Monday, November 15, 2004


Reflections on 2 Samuel 6

Now established as king in Jerusalem, David decides to add the finishing touch and bring back the ark. (It had been at the house of Abinadab, brought there by the people of Beth Shemesh after 70 men died on looking into it - this when the Philistines returned it to Israel [Beth Shemesh] loaded on a new cart, pulled by two cows - 1 Samuel 6)

It’s interesting to note David decides to transport the ark in the same way the Philistines did - in a new cart. We know the story, how when in transit and the ark looks like it will topple, Uzzah reaches out to steady it, and on touching it, falls down dead.

Of course David is shocked - "angry," "afraid," and stopped in his tracks. They park the ark at the house of Obed Edom and the party of 30,000 chosen men David had assembled for the triumphant occasion, disburses, no doubt demoralized.

The short passage which describes the ark’s sojourn at Obed Edom’s house has always fascinated me: "The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed Edom the Gittite for three months and the Lord blessed him and his entire household." (2 Samuel 6:11)

It brings to mind the kind of blessing - of community, relationships and agriculture seen in some of the Transformation videos. This is how I imagine it happened for Obed Edom:


"The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had." I Chron. 13:14

The carrots are thick as my arms,
tomatoes, cucumbers, figs
gathered an omer a day
by my overwhelmed, pregnant wife.
The midwife says, "It’s twins;
the way they kick, they are boys!"

Rain and sun synchronized
have overflowed our bins
with barley, wheat and corn.
Cow hasn’t dried up in three months,
milk still covered with cream
thickens to cheesy white curd.

The love and peace in our home -
sensed even by passers-by -
those rhythms of lightness and joy
have gone to my fingers and thumbs
so that now King David requests:
"Obed-Edom, we need your harp’s psalm
in Ark’s triumphant parade
As we take it from your home, to mine."

"...and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps..." 1 Chron. 15:21

(Copyright © 2003 by Violet Nesdoly)

David observes God’s blessing on Obed Edom and determines to try again. This time he transports the ark by the instructions (Exodus 25:10-22 esp. vs. 14 - "Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it.")

What a procession – singers, lyres, harps, cymbals, trumpets, rams horns, with king David whirling, twirling, leaping, dancing before God - a child trying to express unexpressible joy (1 Chronicles 15).

We mustn’t miss the telling little footnote about Michal (the daughter of Saul and one of David’s wives). As she observes her husband celebrating thus before God, she despises him in her heart, and greets the jubilant David with a cold water splash of sarcasm: "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today..."

Of course she’s no match for him. He replies in kind: "It (the dancing) was before the Lord who chose me rather than your father or anyone from your house..."

What I can learn from this:

1. A lot about God’s holiness. God’s holiness will not be compromised - either by ignorance or good intentions. The law was clear about how the ark was to be transported, and if the Psalms he wrote, extolling the practice of studying God's law (Psalm 119 for example) are any indication of David's preoccupation, he knew how it was to be done. Also, David’s intentions were undoubtedly sincere and honorable. But when the "No Touching!" ban was broken (and David couldn’t object he hadn’t been given a warning when the 70 were killed in a similar scenario years earlier), when these people trespassed on God’s holy otherness, His power went out to destroy them as surely as gravity draws things downwards.

I don’t think we have any concept of this in our day. We transgress any number of God’s standards with impunity, holding the cavalier attitude - "What does it matter? It’s under the blood anyway." In one sense that’s true. But in another, I think someday, in this life or the next, we’ll be in for a great shock.

2. I am reminded, God’s presence in life brings blessing. I know I am not immune from pain, sorrow, loss, death, sickness etc. etc. But I also know God’s presence includes protection, refuge, safety (Psalm 91), and has the power to transform even the painful stuff into good.

3. I learn something about worship. God sees, accepts, is pleased with worship that comes from a celebrating child-like heart which ignores and is not inhibited by concerns of what people will say.

Oh Lord, temper my view of You as One who is friend, brother (lackey even? - perish the thought), with a consciousness of how holy, pure, other and deathly You can be.

May my life be an illustration of Your blessing, like Obed Edom’s was.

Change me from a stiff, formal, lazy, bored worshiper to one who is childlike, spontaneous, energetic, whole-hearted.

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