David’s bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6) can be referred to as “doing a right thing in a wrong way,” and it should remind us that God’s work must be done God’s way. David tried to move the ark of the covenant on a cart, but God had given explicit directions for moving it – the Kohathites were to carry the ark by poles on their shoulders (Num. 7:9; 1 Chr. 15:13-15). The ark of the covenant was both the symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people and a type of Christ. Before it was captured, the ark was located inside the Holy of Holies, and over it was the mercy seat. This was where God met with His people. The ark is possibly the best picture of Christ we have in the Old Testament. It was made of gold, signifying Christ’s deity, and wood, signifying His humanity. As such, it was a marvelous picture of the God-man. During Samuel’s time, the Philistines captured the ark, but then sent it back to Israel on a cart, leaving it in the house of Abinadab, eight miles west of Jerusalem, where it stayed for seventy years. When David captured Jerusalem, he wanted the ark brought there because he felt that was its proper place.
In 2 Samuel 6, David asked the chosen men of Israel how to bring the ark to Jerusalem. This was his first mistake. Instead of inquiring of the Lord, as he did in battle against the Philistines (1 Sam. 23:2,4,10,12), David conferred with his officers. Instead of consulting the Scriptures, he sought the counsel of men. Proverbs 3:6 tells us that God must be ac?knowledged in all our ways. Failure to do so leads to disaster, and such was the result in David’s case – his wrong way of carrying the ark of God resulted in Uzzah’s death.
“So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab … and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab drove the new cart” (2 Sam. 6:3 NKJV). David’s second mistake was to set the ark of God on “a new cart.” This was what the Philis?tines did when they returned the ark to Israel – set the ark on “a new cart” (1 Sam. 6:7-8). Instead of heeding the divine instructions and placing the ark upon the Levites’ (Kohathites’) shoulders, David ignored the revealed will of God and instead followed a human plan. Bringing the ark to Jerusalem was noble work, and David’s motive was pure, but it was executed in a wrong way. The Philistines moved the ark the wrong way, but didn’t know God’s way. If we know His way and ignore it, we’re held responsible.
God had given specific instructions about moving the ark, but David did not follow them. The ark was to be covered, staves were to be inserted in its rings, and the Kohathites were to carry it on their shoulders (Num. 7:9). That was God’s way. To move it on a cart drawn by cattle was man’s way. If we don’t follow God’s way in serving, tragedy may result.
“They brought it out of the house of Abinadab … and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments” (2 Sam. 6:4-5). Since David was a musician he brought the ark to Jerusalem with a great deal of music.
The Death Of Uzzah
Because David brought the ark in the wrong way, Uzzah died. “Hands off” was made abundantly clear in God’s instructions concerning the ark. “The sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die” (Num. 4:15). The ark was on the cart, and the oxen stumbled. The Lord allowed the oxen to stumble in order to make manifest David’s wrong. “Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.” Uzzah feared the ark would fall, so he reached out to avert disaster. But this was disobedience. When Uzzah put his hand on the ark to steady it, the Lord’s anger was kindled and Uzzah died (2 Sam. 6:6-7). Divine judgment resulted from open disobedience of God’s command.
David – Angry And Afraid
“David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah” (6:8). This was David’s third mistake. It is always wrong to blame God. David’s conduct was deplorable. We are exhorted not to despise the chastening of the Lord, nor to be discouraged when we are re?buked by Him (Heb. 12:5). David ought to have humbled himself beneath the mighty hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6), confessed his failure and corrected his fault. No matter how grievous the divine chastening, we are to accept it and submit because it proceeds from God’s love, and is ordered by divine wisdom for our own profit (Heb. 12:10).
“David was afraid and said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?’” (6:9). This was David’s fourth mistake. With the death of Uzzah, David was gripped with fear. Two things need to be highlighted here to exemplify an important principle and teach us a lesson. First, David’s fear was caused by inoperative faith. There is a close relationship between faith and fear; where the former is dominant the latter is dormant, and vice versa. This is supported by several passages such as, “God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2). Whenever we are afraid, we should cry unto the Lord for strengthening of our faith: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Ps. 56:3).
Second, David’s faith was inoperative because of disobedience – his walk was not according to God’s revealed will. Faith is the gift of God and can only be increased by the Spirit of God. Fear indicates three things: an inactive faith, evidence that the Spirit is grieved, and a walk that is displeasing to God. The remedy for all these is to consider our ways (Hag. 1:5), confess our sin, and walk in the path of obedience.
