Morning = 2 Samuel 6:1-23, Death – Dancing – Delight – Disgust

In my office I’ve got two small busts, one of John Calvin and the other of Charles Spurgeon. I see them every day and every day they encourage me, not because I’ve got some kind of deep love for historical personages, no. They encourage me because though they were flawed men, they were also faithful men. Faithful men who loved God and loved preaching His Word to His precious and adored Bride, the Church. And they did these things with an unusual potency amid trials far greater than many of our own. But to anyone who doesn’t know of these two these small statues are just two old dead guys with no real meaning or significance.

I think something similar happens to us when we read 2 Samuel 6.[1] Fifteen times we read of an ancient wooden box, plated with gold, called the ark of God. Many people are present in this chapter but make no mistake, this ark of God is the main character of the chapter. It brings dread as well as delight to God’s people all throughout this chapter as David makes two attempts to bring it to Jerusalem. To us here today it may seem strange that such a box would be loaded with so much significance for the Israelites. But to them it meant the world. For the ark of God was much more than a box, it was sacred furniture that symbolized the very presence of God among His people.

Which means, we must care about and pay close attention to this box as well.

I’ve titled this sermon ‘Death, Dancing, Delight, & Disgust’ because those are the results of God’s movement among His people through the ark. In one chapter we therefore get an upfront view of the terribly majestic presence of God, the purity of the holiness of God, the glad and abundant pleasure of God, and standing in dark contrast to this all we see the depraved disgust of man. Let’s see this in the text.

The Ark and the Presence of God (v1-2)

“David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.”

Now that David is king over all Israel we see he isn’t content for Israel to be just politically stable, economically healthy, and militarily strong. He desires more for the nation. He knows God has created His people to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6). The more David desires for the people is centered on the symbol of God’s divine presence, the ark of God. It’s been stored in the city of Baale-judah, or Kiriath-Jearim, throughout Saul’s entire reign, and in v1-2 David leads a large host out to get it and bring it back to Jerusalem to make it the center of life in their new capital.[2] Back in 1 Samuel 4 when Israel was defeated by the Philistines, they lost 30,000 men, and they lost the ark. Now David having just defeated the Philistines brings 30,000 men with him in a visible show of power to retrieve the ark indicating that a reversal had been accomplished.[3] All for what? The ark. This ark is no trinket.[4] It was a symbol of God’s revelation, for inside it was the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments God had written with His own finger to direct and govern the life of His people (Deut. 10:1-5). It was a symbol of God’s reconciliation, for each year on the Day of Atonement the high priest would sprinkle the of the blood sin offering on it to symbolize the forgiveness of sins (Lev. 16:14-15). It was a symbol of God’s Kingship, for in v2 we read of the “…LORD of hosts, who sits enthroned on the cherubim.” He doesn’t just sit, He sits enthroned, and not enthroned solo somewhere away from everything, no, He sits enthroned among the hosts of heaven over the cherubim. The ark was of such importance to Israel in their movement around and away from Mt. Sinai that each time the people moved the ark would lead the way and Moses would announce, “Advance, O LORD! May Your enemies be scattered, and may Your foes flee before You!” And when they stopped Moses would announce, “Return, O LORD! to the ten thousand thousands of Israel” (Num. 10:35-36).

Saul was content to let this ark be stored away out of sight. David did not follow suit. He knows the symbol of God’s presence among His people cannot be left stored away any longer. It must return to where it belongs. It must be in the midst of God’s people. Why? Because the worship of God must be at the center of the life of God’s people.[5]

The Ark and the Holiness of God (v3-11)

“And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day. And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And 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.”

As v3 begins there’s already a problem, do you see it? The ark has been in Abinidab’s house for a few generations, David and his host of 30,000 arrives, they get the ark, put it on a cart, and head out toward Jerusalem. What’s the problem here? The cart, that’s the problem. Back in the Law of Moses (Ex. 25, Num. 4), only the Levites could transport the ark and when they did they were to put long wooden poles through the rings on the side, enabling them to carry the ark without having to touch the ark by lifting the poles onto their shoulders. Anyone remember who had carried the ark on a cart before? Not any Israelite. The Philistines. They employed a cart to carry it when they defeated Israel and when they returned it to them. So it seems David is handling the sacred furniture of God in a pagan manner. Sure he might be using a new cart, but he’s using a cart nonetheless. As Indiana Jones in The Raiders of the Lost Ark looked on the Germans knowing something dreadful was about to happen in their mishandling of the ark of God, so too, attentive readers of this passage will feel some of the same dread as they look on David and his happy host mishandling the ark.

