A holy God requires a humble King

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

2 Samuel 6:1-23

Introduction

Have you ever thought that you were on the right track and that you had set up everything to ensure success in a venture only to have it fail because you missed the most crucial element. Steve Jobs started Apple Computers in 1976 with Steve Wozniak. However, the early mac computers were underpowered and expensive and so sales were low. By 1985 Steve Jobs had been fired from the company that he had started. He came back in 1996 after having success in his other ventures and well the rest is history as far as Apple is concerned. Apple is today worth 997 billion dollars, that’s just shy of a trillion dollars. So it is a company that learnt from its mistakes and came back and was very successful. Well today’s passage starts with failure and ends with success and much is learnt not only by David, but also I pray, by us here today.

Our passage today is 2 Samuel chapter 6 and this is the story of King David bringing the Ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. At first glance when we see the chapter heading in the pew Bibles we might be tempted to leave it at that and say ok, well the Ark is brought into the City of David. The scriptures though are rich, they are inspired by God himself as we know from 2 Tim 3:16. So this chapter has things to say to us here today. In fact it will teach us, rebuke us, correct our thinking and train us in righteousness. That is my prayer. This episode in the Kingship of David definitely does these things for King David.

Last week Philip gave a whistle stop tour over the first 5 chapters of 2 Samuel. We saw in chapter 1 that David hears of Saul’s death and mourns for Saul and Jonathan. In Chapter 2 we saw that David became King over Judah and then in chapter 5 over the whole of Israel. All of God’s promises are true and can be relied on. Back in 1 Samuel 16:12 we saw that Samuel following God’s instructions anointed David as the chosen one to be King when he was a young man, a boy. The youngest in the family who was out attending the sheep. This anointing, this promise is now fulfilled at the beginning of chapter 5 when David is 33 years old. 

The second half of Chapter 5 is very useful as background for our passage today. For there was a wonderful modelling of a correct relationship between God and David throughout these verses. Let me explain. After David had been enthroned King of Israel we read that the first thing that he did was march to Jerusalem and took up residence in Jerusalem and called it the City of David. He captured Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 5:7,9) We then read in verse 10 of 2 Samuel that “he (David) became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.” Further, we read two verses later that “David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” So David knew that this was God’s will and that it was done for God’s people Israel. At this moment A Holy God has a humble king. You see this wasn’t about David and his Kingship. This was about God and God’s people Israel and David understood that. 

We then come to v17 of chapter 5 where we see that David heard that the Philistines were coming to attack him. So what did he do. Did he panic, no. Did he call all of his generals, no. He enquired of the Lord. He asked God. Shall I go and attack the Philistines. God answered, yes, I will give you victory. This was David humbly serving the Lord his King. A wonderful pattern of David humbly submitting to God’s authority and Holiness is seen in these verses. The oxford dictionary defines humility as “The quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance.” Kind David rightly bowed before Yahweh the creator and sustainer of all things. 

So this brings us to our passage for Today. For our passage comes straight after these God ordained defeats by King David of the Philistines. Quite simply this passage has two parts, or perhaps because today is the NRL grand final we could say today’s passage has two halves. And often like a game of football these two halves are quite different.

The first attempt – David’s way v1-11

A call to celebrate

What did David do after the utter defeat of the Philistines. The victory that he had because he did as the Lord commanded him as we read in 2 Sam 5:25. David remembered the ark of the covenant, which is also known as the ark of God. Let’s have a look at the first two verses.

2 Samuel 6:1-5

David again brought together all the able young me of Israel – Thirty thousand. 2He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 

1 Chronicles 13 tells the same story, yet with a bit more detail. For David didn’t just on a whim think let’s go get the Ark. He spoke with all of his commanders and indeed the whole assembly of Israel. It said something very important about the Reign of David. Let’s look at 1 Chronicles 13:3 ‘Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not enquire of it during the reign of Saul.”David’s kingship was markedly different to that of Saul. He earnestly wanted God to be in his rightful place. David wanted Yahweh to be glorified. In fact David saw the bringing back of the ark of God, the signifying presence of God with his people as not just important, but important enough to gather the whole house of Israel together to be part of this occasion.

