Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: 2 Samuel 6 WCF 21.6
Text: 2 Samuel 6:12-23
Celebrate before the Lord
2 Samuel 6New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Peril in Moving the Ark
6 Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to [a]Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the Lord of hosts who is [b]enthroned above the cherubim. 3 They [c]placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. 4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. 5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of [d]fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.
6 But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. 7 And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for [e]his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. 8 David became angry because [f]of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called [g]Perez-uzzah to this day. 9 So David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” 10 And David was unwilling to move the ark of the Lord into the city of David with him; but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. 11 Thus the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.
The Ark Is Brought to Jerusalem
12 Now it was told King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.” David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was [h]wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.
16 Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
17 So they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.
20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.” 23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
Celebrate before the Lord
2 Samuel 6 :12- 23
The section of the WCF we read has a lot to do with the elements and do’s and don’ts of worship. It teaches us to worship in accordance with what God has revealed to us about worship in His word. This is important because we are inclined by nature to please ourselves rather than God and include things in worship that make us feel good and that we like rather than think carefully and ask “is this what God requires?”
This is why the Reformed understanding of the regulative principle of worship is that we only include elements in worship which have a clear warrant in scripture. The importance of this can be seen in the first 11 verses of 2 Samuel 6 where the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah because Uzzah, had the Ark of God towed behind a pair of oxen on a cart and when it almost fell off Uzzah reached out his hand to steady it. This was contrary to the command of God that only Levites were to transport the Ark of the covenant on poles fasten with metal rings and not towed behind oxen on a cart.
In any case from that event and other events and instructions in the Bible we derive the principle that we worship God carefully according to the pattern set out in his word and in spirit and in truth as the Lord Jesus put it in his discussion with the Woman at the Well in John 4:24.
But why? Is it because we fear the same judgment Uzzah suffered because of his irreverence? No Uzzah was before the time of Christ and was made an example of for the sake of the consciences of all worshippers and because of the Holiness of God. Uzzah also reminds us of our acute need of Christ because we are no better. Think again of what the Westminster Confession chapter 21 teaches about worship on the Lord’s Day. Can we say honestly before the Lord that we have never neglected or forsaken carelessly or wilfully the worship of God? Do we always occupy the time of the whole Lord’s Day in public and private worship of God refraining from any thoughts of employment and leisure activities? Do we always have the right attitude or frame of mind when we are in worship? No.
Can we worship God perfectly in spirit and truth ? Again if we are honest no. This is why Christ came. Our sin is why there was a cross. The judgment we deserve fell on him. As Isaiah say elsewhere “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities the chastening for our well being fell upon him.”
Its only becauser of Christ that we can come into worship joyfully and peacefully and celebrate the goodness and mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When we come in worship thankfully and trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for sin then we don’t come seeking to maintain the purity of worship because of a fear of judgment. Rather we seek to maintain the purity of worship out of love for God.
Where there is love for the Lord worship becomes a celebration as we find in the second half of 2 Samuel 6. I’m going to look at this in three main parts
1. Obedience brings blessing
The death of Uzzah shocked David and caused him to be angry, presumably with himself and it left him afraid. So he decided not to continue on the journey to bring the ark to its final resting place but left it in the house of Obed Edom where it remained for three months. During that time it became evident that the Lord’s blessing was on Obed Edom. David was encouraged by that and renewed his efforts to bring the ark into Jerusalem. This time he didn’t bring it as the Philistines sent it; on a wagon, but had it carried as prescribed by the law of God by Levites on poles. We also note in the text that David offered animal sacrifices along the way and when the ark arrived at its destination.
Furthermore David removed his royal robes and wore the linen ephod which according to Leviticus 16:4 was worn by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Wearing this priestly garment David danced enthusiastically and energetically in front of the ark as it made its way towards its sanctuary in Jerusalem.
Calvin thinks that David wore the linen garment as a sign of humility before the lord. He lay aside the royal robes and donned the tunic of a servant just as the Lord Jesus put aside the cloak of Rabbi and teacher and wrapped a towel around himself to wash his disciples feet and that Christ put aside his majesty and glory, became incarnate putting on our sinful humanity and humbling himself to the point of death for our sake. In that way we can think of David as a type of Christ, a king and yet a priest who came to serve and bless his people.
But what was the result of David’s humility and obedience? In a word; blessing!
Edom’s household was blessed. We are not told about the exact nature of that blessing but it was real and noticed by David and an encouragement to David.
There is also the blessing of joy. David brought the ark of the Lord into the city of David with gladness. Certainly his dancing before the ark revealed his submission and humility before the Lord, but it was also an expression of joy.
So was his giving gifts to all who had gathered to witness the entrance of the ark into the City of God. Most importantly having the Ark back in the City of David was a cause for great joy because the Ark symbolised the presence of God in the midst of his people.
In the same way our Lord Jesus Christ’s obedience gave both him and us Joy. Hebrews 12:2 says. “For the joy set before him Christ endured the cross”. What joy was that? It was the joy of doing his heavenly Father’s will and then the joy of our salvation.
