I’m getting old testament fatigue again. Reading the whole Bible means reading a lot of old testament… In terms of words it’s a ratio of about 3:10.
And OT is exhaustingly culturally remote. You figure out one fiendishly difficult chapter one day and then there is another the next. Boom boom boom. It’s tiring.
If you forget the hard bits, this one is quite simple and wonderful and momentous. David is king over united Israel. He has established Jerusalem as the capital, now he brings the ark in, the presence of God.
And David dances like a crazy humble loon as it is carried in, one of the Bible’s most appealing visions of pure joy in the whole Bible.
But it’s so uncomfortable that a person dies, and a woman is seemingly struck barren for getting the tone wrong.
And what is with the ark anyway. I thought God wanted to teach mankind that he lives in or hearts, why this object of veneration?
I turned to a commentary. They saw it, interestingly as a parable for ministry.
The first attempt to get the ark back was where someone died. They made a special cart for it … God commanded that it be carried. When it fell, the guy who died reached out to steady it. God said you can’t touch it. He should have let it fall.
David was angry with god’s over the death, and left the ark out of Jerusalem for a long time after that.
The commentators compared it to Christians who try to do what God wants, but do it their own way. In their enthusiasm to just “get it done” they fixated too much on the task and forgot the larger point that this was about honouring God. Disobedience does not honour God.
I remember a church I was at was obsessed with the idea that the old pews were restricting their ministry, and started pulling them out without getting the necessary legal council permission. I think that was a small example of this principle. God doesn’t need our special cart.
Death was a strong way of teaching that, you may think, but God is creator, life is in his hands, we’ve learned that over and over by now.
The woman who was barren was Michal, who is the ultimate bit player in this story. She was Saul’s daughter and David’s first wife. She helped him escape Saul, and then was given seemingly into bigamy as wife to another king by Saul, then called back at a tense point in the civil war.
She has strong ideas how a king ought to act and dancing with no kingly dignity with the people in few clothes was not one of them.
But she was letting her sense of what is proper kill her enthusiasm for God, sort of the opposite of the first attempt with the ark.
The commentators noted that it is merely an editorial comment, not linked to god’s judgement that she never had children.
We’ve learned in this book in particular to pay attention to that… Things aren’t of God just because they are there, you have to have it spelled out. It’s more like the tone of journalism than sermon.
They saw it as an ironic or symbolic observation by the writer of 2 Samuel. Her personal story echoed a spiritual barrenness that had characterised Saul’s reign. she remained too caught up in the pomp of earthly kingship, and less excited by heavens king.
So we’re all set up for Israel’s most glorious period. But the warnings are there too. With joy in God ‘s times of rich blessing remember obedience and humility.