These three chapters revolve around one thing, the return of the ark of God to Jerusalem.
The backstory goes like this: The Philistines and Israelites had been fighting. The Philistines were winning, wiping out about 4,000 men in one particular battle. So, the Israelites go back to base, regroup, and in their own wisdom, decide they need the ark of the covenant. That will surely bring victory. So, the ark is delivered to them at their base camp, and they go into battle again. This time, they suffer even greater casualities, such that 30,000 Israelites were killed in battle. The ark was captured and taken into Philistine territory. Around that time, people started saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” “There’s no glory,” “Where’s God?”
The Philistines have some trouble with the ark being in their territory. Instead of bringing blessing, it brings curses, in the form of tumors. So, seven months later, they send the ark away from their territory, back to Israel. The place where it returns is called Beth-shemesh. When it arrives, some men look upon the ark and are struck dead. This causes more grieving, and they start asking, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?”
The people move the ark to the house of Abinadab and consecrate someone to watch over the ark, Eleazar. The ark remains there throughout the rest of Samuel’s life and throughout Saul’s life. It’s basically ignored.
So David, upon becoming king and moving into Jerusalem, decides to bring the ark back to the golden city. This is where the Chronicles account picks up, and if you read through it, you come to find out that the transportation of this ark was no small thing. In fact, another person is struck dead for transporting it the wrong way. This puts fear in David’s heart, thus he leaves the ark at a man’s house for three months. In the meantime, he learns how to transport it the right way. He also has two battles with the Philistines, in which he seeks God’s instruction, God tells him what to do, and he is granted victory. Thus his fame spreads, he builds houses, he prepares a place for the ark of God, and now, he feels ready to move the ark since he knows how to do it the right way. This time, the move is a success.
The moral of the story should be obvious by now: You approach God on His terms, not on yours. And you seek Him for direction, no one else.