This morning’s preach from 2 Samuel 6 looking at worship, God’s presence and going to the next level with God… Text below:
This morning we are continuing our series on David and we are looking specifically at Worship. Which is why I am preaching before we go into our time of sung worship. Because I’d love us to really learn from David’s experience this morning and perhaps take some of that with us as we sing and worship God.
So, our chapter starts as David has been made king. We know that he was, the bible says, was ‘a man after God’s heart’, a man of great faith, although not without his own mistakes of course as we have heard about in this series. But one thing I really love about this passage is how we see David putting God front and foremost of his new kingdom, he wants God at the centre of his new reign and he wants everyone to know about it. And we see him making a very public show of this when he attempts to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been taken during battle. We truly see David as a ‘man after God’s heart’
Ark of the Covenant
So let’s just start by taking a quick look at the Ark of the Covenant – why was it so important to David? Well, in Exodus we can read how God told Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant, (Exodus 25:22) and said to him it would be the place he would meet with him. So that’s pretty amazing right? A place where the living God would meet with one man.
It was part of the tabernacle, or tent, like a traveling temple that went with the Israelites in the wilderness, and God said he would dwell among them there.
So as a result of this the Ark of the Covenant, symbolised God’s presence, God dwelling among his people.
It was also used to keep the tablets of the 10 commandments and according to Hebrews 9:4, Aarons rod that budded and a pot of manna. So there’s a lot of symbolism here, the tablets symbolising Gods law, or instruction; Aarons rod = symbolising new life, or life out of death, resurrection even; and the manna – God sustains, the bread of life.
On the ark was the ‘mercy seat’ where God was said to be, and on the Day of Atonement in Jewish law, the High Priest would sprinkle blood from the sacrifices over the mercy seat to atone for the sins of people, so they could be right with God. A symbol of forgiveness.
And this is important, al this symbolism and meaning, I will come back to that…
So… when David wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, this was hugely significant, for him, and for the people. The Ark symbolised God’s presence. Something that David wanted to be with him in all things.
However I think in his enthusiasm he has maybe got little bit carried away and not thought it all through. I bet we’ve all done that right?
Well I definitely have, I’m always coming up with crazy things to do (well I think they are amazing obvs) and then throwing myself into them without thinking through what it means or the consequences. I once ripped a hole in the wall of our house, convinced there was an old fire place behind it (there wasn’t) and another time I painted an entire room of our house bright red when my husband was away on business (I think it looked amazing, had to convince the husband!), and I am sure Phil, can fill you in on many of my hair brained schemes.
That I think is what David has done here, filled with enthusiasm, he’s thought yes I want God at the centre of my kingdom (admirable of course) let’s go get the ark, come on chaps lets go…. And David is a very prayerful man, we often see him enquiring of the Lord, or seeking God though interestingly we don’t here…
And then we see the results, a man dead, David living in fear.
Not quite what he had planned. Doesn’t sound very Godly does it?
Well there’s two things I really want to highlight here. Firstly this is all about God’s presence, but secondly we also see God teaching David something new here, David, a faithful worshipper, being taken to the next level, as it were.
So firstly lets look at God’s presence – When God is present, things are revealed, the light shines into the darkness and shines on things that are hidden. So let’s look at how that impacts a few of our key characters…
Uzzah, we have to look at him, I mean poor chap, it seems a bit rough doesn’t it, he was just trying to help, wasn’t he?
Well actually God gave specific instructions for the Ark and other holy items, about holiness, reverence and care, (Numbers 4) which said amongst other things that only specific people were to carry the ark, using poles attached to it, and were not allowed to touch it or he says they would die.
Now we know that Uzzah was one of the sons of Abinadab in whose house the ark had been kept prior to this. I wonder if he really got it, what the ark was about. After all it had just been in his home for some time, perhaps just like any other bit of furniture. Perhaps he had been told to do this by his Father, you can imagine, Dad do I have to… begrudgingly going along.
