“And David and all Israel played before God with all their might,

and with singing and with harps and with psalteries, and with

timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.” (I Chronicles 13:8).


“And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring

the ark of God home to me?”  (I Chronicles 13:12).


“So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over

thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out

of the house of Obed-edom with joy.” (I Chronicles 15:25).


DAVID had, in his heart, an intense love to God. During Sauls reign, God

had been well-nigh forgotten in the land. The ordinances of his house had

been almost, if not entirely, neglected; and when David found himself

firmly seated upon his throne, one of his first thoughts was concerning the

revival of religion, the reestablishment of that form of worship which God

had ordained in the wilderness by the mouth of his servant Moses. So he

looked about him to see where the ark of the covenant, that most sacred of

all the ancient symbols, was; and he wrote, “We heard of it at Ephratah: we

found it in the fields of the wood.” Out of pure love and reverence to God,

he called the people together, consulting with them so that the thing might

not be done by himself alone, but by the nation. It was agreed that the ark

should be brought up, and placed upon Mount Zion, near the palace of the

king, in a conspicuous position where it should be the center of religious

worship for the entire nation. It was to be placed near that sacred spot

where Abraham had, of old, offered up his son Isaac, that, in the great days

of assembly, the Israelites might wend their way thither, and worship God

as he had commanded them.


David’s intention was right enough, no fault can be found with that; but

right things must be done in a right way. We serve a jealous God, who,

though he overlooks many faults in his people, yet, nevertheless, will have

his word reverenced, and his commands obeyed. “Be ye clean,” says he,

that bear the vessels of the Lord.” He will be honored by those that

attempt to draw nigh to him. So it came to pass that, though David had a

good intention, and was about to do a right thing, yet, at the first, he had a

great failure. When we have considered the cause of that failure we shall

note that this failure wrought in David a great fear; and when we have

meditated for a while upon that fear, we shall see that, when he set to work

to honor his God after the due order, he did it with such a great joy that,

perhaps, we have scarcely another instance of such exuberance of spirit in

the worship of God as we have in the case of David, who leaped and

danced before the ark of the Lord with all his might.


I. First, then, we are to consider DAVIDS GREAT FAILURE. It followed

almost immediately after. “David and all Israel played before God with all

their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with

timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.” This was David’s first

attempt to bring up the ark of the covenant into the place appointed for it.

Observe, dear friends, that there was no failure through lack of multitudes.

It is, to my mind very delightful to worship God with the multitude that

keep holy day. I know some people who think themselves the only saints in

the whole world. They do not imagine that any can be the elect of God if

there are more than seven or eight, “because,” say they, “strait is the gate,

and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find

it;” and, therefore, simply because they are few in number, they straightway

conclude that they have passed through the strait gate into the narrow way.

It needs far better evidence than that to prove that they are in the right

road; and, for my part, I love, as David did, to go with the multitude to the

house of God, to keep time and tune with many hearts and many voices all

on fire with holy devotion as they lift up the sacred song in a great chorus

of praise unto the Most High. There was no failure, in that respect, on this

occasion, for “David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt

even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjathjearim.”

Thus they came, from all parts of the land, in their hundreds and

their thousands, an exceeding great multitude; yet their attempt to bring up

the ark proved a sad failure. So, you see that it is of little value merely to

gather crowds of people together. However great the multitude of nominal

worshippers may be, it is quite possible that they may offer no worship that

is acceptable to God. We, ourselves may come and go in our thousands,

yet that alone will not guarantee that the presence of God is among us. It

would be far better to be with a few, if God were in the midst of them, than

to be with the multitude, and yet to miss the divine blessing.


Neither was there any failure so far as pomp and show were concerned. It

seems that these people paid very great honor, in their own way, to this

ark; putting it on a new carriage, and surrounding it with the princes, and

the captains, and the mighty men of the kingdom, together with the

multitudes of the common people of the land. I doubt not that it was a very

imposing array that day; and, truly, the solemn worship of God should be

attended to with due decency and order, yet it may be a failure for all that.

Sweet may be the strain of the sacred song, yet God may not accept it

because it is sound, and nothing more. The prayer may be most appropriate

so far as the language of it is concerned, yet it may fail to reach the ear of

the Lord God of Sabaoth. Something more is needed beside mere outward

show, something beyond even the decent simplicities of worship in which

we delight.


