************ Sermon on 2 Samuel 6:21-22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 2, 2003
2 Samuel 6
"I Will Celebrate Before the Lord"
Two times David tries to bring the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. The first time someone he knows is killed. The second time someone close to him becomes barren, unable to get pregnant. In light of this, we can forgive David if he feels apprehensive about the ark. We can understand if David does not have warm fuzzies when he thinks of the ark. Yet, this is not David's reaction at all. Rather, he dances. With all his might. He leaps and twirls and jumps and maybe even boogies in an Old Testament way. With most of his clothes off (vs 14, 20).
The first time David tried to bring the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem a priest named Uzzah died. As "David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might," there was an accident: the oxen stumbled, the cart dangerously swayed, and the ark of the Lord was in danger of tumbling to the ground.
We aren't told much about Uzzah. We don't know his age. We don't know if he was married and had children. We don't know if his reflexes were lightning fast or slowed by age when the incident happened. We do know he was a priest. We know he was a son of Abinadab. We know he and his brother were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it. We know he reached out his hand to "save the day" and keep the ark from crashing. We know God struck him dead when he did this.
The second time David tried to bring the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem his wife, Michal, had a bitter fight with him. She chewed him out for what she thought was undignified behavior. She told him off for displaying his 40 year old body to the slave girls, for strutting his stuff like a hormone-driven adolescent. After the fight God struck again – Michal was struck barren, condemned to never have children.
As David celebrates and dances before the Lord, Uzzah dies and Michal becomes barren.
I Getting the Ark
A The story begins with David wanting to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. So the ark is taken out its storage place at the home of Abinadab. It has been there since the days of Eli (cf 1 Sam 5 & 6). There it sat for 30 years or maybe even 40 years. I am sure Abinadab and his household did not forget about the ark, but it seems the rest of Israel did. It was neglected, forgotten, ignored. It was a piece of history that reminded Israel of a time in her history she did not want to remember.
B But David has not forgotten. For him the ark is not just a wooden box. Our Scripture reading describes it as "the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark" (vs 2). In a very real sense the ark was God's dwelling place on earth and the symbol of God's presence and strength. Remember, the ark was made in the desert, by Mt. Sinai, when Israel first fled from Egypt and was led by Moses and Joshua.
You need to realize that David has just finished 7 years of political intrigue and civil war against the house of Saul and the Northern Kingdom. He has finally been crowned as king of both North and South, of both Israel and Judah. He has recently conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital. Now it is time to turn his attention to other matters.
By bringing the ark to Jerusalem, David makes a political statement. He is declaring that he stands in line with Israel's leaders going all the way back to Moses and Joshua. He is declaring that his is an ancient authority. He is declaring the legitimacy of his rule. He is declaring that God is with him in the same way that God was with Samuel or Moses. David wants the symbol of God's protecting presence to be tied in and with his rule and kingship. David knows that "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain" (Ps 127:1).
But David is making more than a political statement. He is also making a religious statement. He is declaring that God is King in his kingdom, that God is Lord of the land, that God is present in the land, that he owes God his worship and his obedience.
As we look at our passage we realize we are being told something about divine worship. Uzzah's death and Michal's barrenness and David's celebration and dancing tells us something about how our God wants to be worshiped.
A Why was Uzzah killed? All that Uzzah tried to do was to keep the ark from falling. He reached out his hand to steady the ark. Wouldn't any of us have tried to do the same thing? Isn't that the right thing to do, the noble thing to do? But God killed Uzzah for doing this. Why?
When we look at Exodus 25 and Numbers 4 we see very specific instructions about the handling of the ark. Permanent poles were to be used to carry the ark, since no one was allowed to touch it, and only the priests were allowed to carry it. Ordinary people were not allowed to look at it or in it either. Yet, in our passage we see the ark on an ox cart and Uzzah walking beside it and Ahio walking in front of it.
B The last time the ark was on an ox cart it was because the Philistines put it there. Remember how the sons of Eli took the ark into battle against the Philistines and how Israel was defeated and the ark was captured (1 Sam 4)? After the Philistines captured the ark they put it in Dagon's temple in Ashdod. And the Lord's hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and vicinity; He brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors. So the ark was moved to Gath. And God's hand was against Gath. So the ark was moved to Ekron. And God's hand was against Ekron. After 7 months of this the Philistines decided to return the ark to Israel. They put the ark on an ox cart and hitched two cows to the cart and sent them in the direction of Israel (1 Sam 6).
Now we see Uzzah and Ahio using the same method as the Philistines to move the ark of God. It must have seemed to them that this was a better way of doing it. The priests won't get near as tired and the oxen and cart are bearing all the weight and doing all the work.
C The great temptation that always faced Israel was to be like the other nations. To be honest, that's always the great temptation facing the church too. We blindly follow the ways of the world and tell ourselves we are only doing what everybody else is doing. We blindly follow the ways of the world and tell ourselves that if everybody is doing it but us then it must be an improvement on what we are doing. So the world adopts a certain music style, and we bring it into the church. The world makes an issue about women's rights and women's liberation and the church puts women into church office. The world accepts the homosexual lifestyle and the church begins to accept it too. The world tries to be friendly to the environment and the church asks "What Would Jesus Drive?"