He didn’t recognise the holiness of it, he didn’t respect God.
So there it was the holiest thing on earth and it’s on a cart (admittedly a new cart there was some thought…) and when Uzzah reached out to support it, just like any other piece of furniture, in God’s presence was revealed his apathy, and lack of reverence and respect for God.
And David, was does God’s presence reveal in David?
I think it’s pride. He thinks he’s doing the most amazing thing, but when it goes wrong, what’s his reaction? V8: anger
This was not what he had planned, a big triumphal entry, celebration, and instead it’s all gone wrong and a man is dead. Of course he’s angry, but he’s angry because of his pride and God’s presence reveals that.
Where was God in his planning?
I wonder, have you ever experienced that? That your plans have gone horribly wrong? Maybe people have got hurt?
Cut if need!
Years ago I ran an art gallery and it came to a point where I needed to sell it. Now I have to be honest I’m not sure I really consulted God on it all. I just knew it had to go and got on with dealing with it. And because of my lack of care and thought what happened was the people who worked for me pretty much went into revolt, and I was angry about their response.
I didn’t consider them in it all, I just forged ahead with my own plans. I know it seems so obvious and I certainly wouldn’t do it now, but then I just thought I was doing what I had to do.
And you know what made me realise? When God sent a Christian friend to talk to me, and I realised how foolish I had been. She brought God’s presence into the situation and for me, it revealed my own selfishness and pride.
God’s presence reveals… but we usually have a choice what we do with that revelation (well apart from Uzzah…)
What does David do? he’s angry then fearful. I think he was worried about himself.
After all what would the people think? David has brought this God into the kingdom and someone had died? Not a great start right? Would the people rise up against him? And sends the ark off to Obed-Edoms’ house. And that I think is what rugby players call a ‘hospital pass’ – ie: you get thrown the ball just as some massive winger is about to thrown themselves at you. What on earth was Obed Edom thinking. Some poor chap has died just touching this ridiculous golden box and the king wants me to have it in my home? Er. No thanks!
But actually his family is blessed by the presence of the ark, probably I think because they treated it with reverence and fear. I mean wouldn’t you..?!
And David could have remained angry and cross and full of pride. I could have remained cross and angry at my staff and think I was in the right. But he sees he’s in the wrong and he chooses to do it all again, properly this time…
So the ark is carried as it should be, there are sacrifices after just 6 steps!! David was dressed in a linen ephod, which was a priestly garment, so he was joining with the other Priests in order to fully enter this ceremony with holiness. ( 1 Chronicles 15:27)
But basically it’s a full on party with much celebration, I bet there was some great Dad dancing going on!
And what about Michal, what do we see revealed in her through the presence of God? Hate and Pride. Hate is revealed. V 16 says she ‘despised David’ in all her heart when she saw him dancing. And she absolutely lays into him. Can you imagine, David must have come in from all that celebrating, totally elated, on a spiritual high – you know what is like, you’ve been in a really amazing service, just felt so close to God, you feel amazing! Ever experienced that?
And she just stuck a pin in it! ‘Do you know what you looked like? what an idiot! ‘ And that can happen to us too, people who have not experienced the presence of God for themselves, not understood what it means to follow Jesus, they can do the same to us too.
Michal is a spectator here too, have you noticed, she’s watching him from inside, from a window in the palace. Why wasn’t she joining in with the celebration like anyone else?
What is it that she doesn’t like? I think it is her own pride that is revealed. Perhaps she feels that she is reduced to the level of the servants, as his wife?
In God’s presence her pride and hate is revealed and she too has a choice. To be part of God’s kingdom with David, or stand with the old guard, the old kingdom, Saul her fathers kingdom the one that went against God and resulted in death.
This is Michal’s moment to choose, does she repent like David has and change her ways? Well we don’t know for sure.
But there is an interesting line right at the end v.23 and I want to highlight this because it says that she had no children until the day she died. That can be a difficult thing to read, is there an assumption that God struck her because of her attitude? Well let me say right now, no! We do not believe that God strikes people down like this, we do not in any way think that childlessness for any reason is a curse from God.
