2 Samuel 6:1-23
Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.…
In this lesson there are sharp contrasts. Here is the ark of God, dreaded by some, by others desired; by some treated with rashness and irreverence, by others with holy care. To the first it becomes the occasion of awful punishment and fear; to the last, of unmingled blessing. Like the Gospel, it is a savour of death to some; to others, of life.
1. David, now victorious over all enemies, and firmly settled on the throne, resolves to bring up the long-neglected ark of God from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem. Disregarded, almost forgotten, through the reigns of Saul and Ishbosheth, it shall now be honoured in the sight of all the nation, brought to the capital, and made again the centre of Israel's religious services. Immense preparations are made by the king for celebrating its removal with suitable impressiveness and splendour. The whole nation is, as it were, taken into his plans. The men of renown, the leaders of the tribes, are summoned from all portions of the land. The priests and Levites assemble from their widely-scattered cities. Kirjath-jearim is reached; the vast procession is formed, the ark in its midst. Suddenly a cry of terror is heard, and now another, and still another. Disorder and confusion are spreading from rank to rank. David himself is seen lifting up his hands in horror as at some dreadful sight. What is the cause of this sudden tumult? Uzzah has been struck dead beside the ark! It shook because of the stumbling oxen, and, reaching forth his hand to hold it, instantly he fell dead upon the road. What could have been the meaning of this startling catastrophe? Undoubtedly, to many readers of the Bible, it has appeared a judgment of strange and disproportionate severity. If, however, we study the whole event, we shall find that there are circumstances which will do much to explain why Jehovah regarded this dreadful stroke as just and necessary. It was a part of this lesson of reverence for His Name and presence, and only in harmony with all the wonderful history of the ark, when Jehovah added special instructions as to the manner in which it should be cared for by its attendants, and in which the tabernacle and the ark itself should be transported from place to place. The Levites only were to be employed in this service (Numbers 4:2, 15; 1 Chronicles 15:2), and of these only one household, the sons of Kohath. There was no room for doubt that these directions had been thought by Jehovah of sufficient importance to be embodied in distinct and written commands; and these commands on that day were utterly disregarded. Uzzah's laying hold of the ark itself, was an act forbidden to the priests — and Uzzah was no priest — under any circumstances. It was at this point that Jehovah interposed. The nation, with the king at their head, were nominally honouring Him, but by the light and irreverent way in which they did it, by the negligent and half-heathenish manner in which, notwithstanding all their pomp, they entered upon this sacred business, they were dishonouring Him. If God were worthy of their worship, why did they take no sufficient pains to worship Him according to His Word? How did they dare in the very acts of His so-called service to break His most obvious command? As for Uzzah himself, who was the most conspicuous sufferer, it is possible that long familiarity with the ark had bred a special irreverence and presumption in him; but, however, that may be, his sin was shared by all who employed him in these forbidden services, and so occasioned his foolhardy and guilty deed. A feeling of mingled anger and despair now took possession of David's mind (v. 8). If he had been "displeased" with himself, we could have understood it. But it is indeed a mystery if his resentment was directed against God. It inclines us to fear that his own glory was in some measure his object in all these magnificent services. Was he angry because God had turned his great fete into a day of national disappointment and gloom, or because Jehovah had dishonoured him before the multitudes by this overwhelming rebuke? We cannot tell, but we wish that it could have been written that David was humbled and penitent rather than that he was displeased. And we can defend his despondency as little as his anger. He seems to have forgotten all his duty in a fit of half sullenness, half unbelieving fear. He abandons on the spot the whole plan of restoring the ark to its true abode. Instead of inquiring for the sin which caused the trouble, he acts as if there were no hope of forgiveness, no hope of acceptable service — as though God were a being toe dreadful to be approached, too capricious to be pleased. We are reminded of the slavish fears which the presence of God and the thought of His holy majesty still awaken in the hearts of sinful men, and of their readiness to be quit of all tokens of Him whom they cannot remember except with dread.
2. But now there appears another character upon the scene. He is a man hitherto unknown. The name of Obed-edom will always be honoured as that of the man who, while all others were filled with terror and dismay, shrinking in dread from the ark of God, held in his bosom the secret of a far different feeling — looking upon the ark indeed with all veneration, but without fear, opening the doors of his dwelling to welcome it, and finding it a source of unmingled good: He knew well how fearfully God had vindicated His holiness when the ark had been dishonoured; how by an unseen hand the massive idols had been thrown down upon their faces and broken before it; how the Philistines had been smitten with disease and slaughter; how the men of Beth-shemesh had been slain, and how Uzzah also had been struck with death beside it. He had heard the cry of terror from its heathen captors when they pleaded to have it sent away from their coasts. Beth-shemesh, the scene of the awful judgment because of the dishonoured ark, was scarcely a half-day's journey from his home, and now he sees all the frightened thousands of Israel, helpless with sudden fear, crowding the mountain-roads around his dwelling, even David himself afraid to meddle with this dreadful ark. He sees all this, and yet he does not fear to admit it to his house. A man humble and devout, he understands that, although to the irreverent and careless our God is a consuming fire, the obedient need not fear him. To the obedient and confiding soul He is always a God of love. Obed-edom expected to obey God — to obey Him scrupulously, reverently. Whatever rule God had prescribed for his observance he would never make bold to call a little thing. He was not under any such delusion as that God could be better honoured by a vast procession or by any services, however ravishing to human sense, than by a sober respect for his plain commands. In the house of Obed-edom there is peace. It rests not alone on the father. Here God's covenant is found to be a household covenant and to bring a blessing to all the home. And they were such as to be manifest. They were not confined to the secret souls of this favoured household. Either their unusual health and happiness and prosperity were such as were daily apparent to all their neighbours, or the inward blessings they enjoyed were freely mentioned by them to Jehovah's. praise. Probably in both these ways the favour they received from God was known. And now we shall see that by having received a blessing they were made a blessing. The happiness and goodness of this one pious household extend their influence at length to all the nation. They make it evident to one and another of the multitudes who had fled from God at his stroke, that, although He is a holy God, he need not be dreaded by any humble, careful heart. Through the spreading story of Obed-edom's blessing all Israel learns anew the loving-kindness of the Lord. The skepticism which that day of gloom had rolled over the land begins to be dispelled. The scoffers are silenced, the disheartened take courage. They learn that although the highest kings must not trifle with the holiness of the Lord, the humblest worshipper, anxious only to obey completely His sacred will, shall find Him a Father full of smiles and tenderness, Obed-edom restores: David's faith, and David at length leads the nation back to God. It is given to this unknown villager to instruct and reassure the dejected king. From the acceptance of Obed-edom's lowly worship, contrasted with the rejection of his own magnificent array, the monarch learns that to obey is better than sacrifice — that not all the eloquence of David's psalms, not all the minstrelsy of his choirs, not all the throngs of Israel's applauding tribes, could please Jehovah half so well as a serious and exact obedience to His written word.
(A. Mitchell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.