Sometimes cities are known because of a famous resident. For example, if you were to go to Springfield, Illinois, you would find that it is best known for being the home of Abraham Lincoln. Tupelo, Mississippi is known for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. And if you were to go to Hibbing, Minnesota, and I don’t know why you would ever want to do that, unless you were interested in seeing where Bob Dylan was born.
Well, in the same way, Bethlehem was known as the city of David, because that’s where David was born. But, as we saw last week, David captured a Jebusite city by the name of Jerusalem and made it his capital, and it was also known as the City of David.
David wasn’t just a famous citizen of Jerusalem and a famous king in Israel, but he occupies a major portion of the Old Testament scripture. As I’ve mentioned before, the story of David occupies 62 chapters in the Bible. David’s name appears 1,118 times in scripture, more than anyone else except for Jesus.
So, I think it’s important for us to study the life of David. And 2 Samuel is the book that tells us about David taking the throne and re-uniting the kingdom of Israel. Saul was Israel’s first king, but he was not a man after God’s own heart, and the kingdom was divided after his death. But now David becomes king over all twelve tribes, he takes the throne, he conquers Jerusalem, and the reign of David is in full swing.
This morning, we come to the amazing story of the ark. Now, we’re not talking about Noah’s Ark. We are talking about The Raiders of the Lost Ark ark, the Ark of the Covenant.
The ark was a wooden chest about four feet long, two feet wide, and two feet high. The box was overlaid with gold, and it had a lid with two angelic figures, cherubim, engraved in gold on the top.
The significance of the ark was that God promised to meet with his people there. He said in Exodus 25, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you” (Exodus 25:22).
The ark was a holy, holy place. So much so, that God said that anyone who touched the ark or looked inside the ark would die (Numbers 4:15, 20). While the Israelites were in the wilderness, the ark was kept in the tabernacle, behind a curtain. Only the High Priest was allowed to go behind that curtain, and he was only allowed to do that one day out of the year.
But the tabernacle was a tent, and so every time the Israelites moved as they traveled through the wilderness, the tabernacle had to be packed up and moved, which meant that the ark also had to be moved. Which wasn’t an easy task because, remember, they weren’t allowed to touch it.
But when God gave them instructions for building the ark, he told them to put two golden rings on each side of the ark. That was so the priests could take two long wooden poles, slide them through those rings. Then then they could lift the poles, put them on their shoulders, and they could carry the ark without touching it.
The job of those priests must have felt like the work of bomb disposal experts today – it was dangerous work, and it had to be done very carefully in just the right way. And all of this communicated in a very powerful way that the presence of God is a dangerous place for sinners like us to be.
There are some remarkable stories about the ark in the Old Testament. For example, on one occasion, in I Samuel 4, after the Israelites had been defeated in battle by the Philistines, God’s people decided that it might help if next time they went into battle, they took the ark with them. So, they saw the ark of the covenant, not as a place where God meets with his people, but now it had become a lucky charm, kinda like a rabbit’s foot.
These were people who didn’t want really want God in their lives, but they wanted his help in times of trouble. But their plan didn’t work, and the Israelites were defeated again. This time, the Philistines captured their ark, and they put it in one of their temples where they had built an idol of their god Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1).
The Philistines were thrilled. Not only had they defeated the Israelites, but they thought they had captured their God. But, of course, Yahweh cannot be captured. The next morning, when they opened the doors of Dagon’s temple, their saw that their idol had fallen and lay smashed on the floor. In addition to that, people in town got sick.
They decided they had better get rid of the ark, so they sent it to the next Philistine town. When the ark arrived there, the people in that city got sick, so they sent it on to the next Philistine town, where the same thing started to happen again. I’m sure they thought, do you guys hate us or what? Why are you sending us that thing? We don’t want that crazy thing.
They didn’t know what to do with the ark of God. It was obvious that this God is powerful, and he is clearly against us. So, they decided to send the ark back to the Israelites. They said, “Let’s put this ark on a cart”. So they built a new cart, put the ark on the cart, tied it to two cows, and sent them off in the direction of Israel.
When the cows arrived with the ark in a town in Israel, Beth-Shemesh, the men of that town were curious. So, they took the lid off the ark, and they looked inside. Which is what God commanded them never to do. And, as a result, 70 men died because they dared to look into the ark of the covenant. And it scared everyone else so much that they put the ark inside the home of a man named Abinadab where it sat neglected for about 20 years.
So, now we pick up the story in 2 Samuel 6. As we saw last week, David was well aware that the kingdom he had been given belonged to God, not to him, and David wanted God to be at the center of that kingdom. These were God’s people. And as God’s people, there needed to be a spiritual center, a spiritual capital.
So, David’s intention was to go get the ark of the covenant which had been out there in the countryside for the past 20 years or so, and bring it up to Jerusalem so that the people could eventually have a central sanctuary, a place where they could worship God together. It was a good idea, but David went about it in the wrong way.
Verse 1, “Then David again gathered all the elite troops in Israel, 30,000 in all. He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim.” (2 Samuel 6:1-2)
That must have been quite a scene. 30,000 soldiers hit the road and they walked the ten miles or so from Jerusalem to the house of Abinadab.
“They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark.” (2 Samuel 6:3-4)
They set the ark of the covenant on a cart. Now that makes perfect sense if you don’t know the Bible. If you’re going to do things the same way the Philistines did them, then it makes perfect sense. Because, remember, that’s how they transported the ark, on a new cart.
The problem is that God gave very clear instructions about how he wanted the Israelites to move the ark, and this wasn’t the way. Remember, those rings on the side to put the poles through and lift it up and put it on your shoulders?
But they didn’t do it that way. They just put it on a cart and headed toward Jerusalem. Now, it makes sense that they would want to do that. It was about 10 miles to Jerusalem. And going to Jerusalem was uphill all the way. So, why carry that heavy thing when you can just put it on a cart and get some animals to pull it? It seemed like the right thing to do, but it was all wrong.
And so, “when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah [who was walking behind the ark] reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
In our lesson this morning, I want to look at four different attitudes toward God that are displayed in this chapter and the first is this…
1. Not Taking God Seriously
Let’s be honest. What happened to Uzzah seems a bit unfair to us. I feel confident in saying that Uzzah wasn’t the only sinner in Israel that day, but he was the only sinner to be struck dead by God. Later on, we’re going to see that David is going to commit adultery and murder, but God doesn’t strike him dead. So, why Uzzah? The only mistake he seems to have made was making sure that God’s ark didn’t fall to the ground and get damaged. It was probably just a natural reaction, like when one of your kids stumble and you reach out and grab them. It just doesn’t seem like that serious of a mistake, compared to all the other sins.
And I think that’s the problem – it doesn’t seem that serious. And the ark of the covenant was something that God’s people were supposed to take very seriously. Not because there was anything special about the box but because this is where God said, “I will meet you at this place.” Being next to the ark was like being in the presence of God!
How could we ever survive if were in the presence of God? That’s not a question that many people are asking today. Millions of people assume that if there is a god, he must be a god who accepts and affirms everyone. He’s so loving that he would never punish anyone. And so, people talk about God as if he’s just a good buddy, or the big man upstairs. There’s no sense of awe about God.
I want to encourage us to guard against a casual approach to God that forgets his holiness and his greatness. We need to remember the seriousness that’s involved in coming into the presence of God. Not in a way that makes us forget that he’s our father or that we’re his children, but in a way that helps us remember that, yes, while he is our father, he is also the awesome God who created this universe. And we need to constantly remind ourselves of his glory and his greatness.
To take God seriously means that we also take his Word seriously. If someone speaks to us, but we ignore – or even reject – much of what they say to us, we’re not taking them seriously. In fact, we’re guilty of disrespect.
The same thing applies to God. If we ignore or reject much of what he says to us through the Scriptures, we’re not taking him seriously. Rather, we are treating him with disrespect. And I think the story of Uzzah shows us what happens when we don’t take God seriously.
Verse 8 tells us, “David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah.” (2 Samuel 6:8)
I find it interesting that so many people get angry with God when things go wrong in their life, when the reason things went wrong is because they didn’t do what God told them to do.
And so many people get upset when they hear about a God of justice. Everybody wants a God of love and grace and mercy, but whenever you talk about the fact that God is also a God of justice and wrath, people get upset. They don’t like that. And sometimes people say, “I don’t want anything to do with a God like that.”
And that’s sorta what David does here. He gets angry with God and then in verse 9, “David was now afraid of the Lord, and he asked, ‘How can I ever bring the Ark of the Lord back into my care?’ So David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath.” (2 Samuel 6:9-10)
Which brings to the second attitude toward God in this chapter…
2. Taking Offense at God
David says, “If this is what God is like, I don’t think I can ever be near him, and I’m not sure I even want to be near him.” This is David, the man after God’s own heart! But, at this point in his life, he was angry with God. He would rather be far from God than near him. “I can’t live with a God who does things like this.”
And again, there are a lot of people like this in the world. “I can’t worship a God who would let babies die, and wars get fought, and tornadoes destroy communities. I don’t want anything to do with a God like that.”
Or maybe it’s something that happens in your own life. Maybe a failed relationship, or financial difficulties, or health issues. And what should be drawing you closer to God ends up pushing you away. Instead of walking closely with God, you keep a “safe” distance from him. You put God over there and you stay over here.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:16, “Blessed is the person who is not offended because of me.” But people do get offended because God doesn’t do what they think he ought to do. Or, because God expects more from them than they think he ought to expect.
What interesting in our text is that David was offended by what God did, so he got rid of the ark. He sent it to the house of Obed-edom. But then verse 11 tells us, “The Ark of the Lord remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his entire household.” (2 Samuel 6:11).
Whenever we isolate ourselves from God because we get upset with him, we are the ones who suffer. The ones who are blessed are the ones who get the privilege of being in God’s presence.
And so, I would say to every person who is offended by God today, there is blessing that you could be enjoying right now. But whenever you hold on to whatever it is that has offended you, you forfeit the blessing that could be yours.
So, we’re told that David was afraid of God. Which is not such a bad thing. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. David needed to understand that the ark of the covenant wasn’t a good luck charm. There has to be a serious attitude when you’re dealing with the God the universe.
David was afraid of the Lord that day. And he said in verse 9, “How can I ever bring the Ark of the Lord back into my care?” (2 Samuel 6:9). If you had been there with David, you could have answered his question. You could say, “David, I’ll tell you how you can get the ark to Jerusalem. Read Numbers chapter 4, and it will tell the right way to do it.”
Now, I don’t know this for sure, but maybe, just maybe, David went back home and did a little Bible study. Maybe he asked some of the priests, “What did I do wrong here?” And apparently, he found the answer, because in verse 12, “David went there and brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with a great celebration.” (2 Samuel 6:12).
Now, we don’t get all the details here in 2 Samuel, but in I Kings, chapter 16, we’re told that this time David did it the right way. He had the ark on the shoulders of the priests from the tribe of Levi, and they marched that thing into the city.
So, by studying the scriptures, David found out the right way to do it. And David brought the ark of God into the City of David “with a great celebration.”
David celebrated because the same God who punishes wickedness is also ready to bless those who follow him. He is powerful to judge those who defy him, and he is powerful to bless those who seek him. Those two things go together and that’s why David said in Psalm 2, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11).
Fearing God and rejoicing in him belong together because the same power that causes you to tremble if God is against you brings great joy when you know that he is for you
But you can only know the blessing of God if you come to him in the way that he has prescribed! And when David got things right with God, there was great joy. Verse 14, “And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” (2 Samuel 6:14-15).
Which bring us to the third attitude toward God in this chapter….
3. Rejoicing in God
Yes, we need to always take God seriously, but there should also be an element of joy when we do God’s work, especially when we gather to worship together. I think far too often, Christianity has been associated with an experience that saps the joy out of a person’s life. You tell someone that you’ve become a Christian and they look at you like your life just ended. They think, “You’ll never have any fun the rest of your life.”
