Thursday

17 January 2019

2 Samuel 6:12-19

David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David. (v. 12b)

Psalm: Psalm 52

Background

Now that David has become king over all Israel and has established himself in his new capital city of Jerusalem, he plans to install the ark of the covenant in a suitable place in the vicinity of his palace. The ark was a potent symbol of God‘s presence with God’s people. It was believed to contain the stone tablets on which Moses had inscribed the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 10) and had had a chequered history: it had been housed in the temple at Shiloh but taken into battle against the Philistines by the sons of Eli. The battle was a disaster – the Philistines triumphed, the sons of Eli were killed, and the ark was captured (1 Samuel 4:1-11).

The ark, however, brought nothing but misery to the Philistines so they returned it to the people of Israel with a peace-offering (see 1 Samuel 5:1–7:1). David’s first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem stalled when it again proved to be dangerously powerful; one of those supervising the transit was struck down for touching it. It remained at the house of Obed-Edom until David was convinced that the ark could bring blessing as well as sorrow.

The transition of the ark to Jerusalem is described as a great religious festival. A sacrifice is offered almost as soon as the journey begins; there is music and dancing as the procession makes its way into the city; the day ends with another sacrifice, the blessing of the people, and the sharing of food. This is a great and joyous occasion in which the leading role in the worship is that of David (rather than the Levites or priests).

There is one less than harmonious note in this narrative. David dances in front of the ark as it is carried to its new resting place and his wife, Michal, watches him doing so. She is not impressed (v. 16). This is a moment of national unity but the daughter of Saul is looking on contemptuously rather than participating. Perhaps some wounds of the civil war are still to be healed.

 

To Ponder:

  • David’s role is central in this narrative; this was a national as well as a religious occasion. Some Methodists are uneasy about the bringing together of political authority and religious faith in worship (eg on Remembrance Sunday or at a civic service) for fear that the name of God is being used to support political power. What do you think?
  • The ark symbolised the presence of God and acted as a focus in the shrine of Israel. Are there objects that symbolise God’s presence for you? How do you find them helpful?
  • The worship that is described in this passage is uninhibited. Some Christian traditions have embraced dancing and other exuberant forms of worship; some Methodists have tended to be more reserved. Do you enjoy exuberant and uninhibited worship? Or does it make you feel uncomfortable?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now the Assistant Secretary of the Conference.

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