Remember what Paul writes in Romans 12 about our differences from the world? He says,
(Rom 12:2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.And, remember what Jesus says about salt?
(Mt 5:13) "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.We are called to be different, we are called to be distinct, we are called to be peculiar. That's the strength of the church. That's the attractiveness of the church. She is not at all like the world.
But the church does not always like this. Uzzah and Ahio certainly did not. So they adopted the new-fangled ideas and practices of the pagan Philistines.
D I said earlier we are being taught something about divine worship. God wants to be worshiped the way He outlines in His Word. He certainly does not want practices added to His worship that are contrary to what He says. Yet, that's exactly what Uzzah did – contrary to God's Word he put the ark on an ox cart. That's the first thing we are taught about the worship of God – not to add anything to His worship that He forbids!
But there is also a second thing. We also see that when it comes to the worship of His name God takes care of Himself. Uzzah found that out at great personal cost. It was not Uzzah's job, and it is not our job, to guard and protect the Almighty.
Uzzah forgot two things. He forgot that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). And, he forgot that it is even more fearful not to fall into His hands. Instead of Uzzah in God's hands it was God in Uzzah's hands. When it comes to His worship, the Almighty cannot and will not be in our hands – ever. We are to take refuge in Him rather than He take refuge in us. We go to Him as our Rock and our shield.
A Scripture tells us that 3 months later David tries again. The joyful procession starts again. This time there is no Philistine's ox cart. This time the divine way of doing things is followed. Again, David is celebrating with all his might before the Lord. This time the ark makes it all the way to Jerusalem. But, again, things do not turn out well.
This time there is huge messy argument between David and Michal – the sort of argument that only a husband and a wife can have. Loud words are exchanged. She calls him an undignified fool. He says he doesn't care. From that point on their marriage is never again the same. For all practical purposes their marriage is now in name only. And Michal becomes barren; the Lord closes her womb; He makes it impossible for her to conceive.
B Michal stays home when David goes to get the ark the second time. As David, the ark, and the procession enter Jerusalem, Michal watches from a window. She watches, distant, aloof, judgmental. "And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart" (vs 16).
David doesn't know his wife's reaction. So, he comes home all excited and happy and pumped up. He wants to "bless his household" (vs 20) in the same way as he just blessed the crowd (vs 18). But while he was still in the courtyard Michal meets him with contempt and scorn and derision.
(2Sam 6:20) "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"
Michal thinks David takes his religion, his worship of God Almighty, too far. Michal thinks David forgets his place as Ruler. Michal thinks David throws away his dignity as King. Michal thinks David allows himself to get excited about his God and his religion, like one of the small, little people who have nothing else going for them. Religion is okay, thinks Michal, but only to a point. Don't get too excited about it. Use it to keep the servants in line. Use it so your children don't grow up as delinquents. But don't ever let yourself get carried away by your religion and worship. That is so vulgar, so common, so coarse. It is the lower classes whose religion leads to unrestrained emotional displays, to antics and shouts and other kinds of public displays. But Kings don't act that way. Their worship, by way of contrast, is to be modest and moderate and restrained.
Michal's criticism of David and his worship reminds me of what happened to the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.
Topic: WorshipMichal is so busy noticing what happens around her that she fails to see God or to recognize His worship.
Deeply immersed in meditation during a church service, Dante failed to kneel at the appropriate moment. His enemies hurried to the bishop and demanded that Dante be punished for his sacrilege. Dante defended himself by saying, "If those who accuse me had had their eyes and minds on God, as I had, they too would have failed to notice events around them, and they most certainly would not have noticed what I was doing."
C Like Uzzah, Michal teaches us something about the worship of Almighty God. Think of what David says to Michal. He says his celebration is for the Lord, not for the people. He says he does not mind being undignified for the Lord and His worship. He says if he is being a fool, it is for the Lord. David does not view religion and worship and God as a way to hold up his own honor and reputation and dignity. When it comes to worship, David doesn't care what Michal thinks, or what the servant girls think, or what the people think. David is going to concentrate on God and not on those around him.
Many people, like Michal, think David is crazy and undignified. But David knows he is in the presence of God and he loses himself in the worship of that God. You see, there is something about God and His worship that can drive even a king to do the most unseemly things.
Like David, we are to worship God with all our might – whether that means we are dignified or undignified, robed or disrobed, in the presence of the elite or in the company of servant girls. Like David, we are to worship God regardless of how others think or what they say.
Michal is struck barren by God. She is struck barren by God for rejecting and deriding and mocking the true worship of God. But in ways that matter most, she is barren already. Her faith is barren. Her religion is barren. Her worship is barren.
So the ark finally arrives in Jerusalem. Along the way a priest is killed and a woman becomes barren. All because they are not willing to worship God the way He wants to be worshiped – according to His Word and with all their heart.
Once we learn to worship God according to His Word and with all our heart, then we are doing what we were created to do: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!
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