v3-4 shows Uzzah and Ahio walking beside by the ark, v5 shows David and all this host rejoicing at the arks return, but then v6-7 occurs. It seems God wanted this party to stop because His holy things weren’t being treated as holy. The ark wobbles, it looks as if it’ll fall off the cart, Uzzah puts a hand out to steady it, and the moment his hand touches it God strikes him dead right there beside the ark. In one sense Uzzah dies because Uzzah touched what wasn’t to be touched. The ark was the symbol of God’s holy presence among His people, only the Levites were to handle it, and even than they still weren’t allowed to touch it. Why such restrictions? Because God is holy and we’re not! So in love God warns His people, and here in our passage those warnings are ignored. Uzzah died because as R.C. Sproul says in his book The Holiness of God, “The presumptuous sin of Uzzah was that he assumed his hands were less polluted than the dirt.” But in another sense, Uzzah dies because of David. Uzzah wouldn’t have been in the position he was if David transported the ark correctly.[6] So what was David’s response to this? It’s there in v8, David gets angry. Literally in Hebrew David ‘burned hot.’ Why was David angry? Surely he isn’t angry at God, God’s warnings had been clear. No, I think he was angry at himself for realizing how flippant and irreverent he’d been with the things of God. And as he’d named the place of their victory over the Philistines Baal-perazim in 2 Sam. 5:20 because the LORD broke through their enemies, so too, here in his anger David names this place Perez-uzzah, because there the LORD broke out against Uzzah. Then in v9-11 David, in a guilt filled dread, abandons his attempt to bring the ark home and leaves it with a friend of his named Obed-edom, and for three months Obed-edom’s house was blessed because of the ark’s presence.[7]

The Ark and the Pleasure of God (v12-19)

“And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, 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. And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.”

Apparently, David hears how greatly God is blessing Obed-edom’s household because of the ark and his former desire to bring the ark home revives, so he sets out to give it another go. This time things are different. In v13-15 there is no mention of a ‘cart’ but those who ‘bore the ark’ indicating David is now obeying God’s commands in handling the ark. After it’s apparent that things are being done rightly David brings the whole procession to a halt and offers a sacrifice to God to express his gratitude and from that moment on all the way into the city David and his host are caught up in lively worship. There was loud shouting, the blowing of the horn, and David (with not much clothing on by the way) danced with all his might before the Lord. When they arrived in the city v17-19 all of this continues as the ark is brought underneath a new tent David had made. Then in the city more offerings were made, and David blessed all the people with gifts and rich food. This is nothing less than a scene of holy delirium in the presence of God.[8]

But do not skip by v16 too quickly. Not everyone was enjoying God in the worship of God. So far in this passage we’ve seen death, dancing, and delight. Now we see…

The Ark and the Disgust of Man (v16, 20-23)

“As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, 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…And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

Throughout this closing paragraph Michal isn’t referred to as the ‘wife of David’ but three times is called the ‘daughter of Saul’, do you wonder why? I think it’s because she displays a disposition more similar to her father than her husband.[9]In v16 while the whole city rejoices there she is looking out a window with disgust at David. There’s a contrasting parallel for us to see here. Earlier in 1 Sam. 19 she had looked out a window and saw in David a hunk of man, a mighty hero. Now at this window she sees David dancing and leaping around and despises him in her heart. The glimpse in v16 we see is expanded when David goes home in v20-23. David can’t even get inside the door before he’s welcomed by Michal’s abrasiveness. She goes out to meet him and, in the front yard for all the neighbors to see, begins mocking him sarcastically in v20. ‘What a scene the king of Israel has made today! Dancing like that with all the people watching, leaping up in the air shamelessly! You should’ve seen the servant girls gaping at you, it was positively vulgar.’[10] She clearly holds her royalty high, with outward dignity, pomp, and circumstance. David responds well and poorly here. He doesn’t do well in v21 when he uses words as sharp as her own in reminding her that God chose him over her father and all his house and has made him prince, ouch. Those words would’ve stung deep. But he does do well in v22 by reminding her that he was not putting on a show for the servant girls but was dancing before the Lord, and this is only a preview of how undignified he’s willing to be before the Lord. A quick conclusion then comes in v23 stating that Michal had no children to the day she died. It isn’t clear whether God closed her womb or that David refused to be intimate with her from here on out. Either way, no new descendant of Saul will come forth again. Lesson? Saul’s line is now over, David’s reign is now complete.

Conclusion:

This chapter is one of those chapters that reminds us of the divinely inspired nature of Scripture.[11] This whole chapter goes against the grain of human preference. No one would’ve invented a story like this, let alone a ‘god’ like this. Not if we were trying to win converts and influence people. The God of this chapter isn’t very marketable. Death from God’s holiness, dancing and delighting in God’s pleasure, and disgust for worshipping in so unproper a manner. Church, the Bible is a perfect balance of truth. Both great terror and great joy are here. Tremble before this God and dance with all your might! The world cannot comprehend a God like this, but you know who can? The redeemed get it. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ understands that a thing can be both dreadfully terrible and deeply wonderful at the same time.