Further on in Hebrews 12: 18 and following it says this (I’m paraphrasing a little here) “You have not come to darkness, gloom, fear and trembling. You have come to the city of the living God; to the church, to a righteous God and to the spirits of men made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant and to the sprinkled blood which speaks a better word than the blood of Able.” Genesis 4 tells us that Abel’s spilt blood at the hands of murderous Cain cried out to God for justice. Christ blood shed for our sins didn’t cry out for justice rather His blood justifies all sinners who by grace believe in him.
Therefore Jesus obedience gives us all joy; joy in the Lord and the joy of our salvation.
2. Disobedience brings cursing.
Not everyone was joyful. David wife Michal watched David from the palace window and saw David dancing in the linen tunic and secretly despised him. When David returned to bless his household presumably with the same gifts he blessed the people with she came out and mocked her husband “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovers himself in the eyes of his servants maid as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself”
Why did Michal react in that way? Did she feel that David made a fool of himself because he didn’t have the bearing of a king as the Ark was carried into the tabernacle? That he was over the top and just being a bit extreme here? Especially in front of the common people. We could be tempted to think that but both David’s and the Lord’s response to Michal tells us something else.
Listen to David’s reply “It was the Lord who chose me above your father and above all his house to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord over Israel.”
There was pride and jealousy and family loyalty in Michal’s heart because the Lord had chosen David over her father Saul. Therefore her sin was the same as her father’s. The sin was that Saul had been concerned with his own honour rather than the Lord’s honour and Michal’s attitude towards David was a perfect illustration of that same sin.
As well as that Michal’s attack on David’s devotion to God was really an expression of hatred for all that God was doing in David’s life, In fact it was an expression of unbelief.
Michal should have been there in the procession alongside her husband rejoicing at the fact that the Ark of the covenant was in the midst of God’s people and that God was with and blessing his people once again. She should have given God the honour that belonged to Him. Instead she watched disdainfully from her window making fun of those who were honouring God, despising her husband because he wanted so much to worship God with all his heart and soul and strength and mind.
It’s a bit like a nominal Christian poking fun at a committed Christian for refusing to go to the shop on a Sunday, or wanting to talk about matters of faith and getting excited about that and calling such a person a ‘holy Joe’ or even accusing them of being judgmental. This can happen between generations, relatives, workmates and old friends and is often indicative of an underlying resistance to the claims of Christ on the Christian. The world of the unconverted or lazy Christian feels the reproach of the committed Christian just as Michal felt the reproach of David’s commitment to the Lord.
But the point here is that while obedience brings blessing disobedience brings with it a curse. While obedient David was joyful before the Lord, disobedient Michal was miserable and resentful.
Furthermore it says in verse 23 that Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until her death. Because Michal did not share David’s faith the Lord would ensure that she would not carry David’s child. The house of David wouldn’t be built from her offspring. This could also be in part a further fulfilment of an earlier prophecy that there would be no heir for the house of Saul and so her womb would be barren. That doesn’t mean that whenever a woman can’t have a child that this is a judgment from the Lord. Childlessness is no doubt one of the sorrows of living in a fallen world just as sickness and death is and no-one is exempt. However in Micah’s case it was a judgment from God and it reminds us against that there is a heavy cost to disregarding the Lord.
Furthermore, to reject God and refuse to accept his free gift of a saviour is to commit your life to a life of spiritual barrenness. It is to commit yourself to bleak life without God and without hope in the world. A lot of people do. They look for fleeting joy in false religions, entertainments or anaesthetise themselves with drugs and alcohol. The only solution is salvation through repentance and faith in Christ. In Christ there is not misery but celebration which brings me to my third point.
3. We will celebrate before the Lord.
As well as exposing Michal’s resentment and pride David was firm in his determination to celebrate before the Lord as verse 21 shows. If there was a reason to rejoice and celebrate that’s what David would do. There were times when David needed to be sorrowful and repent or to be crying to the Lord for deliverance but here he celebrates and has every reason to. The Ark of the Lord was returning to Israel. That means that the Lord was with his people and blessing them once again.
We have even more reason than David did to celebrate. David was still living among the types and shadows. We can see everything in the light of the finished work of Christ, the reality of sins forgiven and a secure future.
Just as the Ark of the Covenant was brought back into the sanctuary symbolising the presence of God among his people we the New Testament believers are blessed with the same reality in Christ.
Jesus Christ who humbled himself for our sakes has been exalted in heaven to the right and of God. From there he sent the Holy Spirit to live with us and so he is he lives in the hearts and live of all who profess faith in Christ and who say in faith, “I am not my own but belong body and soul to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ he has purchased me with his precious blood.”
Well what a privilege that God should live among us with his Spirit and renew us and enable us to be his service.
And this is what it means for Christ to come into his kingdom as the king of glory. This is what we celebrate when we worship the Lord together
This is what worshipping in spirit and in truth is all about. We come to the Father through the Son. David’s zeal and obedience points us to Christ’s who for the joy of obeying his heavenly Father and the joy of our salvation endured the cross to set us free. Through Christ we receive every blessing or “all things” as Paul puts it in Romans 8.
In him we have the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. In Christ God is with us and that gives us every reason to celebrate.
We’ll do that shortly with the words of Psalm 24 a Psalm David composed when the ark of the Lord was returned to Jerusalem’
Lift up your heads you mighty gates. Be lifted up you ancient doors. That the king of glory may come in. Who is he the king of glory? The Lord Almighty He is the king of glory.