God’s Word – Cause for Celebration!

God’s Word – Cause for Celebration!

As we continue to look at highlights in David’s life, it’s heartening to see how well he began. After he conquered Jerusalem, which as we noted last week was also known as Zion and the City of David, verse 11 of 2 Samuel 5 mentions his having a palace built: “Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David.” The building of this palace became further confirmation from God to David for as indicated in verse 12, “Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.”[1] So from the time of his youth until he was embraced as king over the entire nation of Israel as a young adult in his early 30s, the LORD continued to be the anchor in David’s life. And as we’ve also noted,[2] though David in and of himself may well have been bright and strong and courageous, the most important qualification for his being chosen by God to rule as king over the chosen people of Israel was his heart for God.[3] David understood that but for God’s presence and working in his life, none of his accomplishments—not as shepherd, not as soldier, not as king—would have been possible.

And as we saw him consult the LORD for guidance prior to his becoming king, so he continued to do after becoming king. This was necessary for the Philistines, Israel’s enemies, didn’t stop being enemies simply because there was a new king in town. As we read beginning with verse 17 of 2 Samuel 5, “17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.” So David was a shepherd-king with an important task to do. He had to protect his flock. Yet though he was seasoned in battle, notice David’s response to this Philistine threat in verse 19 of chapter 5, “so David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?’”[4] When God confirmed that he would deliver the Philistines into his hands, David obeyed and defeated them. Then again in verse 22 the Philistine threat continued as, “Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.” And by way of response once more, “David inquired of the Lord,….” And, again, “David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.”[5] Unlike Saul who didn’t always consult the LORD but who felt free to trust in his own judgment, David exemplified how Israel’s king was meant to rule—looking to God, seeking his wisdom and guidance and acting upon and obeying that guidance once it had been received.

Well given David’s heart for God, given his desire to seek and inquire and do everything that the LORD said to him, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that one of the first things David did after becoming king was to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. This momentous event is the focus of our passage this morning. Now it’s been a while since we’ve had mention of the ark in our study in Samuel. We first heard about it[6] when Eli, Samuel’s spiritual father, died upon learning that the ark of God had been captured by the Philistines back in 1 Samuel chapter 4. Subsequent to this, if you’ll recall,[7] the Philistines ended up returning the ark to Israel due to the plagues and boils that came upon those living in whatever Philistine towns to which the ark was brought. Eventually the ark ended up in the Israeli town of Kiriath Jearim for twenty years.

But now that David was king, it was the time for the ark to again be moved. As we read beginning with verse 1 in our passage, “1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He 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.” The “Baalah” mentioned here is another way of referring to Kiriath Jearim[8] where we last read that the ark of God had been left.

Now given the power of popular culture to influence how we see things—I’m thinking primarily of the Indiana Jones movie in which the title character had to go up against the Nazis in search of the ark of the covenant—it may be helpful for us to be reminded about the historical ark of the covenant, also known as the ark of the testimony. According to the book of Exodus,[9] the ark of the covenant was a gold-covered wooden chest with a lid. But more important than what it looked like was what it contained. Though it held a gold jar of manna and Aaron’s staff,[10] the most valuable of its contents were the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments that the LORD had given Moses on Mount Sinai. This is why verse 2 in our passage states that the ark of God “is called by the Name” and then clarifies that that name is “of the LORD Almighty” or, in some translations, the LORD of hosts or armies. For the people of Israel there was a close association between the ark and the LORD—note that this is the personal name for God[11]—who had disclosed himself to Moses for the benefit of his people. The reason the LORD is described as the one “who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark” is because God told Moses he would meet him “between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law” in order that he might give him his commands for the Israelites.[12]

And given David’s life-long practice of acknowledging and turning to God in all things—whether protecting his father’s sheep from bears and lions or fighting Philistines in battle—it makes sense that he would desire to have the ark of the covenant brought to his palace in Jerusalem. To do so would be a way of further affirming the centrality of God and his Word to the people over whom God had called him to rule as king. This was a way of acknowledging that it was in fact the LORD who was sovereign over both David and the people over whom he was called to rule. And this rule by God was a cause for celebration! As we read in verse 5 “David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals” as the ark was being brought to Jerusalem. For the Word of God would no longer remain or be kept in Baalah, Kiriath Jearim, in Judah but would be front and center in King David’s ruling from the city of Jerusalem. So Jerusalem wouldn’t be merely a political capital, it would also be the religious capital of the people of God.

