Preached by C. H. Spurgeon on April 8th, 1860
"The Lord our God made a breach upon us for that we sought him not after the due order." --1 Chronicles 15:13.
Let me explain the events of which a summary is to be found in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13 and 15: The ark of the covenant was a kind of chest made of shittim wood, and lined within and without with gold. Within this ark were preserved the tables of stone, which were received from heaven by Moses when he was upon the mount. There also lay the golden pot that had the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. Upon the lid of it were represented cherubic figures of angels; and between the wings of the cherubim, when the ark was at rest, there was seen that miraculously bright light, called the Shekinah, which was the token of the presence of the Most High God. The lid of the ark, as you will remember was called the mercy-seat. The whole ark was one of the most sacred things in the symbolic worship of the Jews because if they understood aright, it was to them the expression of God’s dwelling with them, for where that ark was, God specially rested. Its lid being called the mercy seat, was the representation of Jesus Christ who is our ark–the ark of the covenant in which God dwelt among men, and he is our mercy-seat by whom we have access to our Father, God. You will remember that after this ark was made in the wilderness, it was carefully kept in the secret place of the tabernacle, into which no man ever entered, except the high priest once in the year; and, then, not without blood. With his censor smoking, he made a thick cloud of incense, and then sprinkling the blood upon the mercy-seat, he ventured near to it–but not without blood. That ark when it was removed was covered over, so that no human eye should ever see it; and it was carried by golden staves upon the shoulders of the Levites. It was by the presence of this ark that Jordan was driven back, and an easy passage was made for the children of Israel, when they entered into Canaan. The ark was in an evil day captured by the Philistines. But when they took it away into their country, wherever the ark went, it smote the Philistines with pestilence, until they were compelled to bring it back, for they cried, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city, the hand of God was very heavy there.” Placing the terrible captive upon a new cart, they left the oxen to bear it as they pleased, and by divine providence the ark was carried to Beth-shemesh. The men of Beth-shemesh struck with an evil curiosity, lifted up the lid and looked therein, and there fell many thousands of them dead for the impious presumption. The ark was then removed to Kirjath-jearim, and taken into the house of Abinadab, where it was preserved till the days of David, who desired to bring it up to the tabernacle which he had erected for it on the top of Mount Zion. The messengers hastened through all the land carrying the royal message, “Come up, ye tribes of Israel, and ye sons of Judah, gather yourselves together, and bring up the ark of the covenant of your God with music and with joy.” They came from every city, from the remotest ends of Judea, and from the borders of Egypt. But forgetful of the divine law, they took up the ark and put it on a new cart or chariot which they had made for it. They thought, doubtless, it was too heavy for the priests to carry so many miles; or else, forgetful altogether of the divine law, they imitated the example of the Philistines. It is an evil hour for the people of God, when they set up their own judgment, and fail to yield implicit obedience to divine law. The ark is dragged by the oxen; but as there are no roads in the East, but only here and there a cart rut, the cart shakes, and the ark totters. Just when they come to the threshing floor of Chidon, there is a peculiarly boggy place in the road, and the car is almost upset; the ark is about to fall in the mire, so Uzzah thinks, and he puts out his hand, touches the ark to stop it, is rent in pieces, and falls a mangled corpse. The procession stops. They begin to weep; they cast dust into the air; the king himself is angry, angry with his God. He thinks he is dealing hardly with them; and the ark is taken into Obededom’s house, and all their joy is suspended.
You have before you now the picture. I shall want you to look at it, first, in detail, to bring out certain truths which I think it teaches to us; and then, I shall want you to regard the picture as a whole, to run your eye along the whole length of the canvas, and see the fullness of its meaning.