God has given all of Israel and Judah to David and David has begun his rule at 30 years old. God is going to continue to establish the kingdom under David’s rule. Chapter 5 shows David as the new Joshua who is finishing the work that the generation of Joshua failed to complete. In 2 Samuel 5:6 we see David go up against the fortification of Jerusalem. The Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem mock David’s efforts, declaring that their weakest people would be able to fend off David. They likely thought this because they have been able to hold this city against Israel for hundreds of years. In Judges 1:21 we read that Israel had failed to fully subjugate the city and the Jebusites were allowed to remain. So now David is going to lead the attack against the fortress of Jerusalem. The Jebusites think that David does not have a chance.
The Lord Gives Victory (5:6-25)
Yet the very next verse says, “Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David” (5:7). Jerusalem is now the city of David. Not only this, Jerusalem is called Zion for the first time. We know that this name, Zion, will gain importance in the scriptures later. The Lord promises to establish his king in Zion in Psalm 2:6. Out of Zion will go forth the law and the word of the Lord (Isaiah 2:3). Everyone who is in Zion will be called holy (Isaiah 4:3-5). The Lord of armies reigns in Zion (Isaiah 24:23) and will lay a precious cornerstone in Zion as a foundation (Isaiah 28:16). Zion has many rich prophecies regarding it, all of which take their start from this moment where David takes Jerusalem.
Let us see this important picture of the anointed clearly. The stronghold that Israel could never defeat will be defeated by the anointed, initiating the establishment of his kingdom and the spread of his rule for the good his people and the glory of God. You will notice this point is stated in verse 12. The Lord established David as king over Israel and David knew it. The Lord exalted David’s kingdom for the sake of his people. The prophecies of Isaiah are saying that this will happen again when Jesus comes. When Jesus arrives, he will come to Jerusalem and he will defeat the enemies that could never be defeated before, establishing his kingdom and the spread of his rule for the good of his people and the glory of God. So Jesus comes to Jerusalem, gives his life in Jerusalem, raises from the dead and takes his seat at the right hand of God. This was the establishing of Jesus’ kingdom over the world and his rule will spread for the good of his people and the glory of God, beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The picture of this kingdom is even stronger in verses 17-25. The Philistines think they can conquer David and his kingdom. They have been able to cause problems for Saul throughout his reign. David inquires if he should go up against the Philistines. The Lord tells David that he will give the Philistines into his hand (5:19). David does as the Lord commands, striking down the Philistines so severely that they give up their idols and David takes them away (5:21). This is a reversal of 1 Samuel 4 where the Philistines saw their god, Dagon, as more powerful than Israel’s God. The kingdom of the anointed will be so victorious that it will cause the Gentiles to give up their idols.
Yet there are ominous words in this paragraph. Look back at verse 13. Even though God is establishing David’s kingdom and giving him victories, David continues to take more wives and more concubines. Remember that Samuel warned Israel that if they desired a king that this is what the king would do to them (1 Samuel 8:11-17). The king will take from the people. God explicitly commanded that the king not take many wives for himself or else his heart will be turned away from him (Deuteronomy 17:17). David is not completely following the Lord and these reminders in the text are giving us an expectation of future failure. But for the moment, the Lord is fighting for Israel as he had in the past.
Here Comes The Lord (6:1-11)
With the kingdom being settled, it is time to bring the Lord into Zion. It is time for the return of God’s presence to Israel (6:2). Now this call for the ark of the covenant makes us ask the question, “Where has the ark been all this time?” We are told in verse 3 that the ark has been in the house of Abinadab. That means that the ark of the covenant, the presence of the Lord, has been in Kiriath-jearim since 1 Samuel 7:1. The ark has been gone even before Saul was made king. Saul reigned for 40 years (cf. Acts 13:21). David reigned for seven and a half years in Hebron (2 Samuel 2:11). This means that at a minimum, the ark of the Lord has been hidden in a house for 50 years and probably more about 70 years, as 20 years are given in 1 Samuel 7:1. For 50-70 years no one has cared about the presence of the Lord. No one has done something about the ark of the covenant. It would be similar to saying that nothing has happened with the ark since the 1950s. David and all the people go the house of Abinadab to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem.
Verse 5 shows us the celebration that is happening. Praise, worship, and celebration is going on before the Lord. It is time for the presence of God to be back where it belongs. The ark has been shoved into a corner since the fall of Shiloh. Now God is coming home to his people, as the anointed has been established as king. So as the ark is coming along, being guided by the sons of Abinadab, but the oxen stumble as they cross over the threshing floor (6:6). Uzzah reaches out and grabs the ark. You can see what happened. As the oxen stumbles, Uzzah naturally reaches out to stabilize the ark as it rides on this new cart. But look at verse 7. The anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah and God struck him down there because of his irreverence. He died there beside the ark of God.
