence of God became a burden and a bother to them. God’s presence was in their midst, yet they did nothing to engage it. Many Christians live life this way. They carry the Spirit of God, but they never lift it up like a priest. The presence of God is moving, yet it is not upon them. I believe Uzzah was struck down because of his constant disregard for the presence of God and his obvious disobedience to how it was to be approached.
In short, Uzzah viewed the Ark from a perspective of what was inside the box. He saw God as a “lawgiver” and his approach to God’s presence was laden with legalism. He saw God in light of His judgment. When you trust the Law and your works as a means to righteousness, you will be judged by it. This is why Uzzah died. Religion leads to death.
On the top of the Ark was a large lid made of pure gold. It was bigger than the box, it was above the box, and it covered the box. The lid was known as the mercy seat of God. It was symbolic of God’s forgiveness and His love. Obed-Edom did not approach God based on judgment, he approached God based on mercy. He lived his life outside of the box. Not in the perfectionism of the Law, but in the longsuffering and kindness of God’s mercy. He did not live based on the letter of the law which brought death, but the life-giving Spirit of the Ark.
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT) He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
The mercy seat was the place where God’s glory showed up. He met with them and spoke to them above the Ark, because God meets with us in the place of mercy not the place of judgment.
Exodus 25:21–22 (NKJV) You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
Jesus embodied a life that was lived outside of the box and taught us to do the same.
Luke 6:36–37 (NKJV) Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Pursue holiness yes, but be thankful for mercy and cry out for it. Never demand holiness of others, but making it a personal goal of yours. We must all learn how to live in the balance between God’s holiness and His mercy. Religion and legalism will lead to death, but mercy leads to joy and life. Think outside the box. Like the lid to the Ark, God’s mercy is above all, covers all, and is bigger than all.
James 2:13 (NKJV) For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.