2 Samuel 4:1-6:23
This morning was filled with many distractions on top of a difficult Bible passage. The Bible is not always comforting, it's challenging, stretching and maybe even upsetting. That's how I feel this morning.
2 Samuel 6 is really challenging me right now. God strikes a man down? David is angry and afraid of God? David is a polygamist and kind of a mean guy to some of his wives? There's a lot in this chapter and if you want to read this blog post you should stop right here and go read that chapter so we are on the same page.
I knew there were probably important details in this chapter that I couldn't understand in this passage. I kept rereading it and pondering it for several hours and finally looked up a commentary that helped me.
I couldn't understand why God would strike Uzzah down for what seemed such an innocent thing: trying to help the ark of God not fall. And then I couldn't understand how David could suddenly go from scared and angry to joyfully bringing the ark back into Israel. This commentary helped me see the key detail I wasn't seeing. Uzzah was carrying the ark on a cart, but "the ark was designed to be carried (Exodus 25:12-15) and was only to be carried by Levites of the family of Koath." 2 Samuel 6 describes Uzzah reaching out to touch the ark as an irreverent act, but it seems that he was already in the middle of doing something irreverent. He had decided for himself how the ark should be carried.
Apparently David realizes this (1 Chronicles 15). When he eventually brings the ark back he does it the right way. It doesn't say Levites carried the ark, but it does say it is being carried. And his worship is very different. It's far more genuine and selfless now.
I feel a lot better about this story thanks to the details that commentary highlighted for me. But I still not satisfied with David the polygamist. I'm still not happy with David the kind of mean husband.
His treatment of Michal is upsetting to me. He loved her and then Saul took her away from him, that sucks. But then after David has other wives he brings Michal back even though it seems she is happily married to another man who loves her. Why? It seems harsh. And now, yes, Michal is clearly embarrassed and critical of her husband's emotional and vulnerable display of worship, and that's not cool. But it says the Michal never has children, and I have to believe that's probably because David neglected her for the rest of her life then.
It all seems confusing and harsh and I don't know, maybe David is acting justly. I think though that this whole storyline would be a lot easier for me to stomach if David wasn't a polygamist. If that ingredient was taken out of the story it would be much simpler. But he has many wives and he will continue to accumulate wives. That's a theme in the Old Testament, so I don't think I need to work it all out right now. I'll have plenty of time to write about it in this blog. I'm not ignoring it, it bothers me, and maybe I'll find a commentary to help me sit with it. But I'm going to let it bother me for a little longer, we have the freedom to do that.
To wrap this story up though, I think it's clear that David is making a very good point about worship. Genuine worship cannot be just a show, but we can't be afraid to let it show.
Whoa, I did not mean for that to be such a soundbite, it just came out, I both love and hate that!
Genuine worship cannot be just a show, but we can't be afraid to let it show.
Right now in the present state of things with COVID-19 and quarantine, "doing church" and worshiping together looks so different. Churches are live streaming services, producing lots of online contact, having "drive-by" celebrations, drive-in church, zoom small groups, etc. Some of these make worship feel more like "just a show" and some of these make worship feel more genuine. I think it's something we all have to answer for ourselves, "how can I worship genuinely in this season?" Here's a picture of my sisters and I with a favorite zoom background, just for fun.
In the story of 2 Samuel 6 the worship is more celebratory than we might experience during COVID-19, but it also might be the perfect example for us right now. David is celebrating even though he's been grieving and struggling to understand God and why He lets terrible things happen. It's worshiping a God who is holy, who cares how we worship, and who sees a bigger picture than we do. "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this..." How can we enter into that as we stay home, as we gather and worship over a computer screen, as we maintain a proper 6-foot-distance from our fellow believers? It's still possible under these new circumstances to worship, because He is still worthy.