DAVID WOULD DOUBTLESS make many of us uncomfortable if he lived today. He was such an intense man—exuberant in his pleasures, crushed in his discouragement, powerful in his leadership, unrestrained in his worship.
(1) One occasion that displays much of the man displays no less of God, viz. bringing the ark of the covenant, and presumably the entire tabernacle, up to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). David does not send down a few clerics—the designated Levites—and no more. He gathers thirty thousand crack troops and representatives from the whole house of Israel, to say nothing of musicians and choirs.
(2) When Uzzah stretches forth his hand to stabilize the ark because the oxen pulling the cart have stumbled, the “LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God” (2 Sam. 6:7). That certainly put a damper on the festivities. David is both angry with God (2 Sam. 6:8) and afraid of him (2 Sam. 6:9). For the time being he resolves not to bring the ark of the Lord up to Jerusalem. Certainly there is something in most of us that silently thinks David is right.
Yet all along God has been profoundly concerned to eradicate any hint that he is nothing more than a talisman, a controllable god, some godlet akin to other neighborhood godlets. One of his strongest prohibitions was not to touch the ark, or look inside it. Indeed, on the latter point seventy men of Beth Shemesh had paid with their lives a bare generation earlier (1 Sam. 6:19–20; see the meditation for August 15), when they had ignored the edict. Our text calls Uzzah’s act “irreverent” (2 Sam. 6:7). What made it “irreverent” or “profane” was not that Uzzah was malicious, but that there was no reverent fear before his eyes, no careful distinction between all that God says is holy and what is merely common. The horror of profanity is identical: people say they do not mean anything by it when they take the Lord’s name in vain. That is precisely the point: they do not mean anything by it. God will not be treated that way.
(3) The ark remains with Obed-Edom for three months, and he experiences so much blessing that David becomes interested again (2 Sam. 6:11–12). Blessing and reverence go hand in hand, and David—and we—had better realize it.
(4) Michal turns out to be her father’s daughter: she is more interested in pomp, form, royal robes, and personal dignity than in exuberant worship (2 Sam. 6:16). She despises David precisely because he is so God-centered he cares very little about his persona. People constantly fretting about what others think of them cannot be absorbed by the sheer God-awareness and God-centeredness that characterize all true worship.