THE GLORY: BLESSING OR SOMETHING ELSE?
2 Samuel 6:1-23
This text was written in a typical Hebraic fashion by giving us a series of contrasts for instructional purposes. We are shown how to war properly, noting that at times our warfare needs to be different, at times conventional; we are shown how the glory is meant to be transported correctly and what happens when it isn’t; we are shown the difference between human wisdom and power and divine wisdom and power; and finally, we are shown the contrast between joy and failure.
- I) CONTRAST: Weapons of Warfare
- II) CONTRAST: Human Ability vs. Divine Ability
III) Contrast: Divine Joy vs. Human Failure
- I) CONTRAST: Weapons of Warfare
There was a time when the children of Israel attempted to use the glory of God as a “good luck charm” by taking the Ark of the Covenant out of the tabernacle and into battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). They not only suffered defeat, but the ark was taken from them, and with it, the glory of the Lord departed. This humiliating loss was not because the presence of God didn’t abide with the ark—which it did—but because although you can try to paint God on the surface of anything, the glory of the Lord will not work if His presence is not penetrating your life.
Later, the Philistines put the ark into the temple of their god Dagon, and more than once, the stone god toppled over and was discovered literally bowing before the ark, something no human hands could have done (1 Samuel 5). Worse, the Philistines were hostile to the ways of the living God, and so having the presence of God in their midst became a judgment rather than a blessing.
If you oppose God, it doesn’t chase His presence out of the world; it just puts you in friction with it, and you’re the one that ends up with splinters. All the people in Philistia became afflicted, and so they decided to get rid of the ark.
The Philistines built a cart on which they put the ark, hooked it up to two milk cows and sent it on its way. Without any human driver, the cows made a beeline for Israel. The cart came to the house of Abinadad, and because of King Saul’s insensitivity to the things of God, it was left to stay there for twenty years.
Where the Glory Belongs
We aren’t told what happened to the tabernacle; it may have decayed because of its age, been vandalized or destroyed in battle. But now, David has become king, he’s pitched another tabernacle and he wants to establish the ark to Jerusalem.
David, who is a model of humility and unselfishness, is sensitive to the fact that where the Ark of the Covenant is, the glory of the Lord is in the midst of the people. He not only wants the blessings of God upon his reign, but also upon his people. There are gigantic lessons to be learned in the story of David’s desire to see the ark returned.
In a very real sense, the living church today is where the tabernacle has been reconstructed and the glory of the Lord is to abide, as prophesied in Amos 9:11-15,
On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; 12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the Lord who does this thing. 13 “behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. 15 I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God;
and fulfilled in Acts 15. Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16 ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.’ 18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
The glory rested on the tabernacle in Israel, then on the temple during the time of Solomon; it rested upon Jesus who “tabernacled among us”—then Jesus transmitted the glory to the church. Only worship maintains and sustains the glory of God.
“How does the ark of the Lord come to me?”
The Ark of the Covenant—a box about two feet high, two feet wide by four feet long, containing the Ten Commandments and other items—was never to be touched by human hands. On its sides were rings through which poles went, and the ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the priests. The lesson here is that you do not presumptuously approach the glory of God. God has the prerogative of investing us with His glory but we haven’t the prerogative of reaching out, touching it and snatching for it ourselves.
In verse six of the text, Uzzah—who had been positioned at the rear—sees the ark beginning to slide as it’s riding along on the cart, and he reaches out to take hold of it. At this, Scripture says the anger of the Lord was kindled and He struck Uzzah and killed him. This may seem harsh, but Uzzah, who knew the mandate not to touch the ark, put himself in that tragic position. Then it says that David became afraid of the Lord and said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”
The issue is not just how does the glory of God move among the corporate life of a congregation, how does the glory of God happen in my life and in the details of my concerns?
This chapter of scripture offers how the glory of God moves among people… and how it doesn’t. The striking thing is how closely it parallels our own lives. David had a good objective. He wanted to see the glory of the Lord where the people were because he knew the blessing of God would be there. That’s the very thing that every heart hungers for. What every person actually seeks—as they reach out for things they think will fulfill their sense of need—is the weight of glory that brings substance and dimension to life.
- II) CONTRAST: Human Ability vs. Divine Ability
In this text we see the contrast between human means and divine means at how the glory of God is moved along the way. Why would David, as it says in verse two, set the ark of God upon a cart to move it? There is no instance in the history of Israel that the ark had been moved on a cart before. The only explanation is that it was the way that the Philistines—or the world, so to speak—had moved it twenty years before. I’m persuaded that somehow, in his zeal to see the ark moved, David figured that it got here pulled by creatures, so he would do the same. Later, in contrast, it was carried as intended—on the shoulders of the priests, who led the people of God in worship.
A cart fashioned by human hands moves the world’s way
Look at the different means of introducing the glory of God among people. One has to do with a cart fashioned by human hands, and in David’s case, he made a new cart.
If you travel around the church of Jesus Christ today you will find pastors constantly gathering in conferences looking for some “new” way to “get the job done.” If you look among the people of God today, more times than not when they face something that needs to be accomplished in their own life—material, spiritual, emotional, domestic—the first thing they do is adopt the traditional methods of the world for attempting to get the way of the Lord advanced in their midst.
