2 Samuel 6:1-23
David had just been made king over the whole of Israel and conquered Jerusalem, making it his capital (2Kings 5), but this chapter points to a far powerful and awesome Ruler, whose presence David wants placed at the heart of his kingdom. The Ark, which for the last 50 years had lain neglected in some backwater near the Philistine border, was much much more than simply a national heirloom. It was hugely significant, as is clear from the way it is referred to in verse 2 – “the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the Name of the LORD Almighty”. It was not that it was itself God, an idol, but that all that God is, all that He had revealed Himself to be, was in some way tied up with that box. It spoke of God’s Rule over His people – for He was “enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark” (v.2). And it spoke of God’s Relationship with His People, for it was the Ark of the Covenant, containing the 10 Commandments given at Mt Sinai, and its lid was the atonement cover, or Mercy Seat, where the blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement, whereby they could know God’s forgiveness and reconciliation. In wanting to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, David was putting God at the centre of the kingdom.
A huge crowd (30,000) is gathered to escort the Ark to its new resting place, and the atmosphere was one of celebration (v.5). They’ve brought their guitars etc – the place was rocking! But then something happened. It took a moment for everyone to realise it. The dancing stopped, the music stopped, all eyes were on Uzzah writhing on the ground then suddenly still. Someone dialled 999. The party was over. David’s initial reaction might well be ours – he was angry (v.8). Uzzah was only trying to be helpful! God’s wrath seems way over the top. But what Uzzah had done was “irreverent” (v.7) because God had laid down strict and clear guidelines for how the Ark was to be moved: it was to be covered at all times on pain of death (as they had learnt back in 1 Samuel 6); it was to be carried by poles by a specific family within the Levites, not on a cart (so Numbers 4); and people had been warned that to touch it would mean death (Nus.4:15). However good his intention, however sincere and earnest his enthusiasm, his act showed a disregard for the Word of God. It showed a lack of appreciation of the holiness of God. David’s more considered response was better – fear (v.9). And ought this incident not teach us to tremble before God? To cause us to give more careful thought to His holiness? Is our God not a consuming fire, a God we should worship with reverence and awe (Heb 12:28,29)?
David’s question in v9 is a good one – “How can the Ark of the LORD ever come to me?” How can we know God’s presence with us, when He is holy and such holiness is lethal to human sin. So the Ark is left for the time being, parked at the house of Obed-Edom for three months, and he and his whole household is blessed. Like Aslan, God is very definitely not safe but He is good, and it is clear His purpose is to bless.
Obed-Edom’s blessing assures David of God’s goodness, so he has another bash at bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. But this time it is done by the Book – no ox and cart, it’s carried. There’s a new obedience, there’s a proper appreciation of God’s holiness as sacrifices are offered (v.13), but that’s not to say it is a sombre occasion – far from it, there is heartfelt and exuberant joy (vv.14,15). It is worth thinking how this joy is different, though, from the joy expressed back in verse 5.
When Michal sees her husband leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despises him. It is so undignified and demeaning, she thinks; he is acting “as any vulgar fellow would” (v.20). She is concerned how it looks to others, whereas David makes it clear it was “before the LORD” (v.21) – He was the only audience David had in mind. He says in effect – “You think I was forgetting who I am, taking off my royal robes – rubbish, I was remembering who I am before Him: a sinner saved by grace, an unprofitable servant on whom he has showered his blessing. If you find that humiliating, tough, because I intend to keep humiliating myself like this, remembering who I am and marvelling at who He is.”
Besides the obvious application to the place of dance in Christian worship (I jest!), the passage does challenge us to avoid the cool detachment of Michal, who is chiefly concerned with how others view her (or her husband), and the misguided enthusiasm of Uzzah. How can we learn better to “rejoice with trembling”, as Psalm 2 puts it? For we have something far better than the Ark, we know Christ as Immanuel.