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The Ark in the Home of Obed-Edom
2 Samuel 6:1-18 (Compare 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 )
We have some very solemn lessons to consider.
1. The sacredness of holy things. For several chapters we have studied some things which have had to do with the Ark of the Lord. One thing which we have not thus far suggested is the careless way in which the Ark was handled, first by the Philistines, and later by the men of Beth-shemesh. Neither of the above seemed to realize that there was any sacredness connected with the Ark. The former jostled it about on a cart, and the latter rudely opened it to examine the inside.
In this study, however, we come to a climax in this carelessness a climax which is altogether inexcusable, and which was severely rebuked from on High by the death of Uzzah. Details of this will be brought out later. We wish to do no more here than offer some general comments.
As we see it, the spirit of the age in which we are now living is imbibed with an utter disregard of the sacredness of things Divine. Men worship the Lord, the high and holy One, the Creator of Heaven and earth, in a most careless and even flippant way.
The Names of Deity are often omitted. We speak of those Names which refer to the risen, exalted, and glorified Lord. Instead of addressing our Saviour as the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ, or Jesus Christ the Lord, He is too frequently addressed by the one Name, Jesus.
We grant that the Name Jesus has a very hallowed significance of meaning "He shall save His people from their sins." However, the Name which is so casually upon the lips of many is used to designate our Lord as the Man who dwelt among us.
In the Epistles following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, His fuller titles are given to Him with, perhaps, two or three exceptions, where there is special reference to His Saviourhood.
Let us observe for a moment the opening statement of the prayer which the Lord taught His disciples. The prayer is like this: "Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name." There is something in the word "hallowed" which carries reverence and worship and the recognition of the sublimity, the glory, and the power of the Father.
We need to learn the deeper significance of the words spoken to Moses, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
I. BRINGING THE ARK BACK WITH POMP AND GLORY (2 Samuel 6:1-2 )
1. The Ark had been twenty years in the house of Abinadab. It was, to be sure, once more among the people of Israel; but now that Samuel was gone, and Saul was gone, and David was king, it was quite natural for the king to want the Ark brought again to its own place, that God might be the recognized Head of the nation.
2. David gathered together thirty thousand men of Israel to bring the Ark. In 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 we read that David consulted "with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader." This might have been all right, had they all consulted with the Lord, in His Word, and found out just how the Ark was to be brought back. Failing in this, David made a great mistake, Again we read in Chronicles that David said, "If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God." Let us do this and that. Let us beware that in everything we keep God in the first place and never in the second. It is not whether it seem good to us and the Lord, but to the Lord.
3. David may have felt that the presence of so many thousands of Israel would give glory to God, and he may have felt that his own dignity as king demanded such a great demonstration. At any rate there was to be much ado in the matter.
It was at least a great day in Israel. They were ready to come together to the great event, even from Shihor of Egypt, unto the entering of Hemath.
The Ark, during the days of Saul, and after the death of Samuel, had never been recognized; and the God who dwelt between the cherubim had never been sought. Now, however, the people were once more turning their faces God-ward.
Beloved, let our chief concern be this that God is in our midst, both honored and loved. If He has been isolated outside the camp, then let us go unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. If He is loved and received as the One in the midst of the church, let us not fail in meeting Him there.
If there is no Ark of God in our own home, let us bring thither the Ark in the erection of our Family Altar.
II. DOING A GOOD THING IN A WRONG WAY (2 Samuel 6:2-3 )
1. The imitation of the world often works havoc. The news of how the Philistines had brought the Ark back into the coasts of Israel, had never been forgotten. They had brought it upon a new cart, drawn by oxen. They had brought it thus, and brought it successfully.
Now the Lord's people seek to imitate them. Perhaps this was the result of David's looking to the people. Had they only read God's instructions, they had known that the Ark was to be carried and not carted. Had they stopped to consider the construction of the Ark, itself, they could have seen that the Ark was made to be carried and not carted. Why were the staves there, and why the sockets?
2. The Head of the Church is Christ, and Christ should be recognized. The time has come when there is altogether too much consulting of the people, instead of the lines of positive Scriptural statement. Pastors are called, deacons or elders selected, trustees, Sunday School superintendents, church organists, choirs, and much else, are brought into the places of authority without even asking whether there be any "thus saith the Lord" as to how they shall be chosen, or as to what kind of men are to be chosen.
Let us, hereafter, recognize Christ, and ask His guidance in all of these things.
III. MAY OUR GOOD BE MARRED BY OUR BAD? (2 Samuel 6:5 )
1. A wonderful and glorious praise. How the volume of song and music must have welled up to Heaven! Truly God was pleased with the songs of praise; for praise is comely, and it exalteth the Lord. What a time of praise and magnificent music awaits us over in the Glory! There will be angels harping on their harps. There will be the voices uplifted in marvelous magnificats unto the Lamb.
