1 - 2 David Is Going to Bring up the Ark
1 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 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 enthroned [above] the cherubim.
After David has made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, his concern is for the service to God. Since the time of Eli’s death, the separation between the ark and the tabernacle has led to the strong decay of the service to God. Now he first wants to bring up to Jerusalem. The tabernacle remains in Gibeon.
The ark has been among the people of God for twenty years without any concern for it (1Sam 7:2). In this way we may have allowed the Lord Jesus to enter into our lives, but at the same time He can only be a concomitant, a ‘marginal figure’. That’s different with David. We read in Psalm 132 about his desire to find a dwelling for the LORD, that is to say for the ark (Psa 132:5). He finds the ark “in the field of Jaar” (Psa 132:6).
When the people were about to enter the promised land, the LORD already said that the people should go in search of the place He would choose (Deu 12:5). But when the people conquered the land, no one went looking for it. But here is a man who cannot find rest until he has found it (Psa 132:3-5).
The ark speaks of the Lord Jesus. In Christianity there is hardly any question about where He is and Who He is.
3 - 5 The Ark Transported on a New Cart
3 They 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] fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.
It is possible to do good things in a wrong way. That is what is happening here. David’s wish to bring the ark to Jerusalem is good, but the way he does this is not good. The ark must be borne. In a spiritual sense this means that the bearers must feel the weight of the glory of the LORD. It is about a service being performed for the Lord in the way He Himself indicates. We must feel the importance of that. For God to accept a service, it must be in accordance with His Word.
David works here in a Philistine way. He uses their method to transport the ark (1Sam 6:7-12). It is a new car, but at the same time Philistine. It speaks of the work of man, of a way of serving God that appeals to man. Here we see that the danger of the Philistines does not only come from outside, but is also in one’s own heart. The dangers of the flesh and sin are in our own hearts.
To fight the Philistines, in the previous chapter he asked the LORD twice for His guidance. Now that it’s about the ark, we don’t read about it. David goes to work without asking the LORD. Maybe it is because it is obvious that he wants to bring the ark to Jerusalem. Surely that can only be good, isn’t it? It indeed is good, but the method must also be good, and that is not the case here. If anywhere the guidance of God and the directions of His grace are needed, it is in His own service and the worship brought to Him.
We can compare this to giving or organizing Bible lectures. Those are good things, aren’t they? But is it not important then to ask the Lord if and how He wants it? It is about knowing that we are in His way. If we do not do it in dependence on the Lord, it goes wrong.
6 - 8 The Death of Uzzah
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 his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. 8 David became angry because of the LORD’s outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.
What should have been a feast ends in a disaster. David has arranged everything with the best intentions, but this does not prevent an accident happening with the ark. Uzzah wants to prevent the ark from falling and does so by extending his hand towards the ark to stop it. However, this well-intentioned act is punished with death by God.
God does not want us to support His service with our hands. His Divine glory, of which the ark is the symbol, cannot be touched by our hands. That touch only results in a tarnish of the ark. God watches over His honor. The ark is a picture of the Lord Jesus. God wants us to treat Him with respect, to treat Him as He indicates. He is the center of true service to God. God will never allow us, humans, to arrange service to Him according to our own thoughts. If we are going to fill in this service ourselves, it will certainly end up wrong. Only if we really give Him the guidance in our lives and meeting together things will go well.
For example, when it comes to worship, the Lord Jesus says that the Father seeks worshippers. At the same time He indicates how God should be worshipped (Jn 4:23-24). He does not do this by means of rules men with the best intentions have prescribed. God has given His Word and His Spirit. In His Word we can read how to worship Him in spirit and truth. Where obedience to His Word is found under the guidance of His Spirit, a service can take place that is to His glory.
The oxen that pull the cart on which the ark stands are no better than the shoulders of priests. They stumble. God has led the cows of the Philistines (1Sam 6:7,12). He did so because the Philistines do not know better. God’s people, however, must know better. What God tolerates to some degree with the Philistines, He tolerates not with His own. Uzzah tries to save the ark from a fall and forgets God’s rule not to touch the ark. God punishes heavily!
Here in the picture there is the case that not enough distance is kept between the Lord Jesus and us. Proper respect is not undermined by confidentiality. Although Uzzah doesn’t look into the ark, he does something that speaks of an encroachment on the glory of the Lord Jesus. Then God must intervene.
David is not only sad, but also angry, and even rebellious. He thinks he’s doing so well and now he’s being punished so heavy! The disaster is not over the Philistines (1Sam 5:6), but over David. However, David must learn that it is not God, but himself, who is the cause of this disaster. It is often the case that we blame God for the events we have caused ourselves.