Neither was there any failure, apparently, so far as the musical

accompaniment was concerned. We are told, in our text, that “David and

all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with

harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with

trumpets.” I like that expression, “with all their might.” I cannot bear to

hear God’s praises uttered by those who simply whisper, as though they

were afraid of making too much noise. Nay, but,


“Loud as his thunder, sound his praise,

And speak it lofty as his throne;”


for he well deserves it. Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof, in praise

of its great Creator. Let all the winds and the waves join in the concert;

there cannot be any sound too jubilant for him who is worthy of the highest

praise of heaven and earth. It is right to sing unto the Lord with all your

might; yet there may be a certain kind of heartiness which is not acceptable

to God because it is natural, not spiritual. There may be a great deal of

outward expression, yet no inward life. It may be only dead worship, after

all, despite the noise that may be made. I do not say that it was altogether

so in David’s case; but, certainly, all the multitude, all the pomp, and all the

sound, did not prevent its becoming an entire failure. What was the reason

for that failure!


If I read the story aright, it seems to me, first, that there was too little

thought as to God’s mind upon the matter. David consulted the people, but

he would have done better if he had consulted God. The co-operation of

the people was desirable, but much more the benediction of the Most High.

There ought to have been much prayer preceding this great undertaking of

bringing up the ark of the Lord; but it seems to have been entered upon

with very much heartiness and enthusiasm, but not with any preparatory

supplication or spiritual consideration. If you read the story through, you

will see that it appears to be an affair of singing, and harps, and psalteries,

and timbrels, and cymbals, and trumpets, and of a new cart and cattle; that

is about all there is in it. There is not even a mention of humiliation of

heart, or of solemn awe in the presence of that God of whom the ark was

but the outward symbol. I am afraid that this first attempt was too much

after the will of the Flesh, and the energy of nature, and too little according

to that rule of which Christ said to the woman at Sychar, “God is a Spirit:

and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Yes,

beloved, all worship fails if that is not the first consideration in it. Let the

singing be hearty and melodious, let everything in our services be in proper

order; but, as the first and most important thing, let the Holy Ghost be

there, so that we may draw near to God in our heart, and have real spiritual

communion with him. The outward form of worship is a very secondary

matter; the inward spirit of it is the all-important thing; there appears, to

me, to have been too little attention paid to that in the first attempt that

David made to bring up the ark; and, therefore, it was a failure.

One very important omission was that the priests were not in their proper

places. They appear to have been there, but they were, evidently, not

treated as their position entitled them to be. The men of war were brought

to the front, and the men of worship were pushed aside. Now, in all true

worship, the priest is of the first importance. “What,” you ask, “do you

believe in a priest?” Yes, in the great High Priest of whom the Aaronic

priesthood was the type; all my hopes for time and eternity are centered in

him who is “a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” If you do not

put him into the first place, I care little what sort of worship you render,

you may be very intense, and very devout, after your own fashion, but it is

all in vain. There is no way of coming unto God except through the “one

Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There is no way of

approaching God except through the one great High Priest, our Lord and

Savior Jesus Christ. You may cry unto God, but your prayers cannot reach

his ear until Christ presents them to his Father. You may bring your sweet

spices, but they will never have any fragrance before the Lord until the

great High Priest puts them into the golden censer, and mingles with them

the precious incense of his own merits, and so makes them acceptable

before the Lord. A prayer without Christ in it will never reach heaven.

Praise, which is not presented through the merits of Christ, is but a

meaningless noise which can never be well-pleasing unto God.

These people not only had not the priests in their proper places, but they

also had a cart, instead of Levites, to carry the sacred ark. The laboring

oxen took the place of the willing men who were appointed by God for this

service David and all the people appear to have forgotten the appointments

which God made concerning the ark, so they fell into trouble, and all their

efforts proved to be a failure.


Next, I notice that, the first time, there were no sacrifices. They put the ark

upon the cart, and went before it, and behind it, and around it, with their

instruments of music, but there was no sacrificial blood shed. They had

been so long out of the habit of worshipping God in his appointed way that

they had forgotten very much. I wonder that David did not notice this fatal

omission, and I am not surprised that Uzza died as there is no mention of

the sprinkling of blood upon the mercy-seat that day. And, beloved, if we

leave the blood of atonement out of our worship, we leave out that which

is the very life of it, for the blood is the life thereof. If you have no respect

unto the atoning sacrifice of Christ, God will have no respect unto you. If

you have no regard for the great propitiation which Christ has made for

sin, the Lord will not accept either prayers or praises at your hands.

