The Ark resided in the Tabernacle of Moses until the time of Eli, and then it was stolen as a result of judgment upon Eli’s house.
1 Samuel 2:30-32a Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: `I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD says: `Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My habitation…
`And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you–they will both die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always.’
The Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines during battle and as was carried around the land of the Philistines. It brought judgment and disaster upon them wherever they took it.
1 Samuel 5:1-4,6-7 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the temple of Dagon and set it by Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD.
So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only the torso of Dagon was left of it.
But the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god.”
Ark Sent to Jerusalem
Because of God’s judgment, the Philistines called their priests together and asked how the Ark should be returned. There was no driver and a team of cows with their calves just taken from them would in the natural follow the calves. Instead, the team of cows went directly to the land of Israel.
God allowed the Philistines to move the Ark on a cart. There were no dedicated men to carry it. But see what happened when God’s people tried to do the same thing.
1 Samuel 6:7,8 Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows which have never been yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart; and take their calves home, away from them. Then take the ark of the LORD and set it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to Him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side. Then send it away, and let it go.
Warning for Us
David wanted to move the Ark from Kirjath-Jearim to Mount Zion and there is a strong warning in his first attempt to move the Ark.
I Chronicles 13:7,8,10 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.
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.
There was disobedience to God’s procedures that were known and practiced. David was responsible, just as we are for proper “temple procedure.”
Praise Can’t Hide Disobedience
David and his men used a cart to move the Ark, but God had commanded the Ark to be moved by Levites carrying it on their shoulders with wooden staves. The Presence of God could not be carried on a cart. It should only be carried by dedicated, set apart men.
David and all Israel were singing and playing musical instruments before the Lord, but they were in disobedience and death was the result.
The Ark was successfully moved later in obedience to God’s instruction.
1 Chronicles 15:2 Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.”
Just because we desire the Presence of the Lord in our worship does not mean we can do it “our way.” The Presence of the Lord must be ushered in as He leads each time. The same “cart” which worked last week, the same songs, tempo, order, etc., will not necessarily work this week.