Week Commencing 5th August 2018  

With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on 2 Samuel 6, “The King and the ark”

SOME MORE BACKGROUND: David is one of the most important figures of world history. In cultures that have been touched by his story, David has captured the imagination of great artists, sculptors, and writers. In the account of David in 1 and 2 Samuel, we read one of the world’s finest pieces of narrative literature. The greatness and the weaknesses of this man’s life are portrayed in vivid and gripping detail. His story of course, belongs to the whole Bible through which we realise that he is a major figure in the history of God’s purposes for the whole world. That Jesus Christ is described as ‘the son of David’ in the first sentence of the New Testament, gives us a clue as to the importance of David for those who have faith in Jesus Christ. David’s story illuminates the most important story in the history of the world – the story of Jesus Christ. The central idea is the kingdom of God. David’s story and Jesus’ story are about that kingdom, seen in preview in the David story, but all the time, pointing us to the kingdom come near in Jesus Christ.

DAY 1: Read 2 Samuel 6:1-7

Here’s a good way to understand the outline of this chapter (from Dale Ralph Davis)

Bringing up the ark vv2-4

Joy v5
Tragedy vv6-7
David’s reaction: anger and fear vv8-9

Obed-Edom’s house – blessing vv 10-11

Bringing up the ark vv12-13

Joy vv14-15
Tragedy v16
David: worship & generosity vv17-19

David’s house – contempt – vv20-23

The ark of the covenant, was the elaborate ‘box’ into which was placed the two stone tablets containing the 10 commandments. The ark came to be very closely associated with the presence of God – so much so that when Moses left camp during the wilderness wanderings and the ark was carried to lead the way, Moses would call out “Advance oh Lord”. When the ark was put down at the next location, Moses would say “Return, oh Lord”. The ark signified God’s rule; it spoke to the people of God’s offer of reconciliation through sacrifice; and the ark signified God’s revelation as the commandments revealed his will. By bringing the ark to Zion, David is saying that God’s presence must be the central focus and reality of the David kingdom. Let’s note together, how Jesus Christ fulfils all that the ark signified. Jesus is God’s ruler; Jesus is where we find reconciliation with God and Jesus is God’s supreme revelation of himself! The question for us too, is ‘how can we keep God’s presence central in our lives and in the life of our church?’ Answer: Turn your eyes upon Jesus! But of course, we are alarmed when re read of this attempt to bring the ark into the City of God! The party, music and dancing suddenly stopped, as all eyes turned to Uzzah on the ground – dead! Why was he struck dead? Wasn’t he only trying to help? Why was God so severe? This goes so against the grain and is a sure indication that this is not made up! Who would portray a ‘god’ such as this if this was a human invention?

God had clearly warned his people that the ark must not be touched (Numbers 4:15, 20). God’s holiness is clearly seen and can impact both pagans and Israelites! We can continue to object if we like: but the application of the text is clear – you dare not trifle with a God who is both real and holy. God is not our neat, warm, fuzzy friend in the sky. We forget the nature of our God who loves us and is gracious towards us. But we should never take him lightly!

DAY 2: Read 2 Samuel 6:8-10

Some of those present the day Uzzah was struck dead, may have immediately recalled the account at Beth-shemesh many years prior when 70 men had been struck dead when looked upon (or into) the ark after its return from the land of the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:19). As for both situations, our questions are not answered; our objections are not satisfied. Yet of course, God is not answerable to us. He is not obliged to win our approval. Do you believe this?

In another indication of the authenticity of the account we go on to read about David’s anger because of what happened. Note what the text doesn’t say – that David is angry with the Lord; but because the Lord had (literally) “broken out” against Uzzah. He was deeply troubled by what had happened, but this not mean that he hated the Lord. But he did not understand what the Lord had done and therefore what the Lord might do next. The men of Beth-Shemesh had asked (1 Sam 6:20), “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?”. David’s question was essentially the same: “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” (v9). The question expresses the opposite of presumption. David has learned that the Lord God is not under our control. He is the holy God. He is not tame. He really is terrifying. (See the work of David, Psalm 24:3-4.)

We read then in v10, that David abandons the plan to bring the ark up from Baale-Judah. We aren’t told why he places the ark in the home of Obed-edom – a Gittite and therefore a Philistine! Perhaps it was nearby and therefore convenient. We realise again the reality of Galatians 6:7: God cannot be mocked!

DAY 3: Read 2 Samuel 6:11-15

God soon made it plain that his severe deed was not his last word about the ark. True, when Uzzah grabbed the ark, he was cut down; but the ark was not automatically deadly. Witness the blessing Obed-edom experienced while it sat for three months in his house. Read v12a again. David gets the point that God’s true intent is to bless not destroy his people via the ark!

You cannot miss the accent on joy: they bring the ark into the city of David ‘with gladness’ (v12b). And David is there, dancing and cavorting with all his gusto while the people are shouting and the ram’s horn is blasting away. Here is a holy delirium over the presence of God!

Do you see the balance in the truth of God’s word here in this account? We are to both tremble before God’s holiness and cheer with God’s joy! Fearfulness and gladness are held together! In God’s presence you should both shudder and dance! Whether we can comprehend this or not, 2 Samuel 6 teaches us that a fearful sense of God’s holiness does not suppress joy but stimulates it!

DAY 4: Read 2 Samuel 6:16-23

Despite all the joy at the ark of God arriving in the city of God, there is also a tragic side in this second half of the chapter. Saul’s daughter (and David’s wife) Michal, despised David’s dancing and joy. Michal is concerned with royal dignity and outward appearances. David protests that his dance was not for the people but for the Lord. He sees himself as God’s servant, for whom humility is entirely appropriate! For David, humility is dignity!

Two observations: (1) in today’s church, there are many people concerned with externals and procedures and mechanics and meetings and decency and order but who know nothing of joy before the Lord! These are often the same people who show great enthusiasm at the football but have nothing but ‘professional detachment’ over Jesus Christ! Exuberant praise and tears of repentance are strangers to them. And (2) David’s humility reminds of that of the Lord Jesus, who humbly went to the cross in our place – who did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

Reference: Commentary on 2 Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis. And commentary by John Woodhouse.
(Some parts of these notes use Davis’ text word for word or are a summary of his text.)