Without the shedding of Christ’s blood, there is no remission of sin.

All through this incident, we see that there was no taking heed to the

commands of God, and to the rules which he had laid down. The people

brought worship to God, instead of that which he had ordained. What do I

mean by will-worship? I mean, any kind of worship which is not prescribed

in God’s own Word. It has sometimes been pleaded, as an excuse for the

observance of some rite or ceremony which is not commanded in the

Scriptures, that it is very instructive, or very impressive. That is no excuse

or justification for disobedience. The first commandment may be broken,

not only by worshipping a false god, but by worshipping the true God in

another way than that which he has ordained. If you set up a mode of

worship not warranted by his Word, whatever you may plead for it, it is

idolatrous, and the Lord may well say to you, “Who hath required this at

your hands?” Mark this, if it be not of his appointment, neither will it meet

with his acceptance. Inasmuch, therefore, as these people did not show any

reverence for God by consulting his record of the rules which he had laid

down for their guidance, seeming to think that, whatever pleased them

must please him, whatever kind of worship they chose to make up would

be quite sufficient for the Lord God of Israel therefore, it ended in failure.

Beloved, take care how ye worship God. If ye are to take heed how ye

hear, ye are also to take heed how ye pray, and to take heed how ye praise,

and to take heed how ye come to the communion table. Take heed how, in

any way, ye seek to draw near unto the living God, for he is not to be

approached in any slipshod fashion that you may choose to invent. He has

his own way by which alone he can be approached. His august court has

rules, even as the courts of earthly kings have their regulations and-laws;

and if ye transgress the King’s command, it may be that he will smite you

as he slew Uzza, or, at the least, your worship will be unacceptable to him.


II. Now we turn to our second text, to the second head of our discourse,

namely, DAVIDS GREAT FEAR: “And David was afraid of God that day,

saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?”

What changeable creatures we are! From a careless, and almost criminal,

want of thought, David’s mind speedily travels to great seriousness of

thought, attended with a very terrible dread. DO YOU wonder that the

death of Uzza caused David to fear greatly? The procession is going

along, and the harps, psalteries, timbrels, cymbals, and trumpets are

sounding the high praises of God when, on a sudden, the oxen come to the

threshing floor of Chidon, and, perhaps, tempted by the sight of the grain,

they turn aside, or, at least, they stumble, and the ark is likely to be upset.

One mistake usually leads to another. If they had not put the ark on that

cart, this trouble would not have happened. And now young Uzza, who

had been living in the house where the ark had been kept so long, perhaps

not thinking he is doing wrong, puts out his hand to hold the ark, and

instantly falls a corpse. A thrill of horror goes through the crowd, the

music stops and David stands aghast. At first sight, it does appear to be a

very severe punishment; yet we must remember that this is not the only

time that God acted thus toward those who profaned the service in which

they were engaged. Nadab and Abihu instead of taking the proper fire to

light their censers, took strange fire. There did not seem much difference;

is not one kind of fire very much like another? Those two young men went

in before the Lord with their censers kindled by strange fire, and they fell

dead in a moment before God. They had only broken the law in a small

matter, as it seemed; but God has his ways of measuring things, and his

method is very different from ours. David ought also to have remembered

how more than fifty thousand of the men of Beth-shemesh were slain when

the Philistines brought back the ark, and the men of Beth-shemesh looked

into it. Truly “our God is a consuming fire.” He will not be trifled with.

This was his ark, and he would make them know that it was his; and albeit

that, with good intentions, they had surrounded it, yet, since they had not

reverently obeyed his commands, he would let them see that he was not to

be trifled with, nor that his ark could be touched with impunity. Do you

wonder that, in the presence of that corpse, David was afraid of God that



He was also afraid of God for another reason, namely, that he himself had

been in a wrong frame of mind, for we read in the 11th verse, that “David

was displeased because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza.” He does

not seem to have been displeased with Uzza, but he was displeased with

God. It seemed, to him, a hard thing that he had gathered all that crowd of

people together, and that they had been doing their best as he thought, for

the honor of God, and now the whole proceedings were spoilt by the

outstretched hand of an angry God in their midst. So David was angry; and

when he remembered that such wicked thoughts had ever crossed his mind,

he began to feel afraid of God for his own sake.


