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Joy in the Presence of God

Dancing, singing and death?

Written by Mike Biolsi on .


Last week, David brought us to the point of Saul trying to kill David, David sparing Saul’s life and even David becoming a son-in-law to Saul through the marriage of Michal.

·        By the end of 1 Samuel, Saul met a gruesome death in battle to the Philistines.

·        The house of Saul and the house of David battle for the throne and this civil war in Israel cost many lives.

·        David becomes king of Judah for 3.5 years and then in 2 Samuel 5, David is anointed as king of BOTH Israel and Judah. He then goes on to defeat the Philistines 2 times as they marched against him.

2 Samuel 5:10, 12 ||David became more and more powerful, and the Lord God of Armies was with him… 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. [CSB]

So, David become the second king of Israel, and is the first king to successfully defeat the Philistines. 

Chapter 6 is where I want us to focus today.

The Presence of God.

We have discussed in the past that one of the major themes of the Bible is the presence of God among his people.

God walked with man in the garden, until man and woman sinned, and then he removed them from his presence. The, God invited Moses to join him on the mountain, and gave Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle and a very special place where God’s glory would live among his people. In the tabernacle was a place called he ark, or the ark of the covenant, where God’s presence would dwell.

God first gave instructions about the ark to Moses in the Sinai wilderness. While Moses was on Mount Sinai, God instructed him. [Ex 25, 35, 37]. The ark has been with Israel since they were freed from the bondage of Egypt.

When God gave instructions for the placement of the tabernacle, and thus the ark, it was to be at the center of their camp as they traveled through the wilderness.

Numbers 2:1–2  ||The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: “The Israelites are to camp under their respective banners beside the flags of their ancestral families. They are to camp around the tent of meeting at a distance from it  [CSB]

The ark…

-          It led them through the wilderness for 40 years under the leadership of Moses

-          It preceded them into many battles as they conquered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua

-          It settled in Shiloh during the time of Samuel and Eli

-          It was then CAPTURED by the Philistines when Hophnie and Phynihas tried to use it as a good luck charm in battle. [1 Sam 4-6]

o   The Philistines move it to Ashdod

o   The Philistines move it to Gath

o   The Philistines move it to Ekron

o   The Philistines return it to Beth-shemesh with a guilt offering

-          70 men die after looking in it, so it is moved to Kiriath-jearim to the house of Abinadab (where it stays for 20 years)

o   Saul took it in to battle in Gibeah against the Philistines when he was king, but it returned to Kiriath-jearim

Now that David is king, and David is a man after God’s own heart, he has a great idea – bring the ark to the city of David. David wants to move the ark from Kiriath-jearim to the City of David (Jerusalem), the place where he intends to rule as king. David wanted to have the presence of God near him during his reign as king and back in the cetner of the people. This is a very significant time as it is the first time that a city was named after a king and the first time the tabernacle was moved to a place where the king reigned. The symbolism is pretty cool.

So, read along with me in 2 Samuel 6:

2 Samuel 6:1–11 ||David again assembled all the fit young men in Israel: thirty thousand. He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah. The ark bears the Name, the name of the Lord of Armies who is enthroned between the cherubim. They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark. David and the whole house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals. When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled. Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today. David feared the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” So he was not willing to bring the ark of the Lord to the city of David; instead, he diverted it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. The ark of the Lord remained in his house three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his whole family. [CSB]

This seems like a bizarre story, doesn’t it? Why would God strike someone down that was trying to protect the ark in the first place? Now David is afraid of God – and the fear leads to irrational thoughts and actions:

  • He avoids God
  • He tries to divert trouble to someone else
  • He gets angry at God.

When things do not go the way we want, when tragedy strikes and we have no answers, it is very likely that some people will do the following:

  • Get angry at God
  • Avoid God, using the calamity as the excuse

These are not healthy options. A wrong theology, a poor understanding of God can lead to these beliefs.

So, why did God kill Uzzah?

God killed Uzzah. I thought God wanted to be with his creation? Hasn’t that been a theme of the scriptures since Genesis? So, why would God kill Uzzah, especially since it appears as though Uzzah’s intentions were to protect the ark and keep it from being damaged.

When Moses gave the commandments on the building of the Tabernacle and the procedures for worship, we read over and over the phrase, “And Moses did all that was commanded by God” or “And the people did all that was commanded by God”. It was done a certain way, and it was intentional.

There were specific instructions about who can carry the ark, how to moved the ark and that no one should touch the ark. These commandments were meant to protect the people – because a holy God cannot tolerate sin.  

David, in all his excitement, wanted to have God among them, but did things his way instead of God’s way.

NOTE: THAT was why Saul was rejected – he offered sacrifices to God and violated the command of God.

David had the right heart, and even a great idea, but in the process of wanting to do something cool for God, he ignored the direct commandments of God.

2 Samuel 6 tell us that David did, eventually move the ark to the City of David (Jerusalem), and that it went OK. But Samuel does not tell us why David was successful the second time.

READ 1 Chronicles 15

**note: Chronicles is a historical book about the kings of Israel. Many of the passages parallel 1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings. There are other people mentioned in Chronicles that are not in the other books.

1 Chronicles 15:13–15 ||For the Lord our God burst out in anger against us because you Levites were not with us the first time, for we didn’t inquire of him about the proper procedures.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. Then the Levites carried the ark of God the way Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord: on their shoulders with the poles. [CSB]

1 Chronicles 15:25–26 ||David, the elders of Israel, and the commanders of thousands went with rejoicing to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom. Because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, with God’s help, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. [CSB]

What are some of the differences?

The First Attempt:

The ark had been at Abinadab’s house for years, and Uzzah was one of his sons, so he was around the ark quite a bit.

  • David sent young men to protect it
  • It was placed on a NEW wooden cart
  • The people were praising God with song and dance

The Second Attempt

The ark had been at Obed-edom’s house for about 3 months and God had blessed him for it.

  • The men that went with David were Levites, not just young soldiers.
  • The ark was carried by the Levites, not placed on a new cart.
  • They inquired of God (read & study his Word!)
  • The people were praising God with song and dance

Lessons to learn:

1. Doing things the right way matters! If God has given specific instructions in his word, then obedience to his instructions need to direct our actions. Best intentions carried out contrary to God’s Word are not good. David learned this the hard way, and it cost Uzzah his life.

2. Passion is NOT greater than obedience. Both times that David attempted to move the ark to the City of David, there was music, masses of people and even David dancing with all his might. No public display of devotion, no amount of emotion, volume of singing or praise can take the place of obedience. They can certainly go alongside but cannot replace obedience.

3. Our greatest joy is found in God’s presence. David already WAS successful against the Philistines because God made him successful. The reason for bringing the ark to the city was NOT selfish, like sone of Eli. The desire was that the presence of God could be among the people. THIS is the greatest reason for joy and celebration. Though many people focus on the phrase “undignified” from 2 Sam 6, and many focus on the dancing, those are just the outward expressions of a joy and worship that was driven by having the very presence of God among his people. Let us make sure we do not focus of that! This passage is not about music, nor about dancing, it is about restoring a bit of Eden to the people of God – Immanuel, “God with us”.

4.   4. God’s presence should make us like him. When the ark was with Obed-edom, what happened? Yahweh blessed Obed-edom. The presence of the Lord inspired worship, sacrifice, blessings and generosity. Why did David give gifts to the people? Why did David bless the people? He was reflecting the very nature of God. Being in the presence of God should change us to reflect God to the people around us.

Joy in the Presence of God