The Loss of God’s Presence

Have you ever been involved in a project that appeared well planned, by a good team, but failed? King David’s preparation to move the ark was like that. He led well; he consulted the experts and obtained ownership from key players.1 However, David learned that there is more to serving God than enthusiasm and good project management. His mission to move the ark was flawed because the plans were made without Step 1—God’s input.

We can imagine his planning team at Mission Control beginning their analysis. “What do we need to re-locate the ark of the covenant to David’s place?” They settled on the fastest, most powerful and efficient transportation of the time, a state of the art delivery vehicle—a brand new ox cart. Uzzah and Ahio were selected to drive.

Perhaps the organizers failed to anticipate difficulties—appalling suspension, clumsy oxen, and bone-jolting dirt trails. Maybe they assumed that Uzzah’s brawn and Ahio’s brain could handle every problem that arose. Surely they were, “Ready for take-off!”

I have led, or been part of, projects like that. It is not that God dislikes our planning and therefore withholds His blessing, or allows failure. In fact, our loving Father delights in our childish efforts to serve Him, even though He is quite capable of completing, instantly and perfectly, every task we tackle. The problem was that David knew God’s will but not His ways—the ark was supposed to be carried by pole-bearing Levites, not a wagon.

When the oxen hit a pothole, Uzzah instinctively tried to steady it. His hand went out and so did God’s—He struck him down (2 Sam. 6:6-7). It shocks us to read it and it angered David.

David became angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. So David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” And David was unwilling to move the ark of the Lord into the city of David with him; but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. (2 Sam. 6:8-10)

Three words describe David’s response to God’s punishment of Uzzah: anger, fear, and unwillingness. David became so irate toward God and frightened of Him that his motivation to move the ark farther fizzled out.

At times, we respond like David. When our enthusiastic work for God bears little fruit or our grand dreams fall flat, it’s easy to blame others, God, even ourselves.

In despair, David asked, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam. 6:9) In his mind, it had become a lost cause—mission impossible. He resigned himself to living without God’s presence. David settled for distance, spiritually and literally—he stored the ark at Obed-edom’s house across town. For three months, David’s life moved on. Perhaps a cycle of diminishing presence set in (as it can with us); we don’t expect to hear God speak so we listen less.

The only way to break the cycle of resignation to living at a distance from God is to deal with the unbelief. Eventually, David’s question took a different tone. “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” became an inquiry into God’s way for moving the ark, a question birthed in renewed desire for God’s presence. Because of Jesus, it has an easy answer.

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  1. 1 Chron. 13:1-4 []

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