Commentary by Walter Albritton

March 2, 2008


The Ark of the Covenant Helps Us Understand Worship


1 Chronicles 15:1-28


Key Verse: David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. – 1 Chronicles 15:3  

          The story of the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem is much more than a history lesson. It offers us valuable insights into the nature of, and our need for, authentic worship. Say what you will about David; for him the worship of almighty God was serious business.

          David had reverence for holy things. The lessons of Hebrew history were not lost on him. He understood the sacred place of the ark of the covenant in Israelite worship. His sense of timing was superb; David knew that the time had come for the ark to be moved to Jerusalem.

          While David did not have the wisdom of Solomon, he did have the common sense to learn from his mistakes. When his first attempt to move the ark failed, he took great care to move it successfully the second time. No stone was left unturned. He made sure the right people, the Levites, would carry the ark in the prescribed manner, on their shoulders using poles that extended through the gold rings on the ark. We can imagine David saying to the leaders of the Levites, “Don’t even think about loading the ark on a wagon again!”

          David prepared a special place for the ark. It was a sacred symbol so it deserved a place of honor. It would not be stuck in a corner somewhere and pulled out on special occasions. Having a designated place elevated its significance in the minds of the Israelites.

          The arrival of the ark called for a celebration so David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem for a carefully orchestrated time of worship. While they had no bulletins to pass out, they did have an “order” of worship. Their worship was not haphazard or spontaneous. They did not call on the audience for requests of favorite songs. Gifted musicians were asked to play all kinds of musical instruments. Kenaniah, “the head Levite,” was chosen, because of his exceptional skill, to prepare the choirs to sing “joyful songs.” David pulled out all the stops and made it a memorable day for the people.

          What may we learn from all this?

          First, we may learn that it is good to have reverence for holy things in our houses of worship. While we no longer designate a sacred place for a historic relic like the ark of the covenant, we can consecrate a special place for the communion table, the altar, the Bible, and the cross. We can teach our children to share our reverence for holy things in a holy place. It may be a mistake in judgment to eat spaghetti and play basketball in the same space used to house the sacred symbols of our faith. As much as we may like becoming “casual” about everything, there may be a line beyond which we should not go.

          Second, we may learn that worship can become consistently awesome and exciting when we invite the Holy Spirit to guide us in careful planning of worship services. Casual worship may need to be tempered with historic liturgy that reminds us of our spiritual heritage. While liturgies can become tedious and boring, a simplistic pattern of singing and preaching may not provide a congregation with all that people need to feel their connection to the Church Universal or the “Church Militant.”

The recitation of a creed may seem obsolete but it does help us Sunday after Sunday to remember who we are and why we have gathered to worship almighty God. We may be cheating our worshipers if we offer them a steady diet of “new” songs and never give them the thrill of singing some of the great old hymns of the faith. It may well be that the church that serves God best will offer excellent worship in both contemporary and traditional styles – for years and years to come.

Third, we may learn that authentic worship will always help people hear God’s call to serve him in the common life. David helped the people to “connect” the ark of the covenant with daily living. True worship inspires us to “go forth” from worship into the world to honor Christ in all that we do. Worship is not an end in itself. True worship will inspire us to love and serve God – and to love the people for whom Christ died.  It will teach us how to serve God in deeds of love and mercy, through giving and praying, and in praising God with both our lips and our lives.

Since authentic worship is not a “spectator sport,” it behooves us all to consider how we may participate more fully in worship and open our hearts to receive the inspiration, strength, and comfort that God wants to give us every time we gather to praise him for his unfailing love. 

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