Fear is immediately instilled in this moment. David was angry because of what the Lord did (6:8) and was afraid of the Lord (6:9). David asks a very important question in verse 9. “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” David just came to understand a few things. God is a dangerous God. Now it is important to understand what God is teaching about himself. God is not showing us that he is dangerous because anyone at any moment might without cause be killed by the Lord. That is not the character of the Lord. But he is a dangerous God. When we know something is dangerous, then we handle it with care and caution. We are careful with dangerous things.
God is a dangerous God which means that you need to be careful when it comes to approaching God. David is asking, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” How can I live in God’s presence? How can God come to us? How can God live with us? This is the problem. This is the problem that has been stated through the scriptures up to this point in Israel’s history. God is a holy God and we are not. So how can God live with us? How is this going to work because Uzzah is dead on the ground? Remember what the Lord told Moses in Exodus 33:3.
“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 33:3 ESV)
God proved this when he first came to meet the people of Israel. When God comes down to Mount Sinai he warns that the people that no one can come near the mountain or touch the mountain or you will die. Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden was to show that you cannot be near this holy God. So David is contemplating this now. How can the ark of the Lord come to me? How can I live in his presence? This is the conundrum of humanity: we cannot live with God and we cannot live without God. God is a dangerous God. You are not in control of this God. You cannot manipulate this God. You do not bring God to you and you certainly do not bring God to you on your terms. No one can come to the Lord and do what he or she wants to do. You do not come to God’s presence and think that you will stand before him. Every person in the scriptures who ever came into the presence of the Lord, or even the likeness of the glory of the presence of the Lord, fell on their face in fear and doom. You must not be casual when in the presence of the Lord. This is a God to fear and David learned that here in verse 9.
Please consider that God is not just happy that they are trying to worship him. God is not just happy that the people are bringing him into their presence. God is not going to go along with whatever the people want simply because they have good hearts and right motives. You are not in control of God. You do not do whatever you want to God. God is a dangerous God who must be approached carefully because he is holy. If God said that no one is to touch the ark, then no one is touch the ark. If God said that his ark was to be carried by the poles on the shoulders of the priests and not brought on a cart, then no one is to put the ark on a cart but carry it by the poles. God made all of this clear in Numbers 4. God had clearly told them how to come to him. But they disregarded what God said at this moment.
I am afraid that in the religious culture today, we have lost the seriousness and gravity of coming into his presence. We do not get to tell God how we worship. We do not tell God to accept what we give him because we are giving it to him. We do not get to say that how all of these churches worship the Lord is fine and you just get to pick the one that suits you. Do we see the foolishness of coming to God in this way? We do not get to tell God that we do not like how he is God!
David is learning an important lesson right now and it is an important lesson that we must learn also. We need to think first about how God can come to us and look to his word for the answer. God expects us to hold him up in holiness and honor. God expects us to look to him for how to worship him because he is God and we are not. We might respond like David and be angry at this. We might be really upset that we cannot approach God how we want. But David is going to realize his error and try again in three months (6:11-23). But we will look at that in the next lesson.
So we worship and approach God the way we do because we understand that it is not up to us to decide how we are going to approach him. We do not get to decide if we are going to have the Lord’s Supper or not. We do not get to decide what are the contents of the Lord’s Supper. We do not get to decide how we are going to praise him when we are gathered. We do not get to decide how we are going to teach the scriptures. We are going to look to God for the directions so that he is pleased because we understand that he is a holy and dangerous God that expects us to care about what he said to do.
But we need to consider another level to what is happening in this scene. This text is not merely about how we come into God’s presence or how we worship him. This text asks the question regarding how we look at the Lord in our daily lives. God cares about the choices we make. God cares about our perception of him. Which of God’s laws does he not care if you do it? Which of God’s laws does he not care if you break it? Who would consider Uzzah worthy of death for touching the ark when it was all an accident? God did. This reminds us that our evaluation of God’s law is not important. It does not matter what we think of God’s laws nor are we able to declare that God will overlook an infraction. We would all probably have said that this instance of touching the ark of the covenant would be overlooked. It was not. So how do we look at the Lord? How do we look at his laws? How do we look at his revelation?
This is why we need Jesus. This is why we need a mediator because we cannot stand before the Lord. We need someone to save us from ourselves for all our wickedness and violations. The more we see the care God demands and the holiness he requires, the more we see that we are doomed before him.