Then, I daresay, his own sense of worthlessness for such a holy work made

him cry, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” He feared lest, in

some unguarded moment, he might be guilty of irreverence, and so perish,

as Uzza had done. I have often had, in a measure, that kind of fear upon

me which came over David that day. To be a child of God, is the most

blessed experience in the world, but it also involves stern discipline. When

God makes you his child, You are sure to feel his rod. Others may escape

it, but you will not, “for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and

scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” If you live very near to God, and

you get many tokens of his favor, you will find that you must watch every

step you take, and every thought you think, for the Lord is a jealous God;

and where he gives the most love, there will be the most jealousy. He may

leave a sinner to go to great lengths in sin, but not his saints. He may let

ordinary Christians do a great deal without chastening them, but if you are

privileged to lie in his bosom, if you have high fellowship with him, you

will soon know how jealous he is. I have often heard men, while praying,

quote as if it were a text of Scripture, “God, out of Christ, is a consuming

fire.” The Bible does not say anything of the kind; it says, “Our God is a

consuming fire.” So, the prophet Isaiah asks, “Who among us shall dwell

with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting

burnings?” And what is his answer? “He that walketh righteously, and

speaketh uprightly.” He is the only man who can live amid such burnings,

the sacred salamander from whom the fire only burns out any remaining

sin. When you ask to live near to God, see in what a terrible place, and in

what a supremely blessed place, you ask to live. You want to live in the fire

of his presence, even though you know that it will consume your sin, and

that you will have often to suffer much while that sin is being consumed. I

have said, again and again, “My Lord, burn as fiercely as it may, I do aspire

to dwell in this sacred spot. Let the fire go through me till it has burned up

all my dross; but, oh! do let me dwell with thee!”


Yet I am not surprised if someone starts back, and says, “I can hardly ask

for such a trial as that.” Like James and John we want to sit on the right

and left hand of our Master in his glory; but when he asks, “Can ye drink of

the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized

with?” it will need much more grace than they had if we are able to say,

from our hearts “‘We can.’ By thy grace, we shall be able and willing to

endure anything if we may but dwell with thee.” For, beloved, if you have

ever had even a glimpse of God in his innermost tabernacle, if he has made

his glory to shine upon you, you have felt willing even to die, have been

almost eager to die, that you might have yet more of that beatific vision,

and never have it clouded again. One of the good old saints said, when he

had very much of the love of Christ poured into his soul, “Hold, Lord,

hold! It is enough. Remember that I am but an earthen vessel. If I have

more, I shall die.” If I had been in such case I think I would have said, “Do

not hold, Lord. I am but an earthen vessel, so I shall die in the process, and

glad enough shall I be to die if I may but see thy face, and never, never,

lose the vision any more.”


We need not wonder that David was afraid after such a manifestation of

the divine displeasure. He did the best thing he could do under the

circumstances, he left the ark with Obed-edom for a while, determined to

set about its removal in a different fashion another time.


III. Now we come to our third subject; that is, DAVIDS SACRED JOY: “So

David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to

bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obededom

with joy.” Obed-edom took the ark into his house, and God blessed

him. Then it occurred to David that there was not much, after all, to be

afraid of in the ark. That awful thing, that had smitten Uzza, had been in

this other man’s house, and been a blessing to him. That fact has often

made my heart rejoice. I have said, “Well, I know that it is a solemn thing

to live near to God; but I have seen a poor, bed-ridden woman live in the

light of God’s countenance, year after year, as happy as all the birds of the

air; then, why should not I do the same? I have seen a plain, humble,

Christian man walking with God, as Enoch did, and happy from the 1st of

January to the last of December, and God blessing him in everything; so,

come, my soul, though thy God is a consuming fire, there is nothing for his

children to dread.” So, after David had seen that God blessed Obed-edom

for three months, he thought to himself, “Well, now, Obed-edom has had

his turn, and I may have mine. I will set to work to see if I cannot worship

God rightly this time, and bring up the ark unto my house in the right



So he began thus. He prepared a tent for the ark. I do not read that he did

that before; but, in the 1st verse of the 15th chapter we read, “David made

him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God,

and pitched for it a tent.” Now you see that he is thoughtful and careful in

preparing a place for the ark of God; and if I want God’s presence, I must

prepare my mind and heart to receive it. If I want to enjoy communion with

my Lord at his table, I must obey that injunction, “Let a man examine

himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” I must not

observe the ordinances of the Lord’s house without proper thought and

solemnity. As the priests washed themselves before they ministered at the

altar, so would I come, cleansed and sanctified by the purifying Word, that

I may acceptably appear before God.