So many people want to see God’s way done with them but like David, without intending to do the wrong thing—and yet it is the wrong thing—they end up moving things the same way the world does rather than the way the Lord does. The world’s way is “you devise a cart.” Get something you can package this thing in and move it along. The Lord says, “No, you don’t touch the matter—you just walk before Me with your hands free.” The priests bore it on their shoulders and were worshippers.
The Lord’s way is a walk in praise before God and dependence on Him in everything that you do. It’s not passive to wait on God and seek His way. It is more attentive than the most diligent enterprise; the difference is it puts you in a place of dependence.
Human Wisdom: Found in the names
The names of the two men driving the cart are highly significant. Ahio and Uzzah mean “brotherly” and “strength.” Ahio is in front and Uzzah brings up the rear. Ahio is Mr. Brotherly, Mr. Glad-Hand, a great do-something guy with personality. He knows how to persuasively handle the situation.
God’s program does not move on public relations; it moves on the basis of true human relationships.
There’s a world of difference between people who charm themselves into acceptance and people who take time to grow into true relationships, living in the love of God at the expense of what it takes to serve one another in His way.
Uzzah’s name means strength. In the world’s terms, it’s good to have “Mr. Personality” out in front and someone strong bringing up the rear. When Uzzah saw the ark start to slip, “Mr. Strength” was right there to help keep God from embarrassing Himself. Because when you have a good program going, and then it looks like maybe the Lord’s not going to get it done, it’s good to have somebody who knows how to help God. And Uzzah died.
Today there are dead issues in thousands of peoples’ lives. They can point back to where the Lord started to do something and they depended on Him, but then they came to a point in the process of what God was doing where it appeared that the issue just might not work out the way they were hoping. Rather than say, “Lord, it’s clear You’ve started this, and I know that if You’re in it, it’s going to work, because we long to see it work” -they felt the need to put their own “hand” on the project. It just looked like it needed a little extra weight. And it died.
But God’s glory does not need the weight of flesh, and Uzzah’s death is a picture of the multiplied things that die in human experience because people muddle the case in their own sense of urgency, desire and longing.
Many times God is disabled from finishing the thing He started in us because we’ve gotten our own clay into the mix rather than leave it with the Lord and walk before Him empty-handed saying, “You take care of it, Lord.” Ahio and Uzzah is a picture of the exercise of human wisdom.
III) Contrast: Divine joy vs. human failure
We know from Psalm 150 that the Lord accepts worship from many different kinds of instruments, but in this study of contrasts between man’s way and God’s way, it’s worthy to note that the instruments played when the ark is being moved by the cart are all played by hand. But when the ark was brought up—as it was supposed to—on the shoulders of the priests, there was shouting and trumpet, both involving breath, the same Hebrew word as for “spirit.” Those who worshipped with instruments played by hand weren’t sinning, but it makes a powerful point as we look at this analogy.
Every six paces, the Levites who bore the ark stopped and sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. In Scripture, the number “six” generally represents humanity or the flesh. I think in those six steps it’s saying, “that’s just about as far as the flesh can go before it needs to stop and worship again.”
The flow of God’s power comes to people who are dependent upon Him. When you recognize that’s as far as the flesh can go, instead of trying to stretch it beyond yourself, stop there and say, “Lord I just wait on you and worship You.” You will not win the day of your personal circumstance or trial by the contrivance of your own flesh, or by saying, “I’ll do my best and God will bless it.” The Lord says, “You just bless My Name and I’ll give it everything I have.”
The ark, the glory of the Lord, is borne along with people who praise, not people who “build carts.” It is attended by sacrifices every six steps, not by a cool, glad-handed Mr. Wonderful out in front and a muscular dependable Mr. Strength in back. Today, Jesus is the consummate sacrifice and now the sacrifices that remain for the church are the sacrifices of praise and worship (Hebrews 13; Romans 12).
In the final set of contrasts between divine and human wisdom, King David lays aside his royal robes to dance and rejoice in childlike simplicity before the Lord.
There is joy and banqueting in the presence of God’s glory and everyone receives a portion of meat, wine and bread. In the midst of our congregation, people’s needs will be met when the glory of the Lord is there.
But when David arrives home, full of joy, his wife Michal despises him for his loss of dignity over free expression of worship. David, who is a man of controlled speech, compares himself to her father Saul, whose carnality cost Israel the loss of glory and cost him his life.
God chose David above Saul, not because God preferred him but because God prefers a way of life and an attitude of heart over that which functions in the dead-end mentality of the world. Despite his many gifts, David did not depend upon them. Saul depended upon the energy of flesh; David depended upon the spirit of God. David tells Michal that his authority is not related to his dignity. The glory of the Lord attends people who glorify Him, not people who are concerned about their own style.
The frightening CONCLUSION to this story is that in functioning as the daughter of her father Saul, Michal becomes barren, as shameful a thing as could happen to a woman in those times. Now consider the church, the bride of Jesus Christ, who will choose the course—whether she will be barren until the day of her death, or life-giving with a flow of the glory of God happening through her. The church of Jesus Christ will never die, but there are congregations around the world today who will die, indeed, maybe who are already dead because they have shut out the glory by their unwillingness to humble themselves’ and live in open-hearted worship. But the glory of the Lord shall dwell among those who will worship Him His way, and regularly it shall come from their lips, “Oh Lord, for Your’s is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”
How shall the ark of God come up to me? Not by human means or human wisdom which eventuates in human failure, but by divine means and divine wisdom that eventuates in divine joy.