“So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the city of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite” (6:10). This was David’s fifth mistake. He was so paralyzed by fear that he abandoned his noble purpose to bring the ark to Jerusalem. One sin led to another. It started with disobedience, which grieved the Spirit whose operation was withheld, leading to inactive faith, which brought fear and caused inaction.
The Ark In Obed-Edom’s House
“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” (6:11). Obed-Edom was a Gittite, a Philistine (Josh. 13:3). Like Goliath, the Gittites were inhabitants of Gath (1 Chr. 20:5). It is strange that David, the man after God’s own heart, refused to have anything to do with the ark because of fear, while a Philistine accepted the ark in his house for three months. Many Bible commentators believe that Obed-Edom had been truly converted to the Lord; that’s why he esteemed whatever pertained to Him. “Obed” means “servant,” and indeed he rendered true service to the Lord when he housed the ark.
A further evidence that Obed-Edom was a saved person is the fact that the Lord blessed him and his household. The Lord declared, “Those who honor Me I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30). Obed-Edom honored the Lord by taking in the ark, and the Lord showered blessings on him and his household. David’s loss because of disobedience was Obed-Edom’s gain be?cause of obedience.
We glean another lesson from Obed-Edom’s blessing for accepting the ark in his house. Since the ark is a type of Christ, if He indwells our hearts by faith and we give Him first place in our thoughts, we shall also be blessed. If we surrender ourselves to Christ’s lordship, and like Obed-Edom have a servant’s attitude to the Son of God and give Him the pre-eminence, we shall be blessed.
Then David heard that “The LORD has blessed the house 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 gladness” (6:12). Five things are worthy of notice in this passage. First, obedience is always rewarded by blessing, while disobedience brings chastening. Second, God’s blessing is so obvious that others will take notice. Third, others will perceive why God’s blessing is bestowed. In this case the house of Obed-Edom was blessed, and others could see the reason why. Fourth, the recognition of God’s blessing upon those who please God is told by men to their fellows. Fifth, God’s blessing to Obed-Edom impacted David; his fear was stilled, his zeal was rekindled, and he was encouraged to resume his original and noble plan to bring the ark to Jerusalem.
Backslidden David was restored to fellowship with the Lord, and the effects were evidenced by the following: Joy – “David brought the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness” (6:12); Dancing – “David danced before the LORD with all his might” (6:14); Music – “David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet” (6:15); Sacrifices – David “sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep … burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD” (6:13,17); Blessings – David “blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts” (6:18); Food – “Then he distributed among all the people … bread … meat, and … cake of raisins … Then David returned to bless his household” (6:19-20).
Michal’s Contempt And Punishment
“Now as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart” (6:16). The joyful day of David’s bringing the ark to Jerusalem was overshadowed by a sad episode. Michal, David’s wife, was incapable of sharing his fervor toward God. She was irritated by his zeal and condemned his joy. Satan, the archenemy of God’s people, was behind Michal’s conduct. Her attitude was one of ingratitude toward the one who was so devoted to her that he declined to accept a crown unless she was restored to him (2 Sam. 3:13).
“Michal the daughter of Saul … said, ‘How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!’ So David said to Michal, ‘It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.’ Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death” (6:20-23).
The above passage shows how David’s favorite wife turned against him and unjustly reproached him for his devotion. Michal was David’s wife, but when her name is mentioned in the above passage a different relationship is emphasized three times – “the daughter of Saul.” This carries a definite message. For Michal to be called the daughter of Saul is no honor but shame. Because she had no concern for the glory of God, she could not share her husband’s jubilation for bringing the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. Michal did not like that David had laid aside his royal robes, and she charged him with immodesty.
In his reply to Michal, David said that he had no reason to be ashamed of his conduct. All his actions were only for the glory of God. Michal looked at David through a distorted lens and her eyes saw what appeared to her as shame and immodesty, but David’s conscience was clear. He said: “I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight” (6:22). The force of David’s words was this: If laying aside his royal robes was considered “uncovering” himself, then he would humble himself yet more before God. David replied to Michal’s charge with irony.
The narrative of David and the ark of God has a most solemn ending: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” Such is the divine condemnation of Michal, a just punishment for her sin of unjustly despising her husband, the man after God’s own heart. The Lord has declared, “Those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30). Michal not only despised David, but also despised his Master. Her barrenness was her being lightly esteemed by the One who searches the heart. This should speaks to our own hearts. A final lesson for us is that we ought never to speak evil against God’s people, lest spiritual barrenness be our portion.
By Maurice Bassali
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org