David’s lack of obedience to what God has said costs someone else, Uzzah, his life. Thus, our disobedience can have harmful consequences for others. That does not plead in Uzza’s favor. He too was responsible for knowing the will of God. His well-intentioned attempt to save the ark was contrary to God’s Word and God must punish it. God cannot give up anything of His holiness.
9 - 11 The Ark in the House of Obed-edom
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 next reaction is fear. Sin always brings fear, “but perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn 4:18). David does not walk in the light of God’s love, but in the light of his good intentions. Therefore this act of God discourages him. He gets scared and gives up his plan. He has the ark diverted to the house of Obed-edom.
Obed-edom will undoubtedly have known what suffering the ark caused among the Philistines, who had kept the ark imprisoned (1Sam 5:1-12). He will also have known of the men of Beth-shemesh who looked into it and some of whom were killed (1Sam 6:19). He certainly heard and perhaps saw that Uzzah was killed because he touched the ark. He also noticed that David has become too scared to continue to occupy himself with the ark. Nevertheless, he took the ark into his house with joy. Without fear he opens his door for it. He does so because he knows that the ark is “an aroma from death to death” (2Cor 2:16a) only for those who deal wrongly with it.
In the house of Obed-edom we see how God meant the ark: not to curse, but to bless. The same hand that punished the hubris of Uzzah, rewards the hospitality of Obed-edom. For him, the ark becomes “an aroma from life to life” (2Cor 2:16b). If the Lord Jesus is central to our family, the blessing comes. The stay of the ark with Obed-edom shows that it is possible, if the leaders and the whole people fail, still personally and as a family to experience the blessing of God’s present. Whosoever deals with the ark in the right way, is blesses by God.
No one has ever had a reason, and no one will ever have a reason to say that it is in vain to serve God. The example of Obed-edom is an encouragement for heads of families to honor the service of God in their families. Serving God and the interests of His kingdom with their homes and their goods is the means to bring a blessing on everything they have. The family of Obed-edom shares in the blessing. It is good living in a family that houses the ark. All who belong to it will experience the blessing of it.
Later we see that Obed-edom gets a special service as gatekeeper at the temple (1Chr 26:4-8). He is a Levite, but born in a city of the Philistines. His name means ‘servant of Edom’, that is to say servant of the flesh, the sinful nature, someone who does the will of the flesh (Eph 2:3). But in him we also see what God can do in such a person and what His grace can make of him.
12 - 15 The Ark Brought into 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 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.
After the ark has been in the house of Obed-edom for three months, David hears what the ark has meant for the family of Obed-edom. In these three months the ark has not been out of David’s thoughts. He is exercised in the school of God and taught in grace. The ark in the house of Obed-edom brings blessing over his house and a testimony of that goes out. If we really put the Lord Jesus at the center, it will mean blessing for ourselves and others will hear from Him.
When grace has done its work in David and he hears of the blessing that the ark has brought, it leads him to bring up the ark from there. This time he does it properly, in accordance with God’s Word. David has learned and now let Levites carry the ark (Num 7:9; 1Chr 15:2) . After six steps, not some Uzzah dies, but a sacrifice. This means that the ark can only be placed on Zion because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. David also sacrifices and wears a pries shirt. He is here the king-priest. This points forward to what the Lord Jesus will be in the kingdom of peace.
The enthusiasm of David will be understood by everyone who carries the things of the LORD upon their hearts. It is about the ark of the LORD who is brought to the place He Himself has chosen for it! It gives great joy to be able to cooperate. We do this by honoring Christ for God the Father as priests – and these are all New Testament believers – in the meetings of the church.
16 Michal Despises David
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.
In between, the Holy Spirit points to Michael, who is also called here “the daughter of Saul”. David’s wife has no part in her husband’s joy. On the contrary, she despises him in her heart. The reason for this is that she has no interest in the ark, the dwelling place and the resting place of God. For her, the ark is nothing more than a box of gold.
She is in her own familiar environment. From her elevated enclosure she looks down out of the window. It indicates that from her own thinking she judges in haughtiness what is happening outside her own limited circle. She is not accessible to things connected to heaven. The window through which she looks down is probably a narrow window. Her view of what she sees is so narrow. And even though it was a wide window, her field of vision is determined by her pride, making her blind to the glory of the ark and the service that goes with it.
She is a picture of the natural man for whom the things of the Spirit are foolishness (1Cor 2:14). Just as Michael is blind to what overwhelms her husband’s heart, so the world sees nothing attractive in our Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who had as limited a view as Michal saw in Christ no more than “the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon” (Mk 6:3) and “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55).
She despises David for not meeting her expectations. She only wants him when he is dressed in beautiful royal clothes. She knows nothing of the sources of true enthusiasm in the service of God.
17 - 19 Offerings and Food
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.
The ark comes to Sion. Sion stands opposite the Sinai. Sion stands for grace, the Sinai for the law (Heb 12:18-22). On Sion the ark finds its final place. There the people of God dwell with Him of Whom the ark speaks. In the future, Zion will be the center of the earth. David is also a distributor of food and blessing, as Melchizedek once was (Gen 14:18-19).
In the New Testament we see the fulfilment of this Old Testament image, when on the first day of the week the Lord Jesus comes into the midst of the disciples (Jn 20:19). There we see the glory of Him of Whom the ark speaks in the power of the resurrection, after He was in the hands of ‘the Philistines’, the religious leaders of the people.
When David has made the sacrifices, he blesses “the people in the name of the LORD of hosts”. Here is a man who has his joy in the LORD, for whom God is the great purpose, but who also has a heart for God’s people. Not only does he rejoice that he is in the presence of God, but he also wants to lead others there. He thinks of the whole people and gives a rich blessing to all. What a contrast with three months earlier. Then he had no blessing for the people. We are a blessing to others only when we are in the way of the Lord’s Will.
It is important that we recognize Christ as the center of our lives, and that we also recognize that this applies to all the true children of God. David distributes “to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women”. Paul also refuses to be sectarian and to be part of a party. He writes to the Corinthians: “Has Christ been divided?” (1Cor 1:13). And he writes to the Philippians: “For God is my witness, how I long for you all” (Phil 1:8).
20 - 23 David and Michal
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.
After blessing the people, David will also bless his family. However, his wife Michal, also here very meaningfully called “the daughter of Saul”, appears to share nothing of David’s joy about the ark. She sees nothing in the ark. Celebrating before an ark is something to laugh about. It is ridiculous. So people who are so close to us can laugh at us when we talk enthusiastically about the Lord Jesus and want to live for Him.
Michal despises David for having discarded his royal dignity and put on a linen priestly cloth instead. That priestly cloth has no meaning or value to her. She doesn’t see it at all. She even accused him of “uncovering”. For a spiritual-minded woman, this would have been a worthy addition to his dignity as king. For Michal, however, he has failed. David no longer stands out from others, and that is what she wants, to her own glory. She cannot show him off when he is humble. A woman who behaves in this way does not have to count on spiritual fruit.
For David the reception by his wife is like a cold shower. He himself is still, as it were, in awe of what happened to the ark. He has brought the ark where God wants it. His dealings with the ark brought him, so to speak, to the level of heaven. The reception by Michael may have given him the feeling Paul had after being in the third heaven. After that experience an angel of Satan came to torment him (2Cor 12:7). The Lord allowed this, so that he shouldn't exalt himself to the fact that he had been raised up to paradise.
In his conversation with Michal David is humble. Her despicable words must have hurt him, because he loves her. At the same time, he feels more connected to the lowest of the people than to those who are connected to him by natural ties. On the one hand, he is aware of his election by God, and on the other hand, he takes the lowest place in relation to men. He is humble in his own eyes and that is at the same time what makes him know how to obtain honor. Thus he resembles the Lord Jesus who said: “Who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant” (Lk 22:26). In this He Himself is the great example.
Michal’s attitude brings no fruit. There is no relationship between David and her, no spiritual fellowship. She has no part in what inspires David in his relationship to God. It seems that her contempt for David for his love for the ark caused her never to have a child.
We can learn a spiritual lesson here. We cannot have fellowship with those who despise the Lord Jesus (of whom the ark is a picture). Just as Michal remains without fruit because of her attitude towards David, so there will be no fruit for God in our lives if we speak despicable of people who are committed to the interests of God.
There will always be people like Michal who disdain an extraordinary enthusiasm of the believers for God and Christ. There will always be someone like Jude who calls Mary’s anointing oil for the Lord wasteful (Jn 12:4-6). There will always be mockers who say of believers filled with the Spirit that they are full of sweet wine (Acts 2:13). There will always be people who say of bread coming from heaven, ‘What is it?’ and of the gift from heaven, ‘Who is it?’ There will always be a Festus to say to Paul: “You are out of your mind! [Your] great learning is driving you mad” (Acts 26:24). There will always be those who take offence on the cross. But there also will always be those who can say that they glory in nothing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 6:14).