2 Samuel 6
One would think that David’s success in conquering Jerusalem and defeated the army of the Philistines might be considered his greatest achievement. Yet in his mind and heart it wasn’t. Now that the war with the Philistines is over, David turned his attention to an issue dear to his heart. He assembled thirty thousand men to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem, its true home.
According to Exodus 25:10-16 and Numbers 4, the Ark of the Covenant was to be transported only by the Levites (priests) who were to carry it on poles inserted through the rings on either side of the Ark. David, for an unexplainable reason, had the Ark of God put onto ‘a new cart’. (2 Sam. 6:3) This was a serious error.
God’s desire was that His glory, represented by the Ark, should literally rest on the shoulders of His priests. The tribe of Levi was chosen to conduct the priestly functions in the Temple. They served as representatives of the people whom the Bible designates as a ‘priestly people’. In other words, all people who adhere to the faith of Abraham have a certain priestly character about them and should be ‘bearers of His glory’. This is another way of saying that we are to be a ‘light to the nations’. Positioning the Ark of God on a wooden cart drawn by animals imitates what the Philistines did when after possessing the Ark for seven months and suffering devastation in their camp because of it, they loaded it onto a cart and sent it back the Israelites. We would think that David would have remembered the Torah’s instructions and not replicated the actions of the Philistines.
But he didn’t.
And so, while ‘David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord,’ (vs. 6-7) one of his men named Uzzah reached out to keep the Ark stable on the cart and when he did so, God struck him dead. Here they were, celebrating with exhuberance and passion and in the midst of it, disaster. David was devastated and his response was anger and fear.
Yes, David was angry at God. The ‘man after God’s own heart’ got angry at the God He loved so much. Perhaps you’ve been shocked in life by a devastating event or situation and can identify with David’s feelings. But did you do what David did?
Here is the key to why he continued as a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ He translated his anger and fear into seeking God more intensely in order to understand why this happened. You see, David’s faith rested firmly on who God is. It was not dependent on what God did.
I dare say that no one has ever become angry at God for Who He is. We only get angry at Him when He does something that disappoints or distresses us and, like spoiled children, we get mad that we didn’t get our way!
What we must remember is that His ways are NOT our ways; that because we are limited human beings, we will NOT always understand why certain things happen. But when our faith, like David’s, is firmly rooted in Who God IS, not what He DOES or DOESN’T do, we will maintain our spiritual or emotional stability when things don’t go our way.
At first glance, it may seem as if the death of Uzziah was the work of a ‘harsh’ and ‘demanding’ God. On the contrary, it was the work of a HOLY God.
Faith like David’s understands that everything God does is right, good and just. He does nothing haphazardly or thoughtlessly. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, wrote the prophet Isaiah. His is God; we are not.
One thing we can recognize immediately from this event is that God wanted His people to be different from the rest of the world. Any lack of attention on our part to His way of doing things is important to Him! To transport the Ark on a cart drawn by animals constituted an attempt to substitute man’s ways for God’s. It was His holiness that reacted. David along with all of his men needed to be reminded that doing God’s work must be done in God’s way.
After Uzziah died, David left the Ark at the home of Obed-Edom, some eleven miles from Jerusalem. It became quickly apparent that the blessings of God flowed abundantly into Obed-Edom’s home. David saw and learned. After some time he went a second time to bring the Ark to Jerusalem but this time his attitude was different.
Difficult lessons in life can make us bitter – or better. David chose the latter. This second time he made sure the priests carried the ark and with every six steps, David offered sacrifices and ‘danced before the LORD with all his might.’ (vs. 6:14)
Spurred by the freedom that always comes with repentance and correcting one’s ways, once the Ark was secure in Jerusalem, David made his way home to ‘bless his household’ (vs. 20). He was filled with the joy of the Lord…but his wife was not. She ridiculed his dancing before the Lord with a disdain that hurt, but even the disgust of his wife at his expression of worship, did not deter him. His response to her was ‘It was before the Lord!’(vs. 21). In other words, I wasn’t dancing for you, Michal, I was dancing for God!
David resolved that whether or not his wife agreed, whether or not his family joined him, whether or not the whole nation thought he was crazy, ‘I will celebrate before the Lord!’
I suggest that David did not necessarily understand more about Uzziah’s death but he understood more about his God which made the loss of Uzziah more tolerable.
We will not always get ‘our way’; in fact, we shouldn’t for our ways are often NOT God’s ways. When situations or events don’t go the way we wish they did, let us imitate the faith of David, trust that God is doing what is right and best and though we may not understand until much later, let us cultivate a heart like David’s that even in distress, turned TO God, not away from Him.