David & the Ark — The ark, the death of Uzzah, & David’s dance.
Reading 1: 2 Samuel 6
Reading 2: Numbers 4:15-20
Reading 3: Psalm 30
Today we see the consequences of mistakes and learn from the way David refused to let mistakes keep him from God’s best.
After becoming king and conquering Jerusalem, now David’s heart for God motivates him to bring back the ark of the Lord from the home of Abinadab. He wants the symbol of God’s covenant presence to be at the center of the life of this newly reunited nation. Worthy motives indeed, but having worthy motives alone will not guard us against mistakes. We need a knowledge of God’s Word and the humility to obey God’s instructions.
Do you recall how the ark came to be in Abinadab’s house? About 20 years earlier (in 1 Samuel 4) the Israelites had used the ark as a kind of battle talisman in the wars with the Philistines, and the ark had been captured (an event which led to the death of Eli and his daughter-in-law). While the Philistines had the ark in the temple of their god, Dagon, it caused havoc: not only did Dagon’s statue fall over twice and break into pieces but all the Philistines were over-run with rats and afflicted by tumors.
So the Philistines put the ark on a new cart and sent it back (you can read the details in 1 Samuel 6) and it ended up in the home of Abinadab (one of Saul’s sons) in Kiriath Jearim (also called Baale Judah) (1 Samuel 7:1-2).
Now, twenty years later, Saul and Abinadab have died in the battle with the Philistines, but David is now victorious and wants to bring the ark back to the center of the nation. Unfortunately, his mistake is to repeat what was done before – to trust experience over obedience. He took all the elite troops in a show of military force, and put the ark on a new cart (the Philistine method for moving arks), trusting Uzzah and Ahio to guide it. Now, these men were not priests or Kohathites (the designated ark carriers) and did not have the right to move the ark. They were the sons of Abinadab so they had grown up with the ark in their home. It is dangerous to become too familiar with God’s presence! When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and was immediately struck dead.
So David’s presumption led to the death of the guardian of the ark! This shocked and scared David, so he left the ark at the home of Obed-Edom for three months. During this time God blessed Obed-Edom and prospered him. So then David returns to complete the task he started, but this time he is careful to follow God’s instructions. With priests to carry the ark (as God had commanded) and sacrifices to honor God, the ark is brought to Jerusalem.
Now it is the turn of Michal (David’s wife and Saul’s daughter) to make a mistake: she interprets David’s wholehearted worship dance as the cavorting of a vulgar man. Her mistake is to judge by outward appearance and previously acceptable standards of behavior. These are the mistakes of religion that falls short of obedience to God. And so Michal remains bitter and childless (a sign of the absence of God’s blessing in that culture) for the rest of her life.
So while Michal lived with the consequences of her wrong choice, and Uzzah died as a consequence of his wrong action, David learned from his mistakes, grew in his understanding of God’s will, and prospered through his obedience. May the same be true of us!
Have a great day!