The Chronicler wished for his readers to understand that, although they had been exiled, their God had not changed. To help fortify this theological vision for his audience, the Chronicler gave an extensive account of God’s holiness and His desire to be with His people, both of which were symbolized in the ark of the covenant. The Chronicler wrote that despite the initial setback in transporting the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, the Lord was obviously with the king. David could take courage in bringing the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem.
The first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem ended in physical and spiritual disaster (1 Chronicles 13). The Chronicler, ever attempting to give the returned exiles a theological vision of Israel’s greatness under the faithful King David, strongly emphasized the king’s noble heart in transferring the ark to Jerusalem. David was an administrator who worked in conjunction with “the whole assembly of Israel” to accomplish the task (1 Chron 13:2). Yet, when Uzzah braced the tottering ark, he was struck dead. The scene ended tragically for the king as well, as the Chronicler recorded, “David was angry because of the LORD’s outburst against Uzzah…David feared God that day, and said, ‘How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?’ So David did not move the ark of God home to the city of David” (1 Chron 13:11, 12-13).
But all was not lost. In 1 Chronicles 14, the author noted that the Lord was yet with David. David was recognized as Israel’s ruler; the king of Tyre even sent materials and masons to build a palace for David in Jerusalem (1 Chron 14:1-2). David’s family enjoyed the Lord’s bounty and multiplication (1 Chron 14:3-7, albeit without reference to the Bathsheba incident). David was successful against the Philistines (1 Chron 14:8-17). The chapter ends with a stellar commendation of Israel’s commander-in-chief: “So David did exactly as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army from Gibeon to Gezer. Then David’s fame spread throughout the lands, and the LORD caused all the nations to be terrified of him” (1 Chron 14:16-17).
In light of the Lord’s obvious blessing, David resumed the mission to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15-16). David instructed those with him that only the Levites should carry the ark and they should do so on poles in accordance with the law (Exod 25:10-22; 26:33; 35:12; 37:1-5; Num 7:9; Deut 10:8; 31:25). After exhorting Zadok and Abiathar in their duties as priests (1 Chron 15:11-15), they set out to retrieve the ark from the house of Obed-Edom, who had enjoyed its blessing for three months (1 Chron 13:14). The remainder of these chapters records the music and praise of the Levites whom David appointed to lead Israel’s celebration toward Jerusalem (1 Chron 15:16-26) and the burnt offerings and psalm of thanksgiving that were offered by the king (1 Chron 16:1-36). The final scene reminded the Chronicler’s audience that David was a wise administrator, appointing the appropriate Levites to minister before the ark in Jerusalem (1 Chron 16:37-43).
David’s psalm of praise in 1 Chronicles 16 displays themes of the storyline of Scripture. As the company of Levites brought the ark into Jerusalem, David extolled the Lord for His loving-kindness in the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The essence of the covenant was that God would give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, a promise originally stated in Genesis 15. While the Chronicler displayed an enthusiastic pen, he knew of God’s covenant mercy only in part. In the storyline of Scripture, the fullness of God’s loving-kindness is known in Jesus Christ, in the new covenant. Paul summarized this when he wrote to Titus, “When the goodness and love for man appeared from God our Savior, He saved us, not by works of righteousness we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6).