In fact there could be other reasons for this line, for example it could be as simple as David was so annoyed with her that he never slept with her again (don’t forget he had several wives and concubines, he had options!!), but I think it is actually highlighting something different here because barrenness in the bible can symbolise spiritual barrenness.
The contrast between her and David here is vast. David, totally sold out on worshipping God and Michal criticising him. She is spiritually barren, unable to see God, unable to experience his presence, we don’t know why but one reason possibly is to remember she was the daughter of Saul, the previous king who tried so hard to kill David, and who went against God so many times. Perhaps she has just turned against God?
But we do see that David has changed – his response to her outburst?
Fresh from worship here he is revealed in God’s presence as he should be, a faithful servant, and he stands firm – ‘I will be even more undignified than this! (v.21-22)I will be humiliated’, he doesn’t care, because he knows he is worshipping God.
It is the presence of God that highlights things and can change things.
The presence of God that shines light into the darkness that reveals, that invites, that restores.
Another interesting thing…
So usually (not always) we think about coming to worship God, in order to encounter him don’t we? It’s through our praises that he is attracted to, that we get to encounter him. But here I actually think it’s the opposite, it is the presence of God through the ark of the covenant that looses David into such free and abandoned worship. It’s like it’s the opposite way round, does this make sense?
So, as David encounters God’s presence, is changed as a result, and renewed, his response is in utterly abandoned worship. Totally engaged in it, focussed on God, let go.
David Watson said that worship is a delight not a duty and it seems like here we see the delight in David’s worship.
I think what we see here is God taking David to another level of worship, of faith and of relationship with him. We know David is an amazingly faithful man, we know he is a man after God’s heart, we know he is prayerful and focussed on God, but here we are seeing something new. He made a mistake and there were consequences, but he put them right and he sought God in worship in a new way. And so often I find when we have dealt with something, or have been through something tough, or God has revealed himself to us and we respond to that, often that’s when God takes us onto something new, a new level of encounter with him.
In fact I have experienced that for myself, there was a time in a service where I was (not here I should say). Like Michal, feeling overly critical about some things that were going on, when I really felt God correcting me for my attitude. I saw that I was being judgemental and full of pride. I began to say sorry and at that moment someone came over and prayed for me. As they prayed there was a huge release of the Holy Spirit that touched me in ways I have never experienced before. And I believe that was through correction, and then my willingness to reach out to God and repent that he then took me to another level. Since then I have felt so much more released in worship, able to let go more and just be led by him.
And for us, what does all of this mean? Can we truly have the presence of God with us? Can we encounter God like David did?
It’s all about Jesus!
Well the thing is, we don’t need the Ark of the covenant to meet with God of course, because Jesus means we can meet with him whenever we like! We carry the presence of God within us, in Jesus. How amazing is that?! We don’t need to sacrifice before the mercy seat because Jesus has already done it for us. Jesus fulfils all that the ark signifies: the meeting place of God with his people, the symbol of atonement, of forgiveness, the taking of our sins, now it’s all in Jesus.
He is the fulfilment of the law (in the 10 commandments tablets), he is the resurrection, bringing us new life from death, he is our bread of life… he is all that we need…
And so, what is Jesus revealing in us? As we come into God’s presence, whether now in worship or in times of prayer, in fellowship times, what does he highlight in us?
Because we too have a choice – Do we want a life of apathy and lack of care like Uzzah? Or do we give in to a life of bitterness, criticising and hate like Michal? Or do we want a life of choosing Jesus, a life being abandoned to God like David (whatever that looks like for us?)
We have a choice too…
lead into worship/ministry time…
And as we go into worship now I would love us all to be truly seeking God’s presence and asking for a fresh revelation of who he is,
to give to him those things that might be holding us back from abandonment to him, for him to take us, all of us, to the next level…