David had garnered the support of all the tribes of Israel, had Michal (his first wife and Saul’s daughter) back in his corner and had even seized the fortified hill city of Jerusalem. The next logical step for him was to retrieve the Ark of God from Kiriath Jearim and secure, both his political and spiritual hold over Israel. Chronologically, his attempts to transport the Ark of God are split into two parts. The first was an unsuccessful attempt resulting in the loss of life as well and the second was right after he had built his palace when he mustered up the courage and went to retrieve the Ark. David conferred with his officers and sent word to the people of Israel along with the Priests and Levites saying,
Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.” The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.1 Chronicles 13:3-4 (NIV)
The whole assembly was in agreement to bring the Ark to Jerusalem as it seemed right to them at that time. No one actively conferred with God not even David but they conferred with each other and went on ahead with the plan. We often create for ourselves, a false sense of approval from God when we confer with others and achieve a consensus. Unanimity with our fellow believers does not mean that we are in the right with God but right with the world. We are all living in this sinful world and are bound to be influenced by the people around us. Standing alone to accomplish the will of God is even tougher when you are in a leadership position. The same was the case with David as he decided to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem without consulting God.
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.2 Samuel 6:2 (NIV)
The Ark contained artefacts like the stone tablets bearing the commandments, Aaron’s rod that turned into a snake in Pharoah’s court, and a jar of manna that fed the Israelites in the desert. It symbolised the hand of God that constantly provided for them during their Journey from Egypt to Jerusalem. From the perspective of the authors, who were basing their faith on their limited knowledge, they believed that the God of Heaven and Earth was residing inside a box between the cherubim and needed to be transported from one place to another.
The Israelites were accustomed to worshipping idols and did not grasp the omnipotent nature of our God. However, God comes down to our level to lift us up to His. He did the same with Abraham when He met him at his tent, with Moses He appeared as the fire in the bush and with us He sent His Son and Spirit to restore our covenant with Him. But mankind associates God with only the provisions He has provided to us. People are ready to attribute their healing to a pool in Bethesda but do not want to acknowledge and draw nearer to their Creator. They want to keep Him contained to the altar in their Church or in the Garden or in a box.
The First Attempt
They 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 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.2 Samuel 6:3-5 (NIV)
The Ark had stayed in the house of Abinadab for almost twenty years, ever since the Philistines had returned it. Abinadab’s son Eleazar was consecrated to guard the Ark at their home. But now David was eager to bring the Ark to his capital and was recklessly using a new cart to transport the sacred covenants. A new cart symbolises something that is ritually clean and pure as the Israelites sought to carry the Ark with a cart pulled by oxen. Perhaps David thought if the Philistines could carry the Ark in a similar manner then the older instructions of God were null and void.
When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The 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.2 Samuel 6:6-7 (NIV)
According to the Lord’s instructions to Moses and Aaron, the Ark was to be carried on poles by the Kohathites who were conspicuously absent from the proceedings. But David threw caution to the wind when he recklessly endangered the lives of his people. Hot on the heels of a massive victory against the Jebusites, the securing of the fortified city of Jerusalem had given David the confidence to do something that Saul did not do in the entirety of his reign, transport the Ark to his palace.
When Uzzah reached out and grabbed the Ark, though he was trying to prevent it from falling to the ground, it was also a conscience act of disobedience ignoring God’s specific instructions given to the Israelites. Perhaps he was too comfortable with the Ark as he had seen it in his house while growing up. We are unsure if it was a reflex action or if he willingly went ahead and touched the Ark. But God who allowed the Philistines to carry the Ark haphazardly, would not have punished His own people for their reflex actions. If someone is transporting nuclear waste, will they dare relax the rules that they were warned to strictly adhere to? But with God, we interpret His word according to our will and live a relaxed life. David did the same when he downgraded the rules and gave freedom to the carriers of the Ark who were not Kohathites.
David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”2 Samuel 6:9 (NIV)
David had grown up hearing about the Ark and its significance to his people. The Israelites would take the Ark with them into the battlefield and come back victorious. All their enemies knew about the Ark of God as it would strike fear in their hearts upon hearing of its arrival in the vicinity. The Ark also had sentimental importance to the Israelites as it reminded them of the struggles of their ancestors as they made their way through the desert. For David, the Ark would give validity to his reign and help him unite the fractured tribes of Israel. In the short run, perhaps he thought that the Ark would provide protection to his precious city of Jerusalem from the impending attack from the philistines as they would be afraid to attack Jerusalem if the Ark was there.
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. 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 6:10-11 (NIV)
David was both afraid and angry about what had happened to Uzzah and did not dare think about bringing the Ark back home. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom, (who was from the family of Korah, a descendant of Kohath) where the Ark stayed for three months. Perhaps David was using this family as guinea pigs to ensure God’s wrath had subsided and avoid having the bubonic plague or an outbreak of rats, that befell the Philistines when they mishandled the Ark of God. But when David was told that Obed-Edom’s family had flourished since the Ark of God had come into their possession, he immediately went up to his house to retrieve the Ark.
The Ark Comes to Jerusalem
So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.2 Samuel 6:13 (NIV)
This time David took all the precautions and invited the right people to carry the Ark of God. Upon successfully carrying the Ark till the doorstep of Obed-Edom’s house, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf as no lives were lost that day. Perhaps he is overcompensating to make up for the previous attempt which resulted in the death of Uzzah.
As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.2 Samuel 6:16 (NIV)
David was however too excited to notice the disgust of his wife as he was pitching the tent for the Ark, sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, blessing the people, and distributing loaves of bread and cakes of dates and raisins. He was performing the duties of a priest as maybe he felt responsible for his country. It is unclear why he did everything that only priests can do but maybe David wanted the public attention for bringing the Ark safely to Jerusalem.
Michal was born in royalty herself as she was the daughter of Israel’s first king, Saul. Perhaps she wanted David to follow in her father’s footsteps and rule the nation with dignity. As the first wife of David and maybe she wanted to establish her queenship as well by controlling the actions of her husband. Or maybe she was just embarrassed by her husband’s disregard for social order in worshipping the Lord. It is clear that she did not understand what it meant to freely worship God, and wanted David to conform to the norms of the land.
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.”2 Samuel 6:22-23 (NIV)
And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
Do we let the judgment of others around us prevent us from bringing our true selves before God? Sadly we often let others around us dictate our actions and even our relationships with God. We adapt according to our company or fellowship in our pattern of worshipping God and don’t desire to freely worship Him for fear of standing out. David went on to do great things for God without Michal by his side as he did not pay heed to her criticism. But if he had allowed her to disturb his relationship with God, both he and his people would have suffered consequences. Let us not think about our loved ones on this earth when we are worshipping the one who loved us more than these.
6:2 – How is the Lord almighty residing between two Cherubims in a box?
6:3 – Why set the ark on a cart when God had given specific instructions with regard to the transportation of the ark?
6:7 – Why is Uzzah punished for only preventing the Ark from falling to the ground?
6:9 – Why does David want the Ark of the Covenant?
6:16 – Why is Michal despising David for freely worshipping God?
6:20 – Do we let the judgment of others around us prevent us from bringing our true selves before God?