Summary: What do you think of God? Is your idea of God big enough to take in the things we discover about him in his word? Are you prepared to worship a God who can do what he likes with his creation even if you can’t understand why he does them; even if you somet
What do you think of God? What do you really think of God? What sort of God do you worship? They’re the sorts of questions that face us today as we think about the reaction of 2 of the characters in this story of David and the Ark of the Covenant.
David is settled in Jerusalem. It’s become the City of David and now the time has come for the Ark of the Lord to be brought into the city. You may remember back to the early days of Saul, when he tried to win a battle by bringing up the Ark from Shiloh, but his ploy didn’t work. God isn’t a God who can be used or manipulated for our own ends. Instead the Ark was captured by the Philistines. But then, after a series of disasters, they sent it back to Israel.
The Ark went first to Beth Shemesh where some of the men there treated it with such disrespect that they died looking into it. This naturally terrified the people of Beth Shemesh to the extent that they asked "Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? To whom shall he go so that we may be rid of him?" (1 Sam 6:20) Well, they got rid of him by sending the Ark to Kiriath Jearim, where it remained for the next 20 years. There it stayed until this moment in Israel’s history, when David goes with a huge army of chosen leaders of Israel to bring it into his newly established capital.
You see, David hasn’t forgotten that his reign is dependant on the God of Israel. He’s a king who remains subordinate to the King of kings. And if he’s to rule from Jerusalem, then God must be seen to be ruling from Jerusalem as well. No longer will Shiloh be the centre of the worship of the LORD. From now on Jerusalem will become both the political and the religious focus of the nation.
Now this may be just a strategic act on David’s part, to cement his place as king of the whole nation, but you realise as the story unfolds that it’s much more than that. David is a king with a God-centred view of the world. And if he’s to lead his people in the best way possible then God must take centre stage. It’s no good God being exiled to Kiriath Jearim while David is set up in his new capital. God must be there at the centre of the life of the nation.
It’s a lesson we could all learn isn’t it? What do we think of God? What place does he have in our life? Is he at the centre or is he exiled to the periphery, to Sundays and Bible study groups, while our life is lived mostly in other places?
Well, that’s not going to happen in Israel. David is going to bring the Ark into the new capital. And he understands the solemnity, the significance of the occasion. He gathers together 30,000 of the leading men of Israel. He has a new cart built as befits the ark of the LORD, the lord of hosts. Their procession is a procession of worship. There’s singing and dancing; the noise of loud instruments; loud rejoicing. It’s not very Anglican is it? But it’s appropriate for such an important occasion. Here is the central symbol of God’s presence among them, the Ark of the LORD, coming to Jerusalem. And worship is the appropriate response.
But then disaster hits. The oxen stumble and the cart shakes and as Uzzah puts out his hand to steady it he’s struck dead on the spot! This is totally unexpected. Everything’s being going along so well. And now Uzzah is dead. And notice how David reacts. He’s angry. Angry at God. Angry that God has done this to an innocent man.
I wonder is that how you feel when you read something like that? Does it offend you? Is it too much? Poor old Uzzah!
It certainly offended David. Perhaps he’d underestimated this God he worshipped. Perhaps he wasn’t as safe as he thought.
Of course he’s right. God isn’t a tame God. Look at v2: he’s ’the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim’. He’s the Lord holy and mighty. It’s all too easy to forget that the Lord we worship is God almighty, the Holy one, enthroned on the cherubim and seraphim, surrounded by the fire of holiness, far removed from our ordinary lives. Our worship is sanitised in so many ways. We remember Jesus Christ who lowered himself to come and live among us as another human being. We sit in pleasant and familiar surroundings singing songs of joy. But sometimes we forget that God is also the almighty one, the one before whom every knee shall bow when he comes to judge the living and the dead.