2 Samuel 6 is not often cited as a favorite Bible story. It features God killing a well-intentioned man, an immodestly dressed and wildly dancing king, and a fierce marital spat. Could such a story have any value for us today?
This story is situated near the end of the long and winding saga of David’s rise to power in ancient Israel. It has been roughly two decades since David killed Goliath, and his journey to full kingship has had at least as many downs as ups since then. Now, at long last, all the tribes of Israel are united under David and he is prepared to bring the ark of God into his royal city, Jerusalem. There’s only one problem – God kills a man who steadies the ark while it is en route!
To understand this situation better, 1 Chronicles chapters 13 and 15 tell the same story, filling in some important details. God had commanded that the ark was to be carried in a very particular way by a select group of people. They were to carry the ark with poles on their shoulders, honoring God’s holy presence there. David’s men had placed it on an ox cart. That makes sense, right? The ox cart was faster, lighter, and far more efficient – but it was not what God commanded. Would God really command inefficiency? In our corporate, profit-driven society and slowed economy, does God ever tell us to ditch convenient ox-carts and shoulder holy burdens?
It sounds strange, but I believe God does work this way still. I know a faithful couple who gave up the stability and benefits of a military job to pursue an idea they believed was from God. This was no minor decision. They had young children to support, and the wife’s health was precarious, making top-notch insurance a necessity. Leaving the United States Army to launch a nonprofit venture seemed strange in such circumstances, but that is how Inheritance of Hope came to be. Deric and Kristen Milligan honored God and shouldered the holy burden of caring for the needs of families facing a young parent’s life-threatening illness, needs they knew all too well from their own experience. More than five years later, they continue in great faithfulness, undeterred by inconvenience.
God’s holiness can be strange, inconvenient, even inefficient. This is not the only unusual aspect of 2 Samuel 6, though. David’s story continues to be bizarre, as we’ll see next month.
“And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.” – 1 Chronicles 15:15