Allow me to end with two takeaways here:

First, emotional pleasure in worship.[12] When someone today describes another as an ‘emotional type’ are they giving that person a compliment? No. For some reason we think expressing emotions is a sign of immaturity, while keeping your emotions in check is a sign of maturity. I think that mindset more fits with Michal than David in our text today. Look at David. A heart full of joy in the Lord cannot be contained without vigorous dancing in the presence of the Lord. Now I get that to a degree varying temperaments express joy in different ways. Too many though, use that as an excuse for remaining emotionally frigid. If your voice resounds and your hands reach to the heavens when ‘your team’ scores a touchdown and they don’t go up in worship, something’s off. Worldly delights are delights, but they shouldn’t have or receive the majority of our emotional expression. No, God should. Therefore it ought to be our great and earnest endeavor to cultivate a deep joy in God. Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, and gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.” Psalm 36:7-8, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.” Church, emotional maturity then means, not avoiding feeling in worship, but feeling what we ought to feel in worship. The grandeur of the glory of God, the gravity of our sin, and the gladness of redemption. God wants all of you. Mind and heart. When the mind is renewed, the heart is enflamed, and when the heart is enflamed the body cannot be still. It either bows low in reverential humility, or sings – sways – dances in reverential satisfaction. But…let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. When David brought up the ark at first and worshiped and rejoiced according to his own ways and wisdom the result was death. But when David brought up the ark again and worshiped and rejoiced according to God’s ways and wisdom the result was national celebration. Lesson? Right order in worship isn’t intended to stifle deep emotion, but to allow Godward emotions to run wild.

Second, divine presence in worship. It is important to see why the events of chapter 6 come after the events of chapter 5. Back in chapter 5 we saw king David lead out the armies of Israel not only to defeat the Jebusites and capture Jerusalem, we saw him lead out the armies again and defeat the Philistines twice. These were certainly great victories. Then in chapter 6 we have the narrative of the ark coming to dwell in the city among the people where it belongs. Lesson? God’s people are not sustained first and foremost by great victories against their enemies. God’s people are not sustained first and foremost by expanding their borders, no. Victory is good, expanding and growth is good but God’s people are sustained first and foremost by seeking God’s very face, His presence. I think at times we can easily lose sight of this. We too easily get caught up in the latest moral outrage, social cause, ethical dilemma, and political battles of our time. And while these things can be good in themselves and while they may move us to action and cause us to be mindful or aware of our current cultural climate, are these the things that sustain the life of the Church? No.

Think back to the ark. It was the symbol God’s presence among His people, and in this way this box, this sacred furniture looks forward to Jesus Christ who is the “…image of the invisible God…” in whom “…all the fullness of the deity dwells bodily…” and is “…the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” (Col. 1:15, 2:9, Heb. 1:3). Church, how do we keep our focus on God personally and here together corporately? By turning our eyes and hearts to Jesus, His Person (truly and fully God / truly and fully Man), His work (perfect law-keeping life, wrath bearing and atoning death, victorious resurrection, and mighty ascension), and looking full in wonderful His face.[13]

Our worship of Him must be and ever remain to be at the center of our life together.


[1] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 71.

[2] John L. Mackay and J. Gary Millar, ESV Expository Commentary: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles, ed. Iain M. Duguid, Hamilton Jr James M., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019), 324.

[3] Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003), 210.

[4] Davis, 2 Samuel, 73.

[5] C. F. Keil-F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Keil-Delitzsch) 10 Volume Set, Reprint edition (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 326.

[6] Mackay and Millar, ESV Expository Commentary, 326.

[7] There is great debate as to who Obed-edom is. He might be a Philistine. All the other men in Scripture said to be a ‘Gittite’ are from Gath in Philistia. If this is the case here in our text it’s evidence of God blessing a Gentile with His presence because of the sin of His own people. But Obed-edom could be an Israelite. Two men are mentioned in 1 Chronicles (chapter 15 and 26) with this same name, one of whom was a Levite. If this is the case it’s evidence David’s returning to proper protocol with who he allows to handle the ark.

[8] Davis, 2 Samuel, 77.

[9] Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Keil-Delitzsch) 10 Volume Set, 336.

[10] Davis, 2 Samuel, footnote 10, 78–79.

[11] Davis, 75, 77–78.

[12] Zac Hicks, The Worship Pastor (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), 143-155.

[13] Davis, 74.

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