Now the ark wasn’t where it was supposed to be. In fact 70 years earlier the ark had been dumped in a back water some nine miles from Jerusalem. Let’s spend a moment here. So for 70 years, the ark of God, the ark of the covenant, the symbol ‘of the relationship between God and his people’ had been ignored, left at Baalah of Judah. The ark represented God’s Kingship. The ark was God’s footstall we read in Psalm 132:7. The Ark symbolised God with his people, it symbolizes the very presence of God. The Ark symbolises God’s Rule, His Kingship. So I think that we can see why it was important to David to bring the ark to Jerusalem. 

The Party

Verse 5 shows us that this was a party. And a rather big party at that.

 5David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbres, sistrums and cymbals.

Probably a little hard for us to imagine. This was a celebration that involved all Israel. That’s how important this was. The people of God were excited, their king had gathered them together and was leading the celebration. One of the images that comes to mind for me when pondering this scene is the pictures that we have seen from the end of World War II from Britain. The allies had just won an incredibly hard-fought campaign and here they were victorious. There was music, there was great rejoicing. Finally God’s chosen people would again live in Jerusalem, God’s presence symbolised with the ark in God’s place. 

The Tragedy

Everything was going so well. The people were praising and glorifying God. There was singing, there was dancing, the whole of Israel was joyfully heralding the return of the ark, the symbol of God himself to its rightful place and then. Tragedy. Uzzah dies. The procession comes to a halt, the music stops, God has struck Uzzah dead.  David and the people are taken in an instant from complete joy to thorough disbelief. Let’s have a look at verses 6 & 7:

6“When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7The Lord ‘s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”

This wasn’t the first time someone had died for dealing wrongly with the ark of God. We only need to go back to 1 Samuel 6:19 to see that 70 people were struck dead by the Lord for looking at the ark. But why did God strike down Uzzah. Well because he did the wrong thing. But hang on we read that the ox stumbled, so the oxen lost its footing and Uzzah must have thought that the ark would fall to the ground. So he reached out his hand and touched the ark in order to steady it. This seems like a reasonable thing to do, until we look at scripture. This was the third time in the book of Samuel where we read of God ‘defending the ark’ 1 Sam 5:3-12; 6:19-20. God is a Holy God. Noble intentions count for nothing if they disobey God’s word. The ark was not to be treated casually. This was not just a box. This was where God would meet with his people and contained the two stone tablets with the ten commandments. This was the ark of God that in Joshua 6:7 had been carried around the city 6 times in the battle of Jericho. God had not only given instructions on how to build the ark, but also how it was to be handled. The ark symbolised God’s presence with his people and was to be treated accordingly. However, it wasn’t, and the result was Uzzah’s death and a halt to proceedings. Verse three shows us that there was in fact a problem from the start. 

3They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.

The ark of God was never meant to be on a cart, new or old. The Philistines had carried the ark on a cart. Yet they were not the people of God. They hadn’t received instruction on how the ark mustbe carried by poles. The Israelites had the law of God, yet they disobeyed it. Therefore the oxen stumbled and Uzzah touched the ark and died.

The too hard basket

The party is over for now. And David puts the whole operation in the too hard basket. Verses 8 & 9 read:

8Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day the place is called Perez Uzzah. 9David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?

David’s response is firstly one of anger. It is highly unlikely that David was angry with God, it is more likely that David was angry with the event, the fact that Uzzah had reached out and touched the ark. David Names the place Perez Uzzah, which means ‘outbreak against Uzzah’. David wanted to make sure that this act wasn’t forgotten, that is why he named the place. David was angry, perhaps distressed. Yet this quickly turns to fear.

David was afraid of the Lord that day we read…..Now I agree with scholars like Brueggemann who see this fear as a positive. David was reminded in a very stark way that God is Holy, that there must be a righteous fear of the Lord. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and knowledge. Proverbs 1:7

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 10:12 

If you have ever read or watched C S Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, there is a moment when Mr. Beaver tells Susan that Aslan (the ruler of Narnia) is a great lion. Susan is surprised, since she assumed Aslan was a man. She then tells Mr. Beaver, “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” She asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe, to which Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.” David was reminded that God is good, yet untamed. He is our creator, not the other way around. 