Then, next, the mind of the Lord was considered. In the 2nd verse of this

15th chapter, David says, “None ought to carry the ark of the Lord but the

Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God;” and he

asserts that the breach upon them had been made because they “sought him

not after the due order.” Now is David anxious to obey God. He will do,

not what he thinks proper, but what God thinks proper; and that is the

right way for us to worship the Lord. How I wish that all professing

Christians would revise their creed by the Word of God! How I wish that

all religious denominations would bring their ordinances and forms of

worship to the supreme test of the New Testament! “To the law and to the

testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is

no light in them.” But, alas! they know that so much would have to be put

away that is now delightful to the flesh, that, I fear me, we shall be long

before we bring all to worship God after his own order. But, my soul, if

thou art to be accepted of God, thou must see to it that, in all thine

approaches to the great King, thou dost strictly observe the etiquette of his

court. What is the rule for courtiers who come into the presence of the

King of kings? What dress are they to wear? With what words can they

approach the throne? In what spirit are they to draw nigh to God? Answer

all these questions, and see that thou dost ask the Lord to make thee

obedient in all things to his gracious commands.


Further, you see that, this time, the priests were put into their proper

places. David said, “Because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God

made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.”

Now they are where they should have been at the first, in the front of the

procession; and, brethren, when God accepts us, Christ will take the first

place. Our great High Priest will be in the front, and we shall do nothing

except through his name, and in the power of his precious blood.

Then, on this second occasion, sacrifices were presented unto the Lord.

Scarcely had the ark rested upon the shoulders of the Levites than they

offered seven bullocks and seven rams as a sacrifice unto God. So, we

should never think of doing anything in the worship of our God without the

seven bullocks and seven rams which are all summed up in the one perfect

offering of our ever-adorable Lord. O brothers and sisters, keep Christ ever

before you! Let all your good deeds be done through the strength you

receive from him, for “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.”

Nothing can be right that is apart from him; but if he is our Alpha and

Omega, and all the letters between, there is no fear that we shall not bring

up the ark of the Lord aright. In this spirit of loving obedience, and holy

awe, relying upon the sacrifice which they had presented, they seemed like

hinds let loose; and David, especially, who I suppose was a representative

of the whole of them, seemed as if he did not know how he could

adequately express the joy that he felt. He had his harp, of which he was a

master-player; so, with his skillful fingers moving among the familiar

strings, he began to sing; and as he sang, he leaped like some of our

Methodist friends do when they get so excited that they must needs begin

to jump and to dance. I suppose that all the crowd cried, “Amen!” as David

sang some of his most joyous songs of praise unto the Lord, and that a

great shout went up to heaven, for everyone was glad that day, and

especially David, as he danced before the Lord with all his might.

We must not forget that this carrying up of the ark was a typo of the

ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. If there is anything that should make a

Christian’s heart leap for joy, it is the fact of his Lord’s return to heaven.

See him! He has risen from the dead, and now he is rising from the midst of

his disciples. He continues to ascend till a cloud receives him out of their

sight, and angels fly to meet him as he nears the pearly gates. Squadron

after squadron salutes the conquering Prince, and bids him welcome home.

And who, I pray you, is this Lord of hosts who now ascends his Father’s

throne, and sits down at his Father’s right hand for ever, as the

acknowledged King of kings and Lord of fords? It is the man that died on

Calvary, the great representative Man who is also God. Lo, at his chariot

wheels he drags sin, Satan, death, and hell. He leadeth captivity captive,

and giveth gifts unto men.


“Sing, O heavens! O earth, rejoice!

Angel harp, and human voice,

Round Him, as He rises, raise

Your ascending Savior’s praise.”


Now may ye, who love him, dance with all your might; now may ye let

your souls revel in intensest delight, and plunge themselves in the

bottomless sea of ineffable bliss. God grant you so to do, for our Lord

Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.



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