But there is great joy in serving the Lord. And I think people ought to be able to see that joy. For too long, church has been associated only with seriousness. And so, a lot of worship services look and sound like funeral services. But worship should be filled with joy.
The Israelites are bringing the ark of God into Jerusalem. It’s a time of worship. And so, David did it with great celebration. Music is being played. Psalms that David has written are being sung. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. He’s just so excited because of the awesome God that he serves.
The scene here is similar to what you might find in Israel even today. One of the festivals the Jews celebrate is the feast of Shabbat, the Festival of Booths. They bring out baskets of fruit and produce. And all the people will dance, twirling around in their ancient costumes. Everyone hit the streets. And there’s dancing, and singing, and joy everywhere. And it’s like what we read here. So, David is having a great time.
But, there’s somebody who’s not happy about what David is doing. Verse 16, “But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him…When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, ‘How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!’” (2 Samuel 6:16,20-21)
When David was done with his public duties for the day, he wanted to share the blessing he had enjoyed with his own family. David is full of joy in God, and now he wants to bring that joy to his own family. But when he gets home, the person he loves is as cold as ice.
Many of you know what that’s like. You’ve been blessed, helped, encouraged in the presence of God. You want the people you love to share in this blessing. But when you go home, you find a family member who has absolutely no interest in sharing your love for God.
Michal loved “David the champion” who defeated Goliath and wiped out the enemies. But she despised “David the believer” who danced for joy in the presence of God. And again, sadly, some of you know what that’s like. Someone you love despises your joy for God.
So, what is David going to do about that? He stays faithful in his love for God. And that’s the fourth attitude toward God we see in this chapter…
4. Being faithful to God no matter what others may say
David said to Michal in verse 21, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” (2 Samuel 6:21-22).
David says to his wife, “You may despise me for this, and it may be that in the future you will despise me even more, but however contemptible I become in your eyes, I will worship the Lord. I will seek his presence. I will live to serve him, and in him I will find great joy. Nothing you can say will make me stop worshiping my God with joy.”
Sadly, I think that Michal’s attitude toward David is the attitude that some Christians have toward other Christians who are worshiping the Lord with all their heart. Sometimes we see another Christian raising a hand or clapping. There’s an excitement about them as their joy is being expressed.
And I’ve known some Christians who felt that all of that is inappropriate. A worship service is a place where you should just sit like a bump on a log and do nothing but just look in one direction, barely moving your lips to even sing the songs. And it sometimes seems that people’s only job in worship is to criticize other people who are doing things they don’t like. I don’t know where we got the idea that worshiping the most worthy God in all of the universe should be bottled up inside us with no emotion.
There’s something beautiful about David just giving himself wholeheartedly to God, worshipping God with all of his heart. It’s beautiful. But to Michal, it wasn’t beautiful. It was disgusting.
Remember, she was King Saul’s daughter. She probably thought that royalty doesn’t mix with the people, that if you’re going to be among the people, you should always wear your royal robes. Saul was always big into looking the part.
And that’s what Michal remembered. Her frame of reference was dad. He was always trying to act so kingly, even though his heart wasn’t right with the Lord. So, she sees David mixing with the people and not in his royal robes. And she despises him.
What’s interesting is that the very qualities that she despised were the qualities that made David great. He was humble. He did mix with the people. It wasn’t all about him and his reign. It was all about God.
And so, David says to Michal, “My dancing wasn’t for you, and it wasn’t for anyone else. It was for the Lord. And I really don’t care what you say. I’m going to continue to celebrate my Lord with all my heart.” Which is an attitude that I think we should all have.
So, we’ve seen four attitudes that David had toward the Lord. Two that were not good and two that were. So, let me just close by asking you to look into your heart to see what your attitude is toward God. Maybe you haven’t been taking God seriously, listening to what he has to say. Or maybe you’ve taken offense at God because of something bad that’s happened in your life. And, as a result, you’ve separated yourself from him. Let me encourage you to find great joy in God and be faithful to him no matter what anyone else may say.