Bringing Up the Ark
2 Samuel 6
"And it was told king David, saying, The Lord hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness (2 Sam. 6:12). There are five things to be observed here. First, the Lordís blessing of a man is a very real and evident thing. Second, it is so patent that others take notice thereof. Third, they perceive why it is that the blessing of God is bestowed. Fourth; so impressed are they therewith, they mention it to others. Fifth, the effect which the evident blessing of the Lord of Obededom had upon David. Let us briefly ponder each of these points, and pray that their distinct messages may find lodgment in our hearts.
First, the Lordís blessing of a man is a very real and evident thing. "All these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God . . . Blessed shall be thy basket, and thy store; blessing of God is bestowed. Fourth, so impressed are they thou be when thou goest out" etc. (Deut. 28:2, 5, 6). Godís governmental ways are the same in all dispensations. "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He added no sorrow with it" (Prov. 10:22): for the meaning of the word "rich" see verse 4óin the former the means is in view, in the latter the Source; in neither verse does spiritual "riches" exclude material ones. "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Ps. 84:11).
Second, Godís blessing of a person is so obvious that others are obliged to take notice thereof. So much so was this the case with Isaac, that Abimelech and two of his chief men went to him and said, "We certainly saw that the Lord was with thee" (Gen. 26:28)ówhat a testimony was that! Of the one who purchased Joseph it is recorded, "And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand" (Gen. 39:3)ódo people now see this is the case with us? "And Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David" (1 Sam. 18:28). The wicked may not read Godís Word, but they do read the lives of His people, and are quick to perceive when His blessing is upon them; and the recognition of that has far more weight than anything they say!
Third, nor are men ignorant of the reason why the Lord prospers those with whom He is pleased. This is evident from the case now before us: "And it was told king David, saying, The Lord hath blessed the house of Obededom and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God." This is very striking: they traced the effect back to the cause: they recognized that God had honored the one who had honored Him. The same principle is illustrated again in Acts 4:13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." The men who drew this deduction were not regenerate, but the most notorious enemies of Christ; nevertheless they were right in attributing the spiritual graces of the apostles unto their fellowship with the Saviour.
Fourth, the recognition of Godís evident blessing upon those whose ways are pleasing in His sight is voiced by men unto their fellows. It was so in the incident now before us. When it was so apparent that Obededom was being blessed in all his affairs, some went and informed the king thereof. Ah, my readers, we little know what impression is being made upon our neighbors by Godís governmental dealings with us, nor how they speak one to another when it is manifest that His smile is upon us. How we should plead this before God in prayer, that He would enable us so to walk that we may not miss His best, and this that His name may be glorified through those around us taking note of the fact that "godliness with contentment (Greek "a sufficiency") is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6).
Fifth, the effect which this news had upon David. As he had perceived Godís frown in His stroke upon Uzzah, so now he discerned Godís smile in Obededomís prosperity. It was clear to him that the ark was not a burdensome object, For so far from being the loser, he who had provided a home for it had been noticeably blest of the Lord. This encouraged David to resume his original design of bringing the sacred coffer to Jerusalem: his fears were now stilled, his zeal was rekindled. "The experience which others have of the gains of godliness, should encourage us to be religious. Is the ark a blessing to otherís homes? let us bid it welcome to ours" (Matthew Henry). Do we perceive that those who are most yielded to the Lord make the best progress spiritually? Then let that be an incentive to fuller consecration on our part.
"He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness For His nameís sake" (Ps. 23:4). In restoring the souls of His erring people, God does not act uniformly: according to His lovingkindness, unerring wisdom, and sovereign pleasure, He is pleased to use and bless a variety of means. Sometimes it is by a process of disappointment, withering the gourd under which we luxuriated, blowing upon that in which we had promised ourselves satisfaction. Sometimes it is by the application of a verse of Scripture, searching our conscience or melting our heart. Sometimes it is by a sore calamity, like the death of a loved one, which casts us back more closely upon the Lord for strength and comfort. In the case now before us it was the words of friends, who reported to David the blessing which the presence of the ark had brought to the family of Obededom.
The effect of Davidís restoration of soul is seen very blessedly in 1 Chronicles 15:2, 3, 12, 13. "Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto Him forever. And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord unto his place, which he had prepared for it. And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For 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." There are several things in these verses which we do well to note.
First, David now gave the Lord His proper place in his plans and submitted to the regulations which He had given. He learned from painful experience that Godís work must be done in Godís prescribed way, if His approval and blessing was to rest upon the same. None but those whom God had specifically appointed must carry the sacred ark: this was one of the duties assigned the Levites. who had been definitely set apart unto the Lordís service. The application of this to our own day is obvious. The ark was a type of Christ: the carrying of the ark from place to place prefigured the making known of Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. Only those are to preach the Gospel whom God has specially called, separated and qualified for His holy service. For others to invade this sacred office is but to introduce confusion and incur Godís displeasure.
Second, David now realized that suitable preparation must precede holy activities: "Sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it": let the reader compare Exodus 19:10-15 and 2 Chronicles 29:5. Those whose carried the ark must cleanse themselves from all ceremonial pollution and compose themselves for the solemn service of the Lord: only thus would they strike reverence upon the people. The same principle holds good in this Christian dispensation: "The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations . . . be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord" (Isa. 52: 10, 11). Those whom God has separated unto the sacred ministry of the Gospel must be "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12 and cf. 2 Tim. 2:21, 22)óGodís servants today are to "sanctify" themselves for the discharge of their honorable duties by repentance, confession, faith, prayer and meditation, availing themselves constantly of that precious Fountain which has been opened for sin and uncleanness.
Third, David owned his previous failures: "The Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order." In like manner. Daniel acknowledged, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are afar off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee" (9:7). "The life of faith is little more than a series of falls and restorations, errors and corrections displaying, on the one hand, the sad weakness of man, and on the other, the grace and power of God" (C. H. M.).
"So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord" (1 Chron. 15: 14, 15). All was now carried out "after the due order." God requires obedience in small things as well as great. And due notice is taken and record made by Him of all our actions. Blessed is it to behold these Levites now being governed, in every detail, by the revealed will of the Lord. "Then we make a good use of the judgments of God on ourselves and others, when we are awakened by them to reform and amend whatever has been amiss" (Matthew Henry). O that each of us may have more and more occasion for saying "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept Thy law" (Ps. 119:67).
"So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obededom with joy" (1 Chron. 15:25). That is no small part of the present reward which God bestows upon His obedient people. Satan would feign seek to persuade us that a strict compliance with all the statutes of Holy Writ would be irksome. One of his favorite dogmas is, Law-keeping brings one into bondage. That is one of his lies. The Psalmist was better instructed: said he, "And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts" (Ps. 119:45): the more we practice the precepts of Scripture, the more are we delivered from the dominion of sin. God fills the heart of the obedient with gladness; hence, the reason why there is so much gloom and unhappiness among Christians today is that their obedience is so half-hearted and spasmodic.
"And it came to pass when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams" (1 Chron. 15:26). God is honored when we acknowledge His assistanceófor without Him we can do nothingóeven in those things which fall within the compass of our natural powers. But more especially should we own His aid in all our spiritual exercises: "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing" (Acts 26:22). These Levites were in need of special help, for remembering the fate of Uzzah, they were likely to tremble when they took up the ark: but God calmed their fears and strengthened their faith. God enabled them to discharge their duty decently and in order, without any mishap.
"And it came to pass when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams." This is wonderful. Everything was changed now: there was no stumbling, no thrusting forth of presumptuous hands to steady a shaking ark, no judgment from God; instead, His evident smile was upon them. It is ever thus: when Godís work is done in Godís way, we may confidently count upon His help. Go against the Word of God, and He is against us, as we shall discover sooner or later; but go according to the Word and God will bless us. "And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following" (Mark 16:20).
"And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings" (2 Sam. 6: 13). Probably David offered this sacrifice unto God with a twofold design: to make an atonement for his former errors, and as a thank-offering for present mercies. Great must have been his gratitude and joy when he perceived that all was now well. "Then we are likely to speed (prosper) in our enterprises when we begin with God, and give diligence to make our peace with Him. When we attend upon God in holy ordinances, our eye must be to the great Sacrifice, to which we owe it that we are taken into covenant and communion with God" (Matthew Henry).
"And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod" (2 Sam. 6: 14). The ordinances of God are to be performed with joy as well as reverence. In seeking to preserve a becoming decorum and sobriety, we need to be on our guard against lapsing into a cold and stilted perfunctoriness. No doubt there are certain occasions when higher expressions of joy are more suited than at others. It was so here. After his previous disappointment David was now transported with delight. His exultation of mind was manifested in his leaping for gladness, which he did "with all his might." "We ought to serve the Lord with our whole body and soul, and with every endowment or capacity we possess; our religious affections cannot be too intense, if properly directed; nor our expressions of them too strong, provided Ďall be done decently and in order,í according to the spirit of the dispensation under which we live" (Thomas Scott).
"And David was girded with a linen ephod." On this auspicious occasion, David laid aside his royal robes, and as taking the lead in the worship of God he wore a linen ephod. This was the ordinary garb of the priests when officiating, yet it was also used in religious exercises by those who were not priests, as the case of Samuel shows: 1 Samuel 2: 18. The Spirit of God has here duly noted the fact that, though king over all Israel, David deemed it no disparagement to appear in the clothing of a minister of the ark; yet let it not be supposed that he was making any attempt to encroach upon the priestly office. The practical lesson for us in this detail is, that instead of decking ourselves out in worldly finery, we should be garbed plainly when we attend the public worship of God.
In conclusion it should be pointed out that the best expositors, ancient and modern, have regarded Psalm twenty-four as a sacred song composed by David on the glad occasion of the ark being brought to Jerusalem. The joy and triumph, the awe and the memories of victory which clustered around the dread symbol of the presence of the Lord, are wonderfully expressed in that choral piece. It is divided into two parts. The first replies to the question, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place?"óan evident echo of the terror-stricken exclamation of the Bethshemites (1 Sam. 6:20). The answer is given in a description of the men who dwell with God. The second half deals with the correlative inquiry "Who is the King of glory?" And the answer is, The God who comes to dwell with men.
Inexpressibly blessed is verse 7. As the procession reached the walls of Jerusalem, and ere the arkótype of Christóentered, the cry was made "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." It was as though their towering portals were too low. How clearly David recognized his own derived power, and the real Monarch of whom he was but the shadowy representative! The newly conquered city was summoned to admit its true Conqueror, whose throne was the ark, which was expressly named "the glory" (1 Sam. 4:21), and in whose train the earthly king followed as a subject and a worshiper.