Unfortunately the ark’s journey to Jerusalem was almost derailed when Uzzah,[13] one of the men who was guiding the ark, “reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled” as stated in verse 6.[14] Now for starters, this way of transporting the ark was in clear violation of the LORD’s instructions for the ark should have been carried on the shoulders of Levite priests – not by oxen – by means poles slipped into rings on the ark. But instead the ark was being transported by cart in the same way the Philistines had done.[15] Had the ark been carried as designed, there would have been no oxen to stumble and no need for Huzzah to reach out his hand to stabilize it. And for this “irreverent act” “God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God” as stated in verse 7. Understandably, this resulted in David becoming not only angry (verse 8) but also “afraid of the LORD” as he asked, verse 9, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” Consequently, verse 10, “He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite” where it remained for three months during which time “the Lord blessed him and his entire household” (verse 11). Though not our focus this morning, we can at the least note how very different our perspective is from God’s. I suspect that as most of us read this part of the passage, our sympathies lie with David both in his anger for God’s wrath having come against Uzzah when he seemed to be trying to do a good thing—steadying the ark when the oxen stumbled—and in his subsequent fear. Yet what this event drives home is how God’s holiness, his purity, doesn’t admit or allow unclean humanity—even if well-intentioned—to reach out and touch a holy object such as the ark of the covenant. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that when we come before the LORD, we walk on holy, sacred ground that requires the removal of our shoes[16] and the cleansing of our sin. Though Uzzah’s actions may have been well-intentioned and perhaps even instinctual, he should have realized that touching the ark was out of bounds. And for not having displayed sufficient reverence, he was struck down for having taken hold of it.

Well, when David learned, verse 12, that “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he [had], because of the ark of God”—again where the ark had been for three months—he got over his anger and fear and “went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.” And as stated in verse 13, a sacrifice of “a bull and a fattened calf” was offered by “those who were carrying the ark of the Lord” when they had taken but “six steps.” This sacrificial act was an expression of reverence for God and his word; it was an important expression of appreciation for the ark’s holiness, containing as it did the Ten Commandments and providing, again, the reason why it was called by the “Name, the name of the Lord Almighty.” And the fact that this time there’s a reference to “those…carrying the ark” as opposed to an oxen-drawn cart suggests that the ark was now being transported according to the LORD’s instructions.

So after a three-month hiatus, David’s anger and fear were now transformed into rejoicing as the ark was once again being brought to Jerusalem, Zion, the City of David. And he expressed his joy by, beginning in verse 14, “wearing a linen ephod” and “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 sound of trumpets.” In thinking about this scene, I was reminded of a YouTube video a friend once sent me that I periodically return to view. Though I wish it had a different title—it’s entitled Where the [Heck—although a different word is used] is Matt? 2012—often when I’ve watched it it’s brought tears to my eyes. It’s a kind of “Where’s Waldo” that shows a young man named Matt dancing to a joyous song, Trip the Light, with individuals and groups, large and small, from all over the world—countries from Asia, North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle-East. There’s something so spontaneous and pure in this music and dance combination and though the kind of music and dance no doubt radically differs from the music and dance that occurred as the Ark of the LORD was being transported to Jerusalem, I imagine there was a similar joy and exuberance precipitated not simply by the pure joy of music and dancing but because of the reason for the music and dancing, namely that the Word of God their Maker, Savior, and Protector, would now be with them, God’s people, in Jerusalem, the city of David.

Now in the midst of this joy, verse 16 mentions a potential fly in the ointment as David’s wife, Michal—or “Saul’s daughter” as stated in the text—“watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” Michal chastised David, as recorded in verse 20 by suggesting he was acting as “any vulgar fellow would.” But David shut her down in responding, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” So David made clear to Michal that his celebratory response to the LORD’s working in his life was more than appropriate and he called her out for trying to shame him. Michal was not her father, Saul. She didn’t get to have a say in the ark’s being brought to Jerusalem nor in David’s leading his people with such a joyous response.

As we read in verse 17, Once “[t]hey brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it,…David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord.” So not only was rejoicing by way of music and dance an appropriate response to this momentous occasion, but so, too, was the sacrifice of burnt and fellowship offerings. And once these offerings were complete, starting in verse 18 David “blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty” by giving “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.”

We have here the fundamental components of our own worship service, don’t we? For each of our services is marked by first, music—albeit minus the dancing. Now though I confess that I’m not fond of the current practice in Christian circles of identifying a “worship leader” with the music leader since worship consists in much more than simply music, I do understand this trend. Each week both Ron and I work at tying the music of the service to the Scripture passage. We do this not only to reinforce the message but also because we know that music is an important way that God, by his Holy Spirit, is able to teach us his truths and so move our minds and hearts, helping the scales fall from our eyes that we might see the beauty and truth and power of God and his Word. Music can be a powerful means of celebrating and rejoicing so it’s no wonder that Paul exhorts believers to speak “to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[17] Music is able to soften a hardened heart and encourage every heart. So it isn’t surprising that David’s response to the ark’s being brought to Jerusalem was by way of music and dance.