David’s fear means that he abandons his plans for the ark at this time. In fact once again the ark is left in the house of a Gittite, a Philistine. Yet there is a very different outcome to what was seen back in 1 Samuel 5 when the ark was with the Philistines. Obed-edom and his family were blessed. We now see that God choose to bless this non-Israelite which would have a huge impact on David’s next step.

Application

So what does this mean for us here. Why are we here tonight. Is it because we want to live our life and have God fit in with our plans. Is Sunday our tick box day and then the rest of the week is about us. Is God our King, the one who we follow, who we worship with fear and trembling. Or is God our Mascot. That sure seems to be what was happening with David. He hadn’t treated the ark as God’s footstool, he had treated the ark as his team’s mascot. 

The Second attempt – God’s way v12-23

God’s message to David

David heard that the household of Obed-Edom had been blessed and that was enough for David to see that it was right to take the ark to Jerusalem. Verses 12 & 13:

12Now Kind David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obeb-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David with rejoicing.” 

The second half of this passage begins with David hearing the news of the ark blessing Obed-Edom’s household and David sees this as a sign from God, so he again calls the people and continues the journey of bringing the ark to Jerusalem. David’s second attempt has many differences to the first. First and foremost, God’s prescribed way of dealing with the ark is followed. In fact it isn’t just followed, it is excessively followed. David realises that he hadn’t feared the Lord as he ought. This was a huge lesson for David, and I pray that this isn’t lost on us. “The fear of the Lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy one is understanding.” David had forgotten this. His anger at Uzzah’s death was not at God, but at the act. In the end the King had not ensured the proper treatment of the ark of God. The Holy God had told his people how to treat holy things. Number 4:4, 4:15, 4:17-20. The Ark needed to be carried, covered and not touched. Looking at or touching the ark would lead to death.

In 1 Chronicles 15:13 David admitted that he had not fulfilled what the Lord required in moving the ark. In fact David who had humbly enquired of the Lord in both of the defeats of the Philistines here makes it clear that he had not done so in the case of the ark. Verse 13 reads 

“It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not enquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” 

Obeying God’s Commands

But now in verses 13 to 15 we see a completely different transportation of the ark. 

13When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sounds of trumpets.

We also see from 1 Chronicles 15:3 that David assembled all of Israel. The party and celebration were back on. But this time, this time, it was done as God had prescribed. This time it was done in obedience. It was done joyfully with trembling. With righteous fear.

David was taught that he needed to humbly submit to God in every endeavour, he was rebuked sharply by the Lord for his casual handling of the ark. And let’s be honest, in handling the ark without fear or awe, David was acting that way towards his God. David’s thinking was indeed corrected. He remembered to fear the lord and serve him only (Duet 6:13.)

The Journey Completed

Verses 17 to 19 show the completion of the arks journey to Jerusalem and David’s blessing of the people:

17They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings before the Lord. 18After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

In the end I agree with John Woodhouse that “The most important thing about David’s Kingdom was that the Lord God was King.” 

David came to this realisation. In fact David shows in the last few verses that he was a humble servant of the Holy God. King David realised that he was in the end playing to an audience of one. As Kind David says to Michal, Saul’s daughter in response to her suggestion that he was being vulgar in dancing before the Lord:

21I will celebrate before the Lord. 22I will become even more undignified than this, and will be humiliated in my own eyes.

David was the imperfect King, yet he was a foreshadow of the perfect King to come, King Jesus. Jesus was without sin, yet humbled himself and was obedient to death on a cross for our sake.

Application

Are we willing to be humiliated for the sake of the cross? Whose opinion do we value more highly, God’s or man’s? In our first reading today from Matthew 16 “24Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Conclusion

So if you are a follower of Jesus here today, then be reminded that we are to rejoice in Jesus with trembling. Perhaps we need to remember to not be so casual with our Lord and Saviour that we neglect his teaching. Keep praying, keep enquiring of the Lord and keep reading God’s word. We need to cling to Jesus he alone died so that we may have life and was raised for our justification.

If you are listening to this talk today and you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, then I pray that your heart would be changed. That God would give you the gift of faith. If you would like to talk more about what it means to put your trust in Jesus, than Dan or I would love to talk with you after the service. There is no greater Joy than knowing that the same God who made the universe, who made you and me, loves you, in fact he loves you so much that he sent his only Son to die so that you could have life forever with him. 

Let’s pray.