The numbers praising the Lord will be ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands of thousands. The words will be, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created." The words will be "Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
2. What then? May our good be marred by our bad? We are sure that it may. The jubilation of that wonderful hour was hastening to a sad anticlimax. The singing was to be turned to dread and fear. The people were about to be shocked with the judgment of God upon one of their number. The king, even David, was filled with misgivings as to God's judgments.
Yes, it may be so. Doing a good thing, in a way all pleasing to God, cannot make it possible for God to overlook a thing that is altogether evil.
Let no one think for a moment that large gifts of money, or great feats of service, can in any way make up for sin in the camp. We cannot cover our evil way with the cloak of any great display of praise be it ever so sincere. When there is an Achan in the camp, there is an army in defeat.
The many suffer for the sins of the one, when the one is an integral part of the many.
IV. WHEREIN HUMAN METHODS MEET THEIR JUST DISASTER (2 Samuel 6:6-7 )
1. A rough place in the road. As the cart passed by Nachon's threshing floor, the oxen caused the Ark of God to shake. There you are! Carting the Ark was out of the Divine plan. The Ark had never been shaken had it been carried.
There are always places in the road where the ways of the world in the church will bring disaster. Unless God is in the house, they labor in vain who build it. God will not insure worldly, self-devised, humanly conducted church methods against failure.
God's ways are not man's ways. They are as far separated as the East is from the West. The ways of men augur success, but they cannot fit in with the ways of God. The carnal and the mental cannot walk with the spiritual. The flesh cannot join in comradeship with the Spirit.
2. The dead man in the road. Uzzah did the natural thing. When the Ark began to shake, he immediately reached out his hand to steady it. Was there anything wrong in this? Perhaps Uzzah thought the Ark was as precious as his own life. He loved it. To him it stood for everything that was high, and holy, and lofty. He did not want it to fall to the ground, and to be broken upon the roadside. Was he not then, to be commended rather than blamed?
Perhaps Peter should have been commended instead of reproved when he drew out his sword and smote off the ear of Malchus. Perhaps Moses should have been condoned when, in his anger, he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it. Should we teach that a well intended service is necessarily an acceptable service?
At least God does not teach so. The moment that the well-meaning Uzzah touched the Ark of the Lord, there was a dead Uzzah by the roadside.
As we look at Uzzah, dead, we see the harvest of carting the Ark, which God instructed should be carried. The wages of sin is death. We see also the utter folly of approaching God or God's Ark, apart from the commanded Blood of atonement.
V. WHEREIN PRAISING WAS TURNED TO COMPLAINING (2 Samuel 6:8-9 )
1. Shall we cease to praise God in His judgments? Is our God righteous and worthy of praise only when He passes around His blessings? With Israel it was a day of praise, when God delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians. They were willing to praise God even for His judgments upon Pharaoh.
Let us remember that God is just as righteous in His judgments as He is in His deliverances. Why then should Israel have lost their song, when God sent forth judgment on Uzzah, and on all of them?
Perhaps there is no theme of song so dear to the hearts of saints as that of Calvary. Yet Calvary is the place of God's righteous judgment on sin. We sing not when we see Uzzah dead in the road, but we sing when we see Christ dead on the Tree.
2. Behold David, the king displeased with God. The trouble with David was that he did not want his hour of praise to be broken up with a funeral. Uzzah's death put a quietus on Israel's praise. The harpers put up their harps; the timbrels were laid aside, the music ceased.
Does God ever break up our seasons of joy with times of sorrows? Does judgment ever walk hard upon the path of victory? Yes, when there is sin in the camp. Yes, when we try to do the right thing in the wrong way. Yes, when we are willing to set aside God's way for our own.
3. Wherein fellowship is turned into fear. It seems too bad! They, who were so happily blessing God in a glorious song of fellowship, now began to be afraid of the same Lord. God's breach on Uzzah filled David and the Children of Israel with the same kind of fear that His breach on the inhabitants of Ashdod and Ekron had filled the Philistines.
The Children of Israel began to dread God because He was a God of judgment. They felt safer, perhaps, without Him than with Him. Thus it was that they trembled and were afraid. Sin always makes men afraid of God. From the day that Adam and Eve hid in the trees of the Garden, sinners have always hidden. In the days of the Lord's Second Advent the nations will be afraid as they see the Lamb seated on the throne.