A second connection between this passage and our own worship service is that of sacrifice. Though we no longer need to sacrifice burnt and fellowship offerings since Christ Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God, has given himself as the perfect, final, and ultimate sacrifice able to cover the sin of all who know him, we do have an opportunity to celebrate his sacrifice on our behalf each communion Sunday. And we not only celebrate God’s sacrifice in Christ for us but each week we have an opportunity to sacrifice materially for the LORD in the giving of our tithes and offerings that his work amongst our flock might continue. So, too, we’re called to sacrifice of our time and energy and gifts that Christ’s body might be built up and enlarged. So sacrifice is an important part of our identity as those who know and love and follow God.

A third component that ties our passage with our worship is found in David giving “a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person.” We see here an example of the sharing of food both basic—bread—and rich—a cake of raisins. And again there is a tie-in here with our monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper as we regularly remind ourselves of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life’s sacrifice of his body, as represented in the bread, and blood, as represented in the cup that we might partake of these and be reconciled both to God and to one another, now and forevermore. And in our all church-family meals—the next of which BTW will be next Sunday immediately following worship!—we, too, have an opportunity to share a meal and our lives with one another.

So we would do well in following David’s example. For aren’t we all called to do as he did and look to God as we seek his wisdom and guidance and then act upon and obey that guidance we receive? Now an important difference between us and David is that whereas the guidance God sometimes provided him was direct, generally speaking this isn’t the way God now works in our lives. Instead the way God seeks to work in our lives is by way of his Word. As the first line of a hymn we didn’t choose to sing this morning goes, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more could he say than to you he has said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?” In other words, we have an advantage that David didn’t for we don’t simply have the commandments God gave to Moses, but we have recorded and preserved for us the 66 books of the Old (39) and New (26) Testament that we might know and love and follow God and his ways. So those of us living after the time of Christ Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, have been given his Holy Spirit as a promise and seal that we’ll never be separated from our heavenly Father and to help us understand and obey the Word of Christ he’s given. A heart for God is evidenced by a heart for his Word—for God’s Word is nothing other than God’s communication to his image-bearers that we might live in the way he intended. So let us this morning and always celebrate that Word, even as David did. For we were made for God and the primary way we now know him is by the Word he’s left us. And this is cause for celebration indeed!

Let us pray.

[1] See parallel account 1 Chronicles 14:1–2:Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs, stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace for him. 2 And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.

[2] See A First Glimpse Into David’s Heart, Sermon preached on 06/24/18 on 1 Samuel 17:32–50.

[3] As was made clear to Saul and David, respectively, in the following two passages: 1 Samuel 13:14: But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.; 1 Samuel 16:6: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” See also Acts 13:20b–22: “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”

[4] See parallel account in 1 Chronicles 14:8–12.

[5] See parallel account in 1 Chronicles 14:13–17.

[6] Sermon on June 3, 2018, God’s Call—It Isn’t What We Think, on 1 Samuel 3:10–21.

[7] Sermon on June 10, 2018, Rejecting God as King, on 1 Samuel 8:4–20.

[8] As noted in 1 Chronicles 13:6: David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubim—the ark that is called by the Name.

[9] Exodus 25:10–22.

[10] Hebrews 9:3–4:Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.

[11] Our English translations typically translate the tetragram Y, H, W, H, (“Yahweh” by adding vowels) as LORD. When God discloses himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM,” he goes on to say that Moses is to say the Israelites that “The LORD” is the one who has sent him to them. See Exodus 3:3, 14–15.

[12] Exodus 25:22.

[13] Uzzah and Ahio are probably “sons” of Abinadab (verse 3) in the sense of descendants rather than literal sons.

[14] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on 2 Samuel 6:3 observes that “David follows the example of the Philistines (see 1 Sa 6:7) rather than the instructions of Ex. 25:12–15; Nu 4:5–6, 15, which require that the ark be carried on the shoulders of the Levites (see 1 Ch 15:13–15).”

[15] Exodus 25:12–15: 12 Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. 15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. 16 Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you.” Compare with 1 Samuel 6:10–11: [The Philistines] took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors.

[16] Moses at the burning bush: Exodus 3:5:  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”; Stephen references this passage in Acts 7:33: “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.

[17] Ephesians 5:19. See also Colossians 3:16–17: 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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