Lesson 14: David, a heart that learns to properly respect God

Many years before David’s reign, the ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines after they defeated Israel in battle (see 1Samuel 4.1-11). However, the Philistines found the ark a burden as their idols fell before it (1Samuel 5.1-5) and the inhabitants of their great cities were struck with tumors when the ark was present (1Samuel 5.6-12). The Philistines sent the ark back to Israel (1Samuel 6.1-12), where it first came to the Levitical city of Beth-shemesh. However, the people there did not properly honor the ark, taking it upon themselves to look in it, and they were struck by the Lord (1Samuel 6.13-20). The ark was then taken to Kiriath-jearim, where it would remain throughout the life of Samuel, the reign of Saul and the first 7 years of David’s reign (1Samuel 6.21-7.2; 2Samuel 6.2; 1Chronicles 13.5-6). 

Arks Journey

We read in 2Samuel 5 how David conquered Jerusalem, the Jebusite city which had remained unconquered since the conquest. David made the stronghold his capital and we read that “David realized that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel” (vs. 12). For this reason, David desired to bring the ark from Kiriath-jearim (referred to as Baale-judah) to Jerusalem (2Samuel 6.1-2). 

The ark dishonored (2Samuel 6.1-10) 

It is in this passage that we read of Uzzah reaching out to steady the ark and suffering the wrath of the Lord. But Uzzah’s actions were only the culmination of the ark being dishonored. Israel should have known the proper way to carry the ark, because God had given specific instructions (see Exodus 25.14-15; 37.4-5; Numbers 4.15; 7.9; etc.). Yet, David chose to mimic the Philistine method of transporting the ark, using a cart (vs. 3; cf. 1Samuel 6). David and his men might have celebrated and rejoiced (vs. 5), but their emotional high did not atone for their failure to follow the Lord’s instructions. Tragically, Uzzah would pay the ultimate price for their dishonoring the ark. Bob Waldron gave this analogy: “The entire population carrying the ark was committing a serious breach of divine law in what they were doing. If a group of men were wiring a house, and they all knew they were taking short cuts and not doing the work properly, they would all be wrong, but the one man who touched the wire that was not properly grounded is the one whom the mistake would impact directly. Nevertheless, the accident would be a rebuke to all who took part in the endeavor.”

David’s first response was anger (vs. 8). Clearly he thought his actions were justified, but he had failed to properly respect the Lord. His next response was fear (vss. 9-10). Rather than take the ark on to Jerusalem, David left the ark in the house of Obed-edom. It is likely that David feared Jerusalem would have suffered the same fate as the Philistines and the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh (see 1Samuel 5-6). 

The ark honored (2Samuel 6.11-23)

But the house of Obed-edom was not cursed by the ark’s presence, rather the Lord blessed him and his household (vs. 11). This convinced David that it would be OK to bring the ark to Jerusalem. But this time David would make sure it was transported in the way God prescribed (see 1Chronicles 15.1-15). David would honor the Lord by making peace offerings every six paces of the journey (vs. 13). And David’s joy was evident to all as he danced before the Lord (vs. 14). His wife Michal despised his actions, but David’s defense was that everything he had done was out of love for his Lord (vs. 21). Once the ark was brought into Jerusalem, David penned a beautiful psalm (1Chronicles 16.8-33). The psalm extols the faithfulness of God and urges all to praise Him for His greatness and His judgments. 

To his credit, David learned from his mistake. In spite of his good intentions, by violating the Lord’s command he had not given the Lord His proper respect. But ultimately we see that David would respect the Lord and give Him the honor He is due.

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