VI. THE ARK IN THE HOUSE OF OBED-EDOM (2 Samuel 6:10-12 )
Yes, the march of that wonderful day was ended abruptly. The 30,000 choice men of Israel returned to their homes in disappointment and afraid of God.
So it was that David would not take the Ark unto himself, but it was carried aside into the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite.
1. The Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household. It must have been a wonderful three months to the household of Obed-edom. A new prosperity came to him and to all who dwelt with him. His whole household was blessed. Everything he touched, the Lord made to prosper. Perhaps his very children bloomed out in a new radiance of health. His fields became more abundant. Joy filled every heart in his home. Prosperity had come and they were glad.
Is this not always true when the Lord dwells in any home? Does His presence not breathe a peace and a power that nothing else can produce? If the Lord is in the house, the blessings of the Lord are upon it.
2. The Ark which had brought death to Uzzah, brought blessing to Obed-edom. Here is a seeming paradox. Why should the same Ark bless the one, and curse the other? Does not the same fire which warms one, burn another? Does not the same water that gives drink to the one, drown the other? Why? Not because the fire or the water has favorites; not because the fire or the water has spasms in which it blesses or curses, according to its whims. Not at all. Then, why? The difference is in men, and peoples; not in God.
God would be rich to all, but He is rich unto all who call upon Him. Where there is the curse, there is invariably sin; where there is blessing, there is always the righteousness which is by faith.
3. David hears the good news. "It was told king David, saying, The Lord hath blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the Ark of God." Here was room for thought, with David. He had gotten a vision of God that enlightened his mind. He had learned a lesson that we are sure he never forgot. God with us always brings blessing.
VII. CLAIMING GOD'S BEST (2 Samuel 6:15-18 )
1. Think of the period David was without the Ark of God. Somehow it seems to us that David had been depriving himself of many blessings during the time that the Ark was in the home of Obed-edom. During those three months, between the time he went to get the Ark and the hour when at last, assured of blessing because of the blessing that God had given the household of Obed-edom, he was restrained by fear.
Let us ask ourselves this solemn question: "Are we missing God's best because we have lived apart from His presence?" God help us to at once set about to secure all that is ours in Christ Jesus.
2. Consider the joy of bringing back the Ark of God. In 1 Chronicles 15:1-29 we find David had prepared a place for the Ark. Moreover David had discovered wherein he had erred in his first attempt to fetch the Ark. Now, David said, "None ought to carry the Ark of God but the Levites." Mark you "carry the ark," not "cart the ark." Then David added, "Because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order." What else could God do? His people had refused to follow Him fully; they had broken His Headship, and they had to be judged and chastened.
Now, with as much joy, perhaps greater joy; and now, in God's way, they brought back the Ark. What a glorious sight it was. "And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the Ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: David also had upon him an ephod of linen."
As they marched there was heard the sound of the cornet, and with trumpets and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.
Thus the ark was brought to its house that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. Then, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.
Our minds cannot but anticipate that wonderful day when the saints will be gathered home. Oh, what joy and rejoicing, to be forever with the Lord.
At last David found the place of true joy it lay in the path of obedience and the full presence of God who dwelt in the midst of the cherubim.
There is no more beautiful legend than the one associated with the Bells of Limerick, a quaint Irish city, famous today very much because of this beautiful story.
A poor Italian lad, ambitious to produce a set of bells whose chimes would be unrivaled for beauty, labored hard and long in his own country to bring them to perfection. They were hung in a monastery in Italy, and the whole countryside was charmed by their sweet melody. The successful artist purchased a house in the district and for years spent his evenings listening to the sweet music of his bells. War came; the bells were stolen and carried away, he knew not where. Old and poor, he bade good-by to his native Italy, and set forth in search of the music he loved so well. His tired feet touched the shores of many lands; at last he came to Ireland.
One evening, just as the sun was going down, he was sailing up the river that runs close by Limerick, when borne on the evening's zephyr, there came stealing into his ears the sweet chimes of melodious bells. He sat enraptured; he knew that he was not mistaken, and that the entrancing melody was the music of his own long-lost and cherished bells. He set his face, now wet with tears, toward the tower whence the enchanting strains were coming; and as the vessel sailed into port, his wanderings were over. The light had faded from his eyes, his fingers had loosened their hold, and his soul had wafted away to the sweet music of his own bells.
Oh, child of God, have you lost the music that once delighted your soul? Has the world stolen from joy the joy bells of our old-time faith and devotion? You need not wander the world about nor wait till death to find the music. The bells are in your soul, and Jesus is able to touch them into "music so sweet the angels will stoop to listen." If those bells have ceased to ring, there is a reason, which God knows and you know. Let the Son of God forgive you and restore the music to your soul. W. E. B.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Chronicles 13". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany