2 Samuel 6:1-23 – Paraders of the lost Ark!



2 Samuel 6:1-23




ILLUS.: A few weeks ago I was driving to Guildford on a Sunday morning to have breakfast with my friend Ian Buchannan. I was listening to Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme. They were interviewing an Anglican clergyman and a Muslim Theologian (a lady). This came about because a leading Clergyman in the Dutch Reformed Church of Holland had suggested that it was about time Christians accepted Muhammad as a prophet of God. The Anglican was defending the Christian position of the uniqueness of Christ. The Muslim’s response was , “How can anyone be so arrogant as to suggest that there is only one way to God – surely there are many ways and we should accept them all!”


It is a familiar argument and on the surface it sounds reasonable – esp. to a Post-Modern Relativist like this lady obviously was!

“It is heresy, “ she said, “to say we can only worship God one way!”

Many would agree with her logic!!


{Let me point out that this is not orthodox Muslim theology and that she has been influenced by Western liberal philosophy. Also a Christian could challenge Muslims to accept Jesus not just as a prophet but as God’s divine Son who died on a cross as the Saviour of the world. While Christians don’t accept what Muslims believe about Muhammad – Muslim don’t accept what Christians believe about Jesus}


The point is – do we have the right to say that God should be worshipped in a particular way only!


I think this passage before us sheds some light on this. Some background is necessary to understand what is happening in this passage. [Some years ago there was a film which starred Harrison Ford called “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – the search was on to find the Jewish Ark of the Covenant]

So I have called my message today “Paraders of the Lost Ark”


Who are the paraders in this chapter – the main players are David – Uzzah – Michal (David’s wife).






What is the ark – and its significance?

A rectangular box [approx. 4’ x 2’ x 2’] It was constructed of acacia wood and plated with gold – the lid was solid gold and on the lid at either end were two cherubim – angel like figures – they looked down on the centre of the lid which was known as the mercy seat! There were four rings placed on the sides of the Ark so that poles could be inserted to carry the Ark – this was the task of the Levites.

The word “ark” simply means chest or box.


The Ark is a symbol of the divine presence. Sometimes called the Ark of the Covenant indicating the agreement that God had made with Israel/ or sometimes the Ark of the Testimony because it contained tablets of stone on which the 10 Commandments were written – these were called, among other things, the Testimony.


After God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the desert en route to the promised land, he made a promise to them – really a reaffirmation of a promise made to their forefather Abraham viz. that He would be their God and they would be his people! A covenant with them that he constantly reaffirmed.


God instructed Moses, who was the leader of Israel through the desert, to construct a Tabernacle – a tent – to be a focus of worship and a symbol of God’s presence with his people.


The Ark symbolised experiencing the presence of God and being able to approach him. The different stages in approaching God were outside the Tent [the open courtyard], in the Holy Place, and in the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place.

The open courtyard spoke of being outside fellowship with God – he had to be approached via blood-atonement and cleansing (altar and basin/laver)

The First section of the Tent / Tabernacle had three things in it, all of which symbolized fellowship with God. The table with bread symbolizing a fellowship meal with God, the seven branched lampstand symbolizing the light of God, a small altar burning incense symbolizing prayers mixed with incense provided by God / the prayers rising as a sweet aroma to the Lord.


In the smaller compartment, behind a curtain, was the holy of holies – in it was the Ark symbolizing God’s presence. In front of the ark was a gold pot of manna/ bread [speaking of God’s provision] and Aaron’s rod/staff [all the high priests descended from Aaron – the rod symbolizes approaching God through a priest who has offered blood-sacrifices].

Inside the Ark was the Law of Moses / 10 Commandments – there but not visible – symbolically showing that enjoyment of God’s presence was not hindered by the threatening law, BECAUSE the law was covered by the mercy-seat where the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled.

The Ark itself was the centre of this entire representation of God’s presence.

It showed God’s holiness because of the Law inside – perfect.

It showed God’s mercy because of the mercy-seat between the cherubim where the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled.

It showed God’s kingship because he was invisibly enthroned between the cherubim.

It was a place of worship – the cherubim standing in a posture of worship and readiness to do God’s will.


The only person ever to enter the Holy of Holies was the High Priest – once a year on Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement. Having carefully cleansed himself and offered blood sacrifice for his own sin, he then offered sacrifice for the sins of the people to ask God’s forgiveness and atonement.


When we come to the NT all these symbols have profound significance for the Christians – all are signs pointing to Christ – the great high priest and the sacrifice / lamb of God slain … he is the mercy seat/ the place of atonement.


The Ark was the central symbol of God with his people – a God who commanded them [tablets w. 10 commandments] provided for them [the manna] saved them [the rod – Aaron had used it to strike the waters of the Red Sea and part them, provide water in the desert, ……..]


The Ark was not a piece of memorabilia but a symbol of God’s continuing presence with his people.


This is the Ark that David went to collect from the house of an old priest, Abinadad. It was captured by the Philistines 30 years before when Saul was king. Now David wants it to be the centre of Israel’s life again – to remind the people that God is there KING and David is only really king under God!


They put the Ark on an ox-cart and the two sons of Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio, walk in front and behind. Everyone is singing and dancing and having a good time – the oxen stumble and Uzzah puts out his hand to steady the Ark and God strikes him dead!



2 Samuel 6:6-7           6 When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 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. (NIV)


Why did Uzzah die?  Why was he, as the text so bluntly says, struck down? We have difficulty with this – as with the death of Ananias and Sapphira in the NT – it doesn’t fit with our picture of God as loving and life-giver. The story doesn’t give details so we must fill in with what we know from the rest of scripture – that’s why I took time to explain about the Ark and the Tabernacle.


Uzzah was used to the Ark – it was in his father’s house for 30 years – he had probably helped care for it – it had become commonplace.

Uzzah is a person who imagines he can take charge of God – God in a box. It was not a reflexive act of steadying the ark as the oxen stumble that was the problem. It was a attitude build up over many years of thinking that he could manage God.


You see God’s instruction were very clear about how the Ark was to be moved. It was not to be touched by human hands but carried by Levites only, using poles placed through the rings attached to the Ark.

Uzzah ignored / defied these God-given directions. He substituted the latest Philistine technology – an ox-cart! Now clearly a well designed ox cart is more effiecient for moving an Ark than plodding Levites. BUT it is impersonal! Not God’s way!

Uzzah thought he was in charge of God – but God will not be managed. The eventual consequences of this attitude to God is death.

God will not be put or kept in a box – whether the box is constructed of wood / clever ideas / warm feelings.


As humans was are very good at developing an idea of what God is like and then worshipping our own creation.

ILLUS.: Years ago – when I was a teenager there was a record album called “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull – On the back cover was an alternative version of Genesis 1 – “In the beginning man created God and in the image of man created he God …….”


Heresy we say!

BUT consider this senario – we become Christians, we learn from God, we are obedient, we pray, we enjoy the freedom of forgiveness, our new found faith gives us meaning and hope to our lives. We take on responsibilities in the wonderful new world. Soon we are helping others and telling others — All this is good and right!!

Then we cross the line – we get bossy and cranky on behalf of God! We think we can do God’s work for him. We take charge of God!

We believe me I know – I have done it!

We don’t take care of God; he takes care of us! When we try to take charge of God – trim him down to a manageable size we lose a sense of reverence and awe, we lose the spirit of love and faith, we shrivel spiritually and we are in danger of dying to God!

Uzzah’s death was not sudden – it was years in the making – it was an accumulating of dead works, suffocating the spirit of praise and faith and worship!




PETERSON – “Why did David dance?  He knew something about God that Uzzah was deaf and blind to. David had lived dangerously all his life – with lions and bear, taunting giants and a murderous king, marauding Philistines and cunning Amalekites, in the wilderness and in caves.”

He was with God – God was with him – running, hiding, praying, leading. God was his saviour, his shepherd, his refuge, his commander. God wasn’t tame – David had learned to live trustingly, daringly, openly before God.


God is not manageable – he is awesome —

ILLUS.: from “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” – C S Lewis // the children in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver speaking of Aslan [a picture of Christ] coming to Narnia.

“Is he a man? Asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know you is King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, Dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver; if there is anyone who can appear before Aslan without knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”


God is not tame – but he is good!


David is honest with God. When Uzzah in struck down David is angry! He goes away and sulks for three months!

Why didn’t God strike David for his anger – because David was alive to God – he didn’t like what happened but at least he was treating God as God.

Uzzah never got angry with God he was far too well mannered and proper – besides it is difficult to get angry with a box!


David went home to Jerusalem and three months later having cooled down he reassembled the people and brought the Ark to Jerusalem in grand style.

David celebrated – he was not simply carrying out a religious duty or a political ceremony. He was worshipping – responding to the living God!

He was alive and open to God – he worshipped!


Of course all of life should be and offering of worship to God BUT there should be a time and a place when we set aside time to met together and focus wholly on God. Because God is confined to a specific time and place? NO! BUT because we are all to prone to self-centredness and we need to make a deliberate effort to focus on HIM.


I don’t want to get hung up on whether Dance is appropriate in worship or not – that is not the issue – it probably has more to do with culture than theology. Dance is never mentioned in the NT as a way to worship BUT that too, doesn’t mean it is wrong. Clearly it isn’t when we read the OT!! The way we express our worship is usually cultural / national or church culture!


You see it is not the outward expression of worship that is at issue – In the beginning of the chapter the people were having a great celebration and enjoying themselves immensely when the Ark was on the ox-cart BUT clearly God was very angry with them.

Our outward expression of worship – be it exuberant or sedate – is only acceptable to God if it comes from hearts that are alive to God – Clean hands and a pure.


The question this prompts – which we must all ask is this – How is my heart? Am I alive to God?







Michal saw David celebrate and enjoying worship with God’s people and she mocked him.

“The king ought to be acting like a king. He ought to do what other kings do; have the gods serve him, surround himself with pomp and ceremony, organise religion to make himself look important and kingly”


She was firstly embarrassed by David’s behaviour and then becaome comtemptuous of his exuberate celebrations.


2 Samuel 6:20

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would.” (NIV)

… dripping with contempt.


She is cynical and embarrassed by her husband.


It is all very well being a Christian and going to Church but don’t become fanatical – after all, everything in moderation.

There have always been cynics in the Church – cynical about theology,  preaching the Word, Church organisation, leaders and people alike – but worst of all they eventually become cynical about God himself.


NB – Michal had no children to the day of her death! 2 Samuel 6:23

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (NIV)

She was barren!

When it comes to spiritual fruit in our lives, healthy productivity will never spring from a heart that is cynical and embarrassed toward God and his people.


We come to God now not through human priests and the blood of animal sacrifices sprinkled on a gold box inside a tent made of skins.

We have a Great high Priest who is Jesus Christ and we come to him through his cross – a place where he sacrificed himself / sprinkled his blood / in him we find mercy and grace and forgiveness.

We no longer see an Ark BUT rather a living Lord Jesus Christ – we don’t look at an Ark and see the Law of God written on Stone Tablets – Instead the Law of God has been written on our hearts … 2 Corinthians 3:3 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (NIV)


A heart for God is one that is given over to the fullness of the Holy Spirit as he makes the Word of God alive and real to us. We need to be Davids who haven’t lost a sense of the divine in ecclesiastical trappings!


When David brought the Ark back to Jerusalem and paraded it before the people he did more for the nation than he could ever have imagined – God was back at the centre.


Is God at the centre of our lives?

Are we like Uzzah? Do you have God in a box? nice and manageable! – it leads to death! We can’t dictate to God how we will worship him – we must come to him on his terms.

Are we like Michal? Religious – maybe, but don’t get too excite of God – it leads to spiritual barrenness! We can’t use God – he wants to bless us and use us!

OR are we going to be “Davids” – alive to God – not perfect, sometimes getting it wrong / sometimes being angry with God — BUT alive – with a heart for God!!






2 Samuel 6:1-23


 1.       The Ark


 2.       Uzzah’s Undoing


 3.       David’s Dancing


 4.       Michal’s Mocking


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