God’s intention in salvation has always been for the salvation of the world. He has always had all the nations of men in mind, and the fact that Israel was the chosen nation was not in tension with this reality, but rather was the down payment on it, the first installment of it.
“Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand . . .” (2 Sam. 6:1-23).
Summary of the Text
David has established Jerusalem as his capital city, and determines to bring the ark of the covenant to that place. He starts by gathering some elite troops, 30,000 of them (v. 1). Having done so, he goes to Kiriath-jearim, where the ark is (v. 2). They put the ark on a cart that had never had a profane use, and they set out—Uzzah and Ahio driving the cart (v. 3). Eleazar, their brother who had been keeping the ark, is not mentioned here. Uzzah apparently sat up on the cart, and Ahio walked in front (v. 4). David (and everyone else) played on all kinds of musical instruments (v. 5). When they reached Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached to steady the ark (v. 6). God was angry with him for this, and struck him dead (v. 7). David was angry in his turn, and he named the place after the Lord’s bursting forth upon Uzzah (v. 8). Not only was David angry, but also fearful (v. 9), and diverted the ark to the house of Obed-edom (v. 10). The ark was there for three months, and the household of Obed-edom was greatly blessed (v. 11). When David heard this, he went to bring the ark up to Jerusalem, and did so with gladness (v. 12). The ark was carried this time, and when the men carrying it had taken six steps, a great sacrifice was made (v. 13). David was dressed in a linen ephod, and danced before the Lord with all his might (v. 14). And so it was that David and the whole house of Israel brought the ark up to Jerusalem with shouting and trumpets (v. 15). When the ark entered the city of David, Michal looked out the window and saw David dancing, and despised him (v. 16). They brought the ark to the tent that David had prepared for it, and more sacrifices were made (v. 17). David then blessed all the people, and gave them gifts (vv. 18-19). Afterwards, he came home to bless his own house, and was met with sarcasm from Michal (v. 20). David replies sharply—it was before the Lord, the same God who chose Michal’s husband over Michal’s father (v. 21). David insists that he will continue to behave in the same way (v. 22). As a result of this clash, Michal had no children (v. 23).
A Moment for Michal
Without arguing with the providence of God—to which we gladly submit—we can at least take a moment to feel bad for Michal. The last time she saw David in Scripture, she was helping him escape from a window (1 Sam. 19:12), and now she looks out at him through a window in contempt. She had been given to a man who loved her (Phaltiel in 2 Sam. 3:15-16), and had then been taken back from him by David, for apparently political reasons. When she comes back to David, he already has other multiple wives and probably a small harem. Great.
But she is still a female Uzzah. Uzzah was concerned that the ark would be dishonored if it fell, and so he took it upon himself to steady the ark the way he thought best. You know, he had his reasons. But God still struck him down as a result. Michal is concerned for David’s royal dignity, and objects to him being dishonored. When she complains that he had “uncovered” himself, she was not complaining about nakedness, because it says that he was wearing a linen ephod. He was not wearing his royal robes—and he was dancing in a way that she believed was inconsistent with his office. She tries to steady him, and has no children as a result.
Do it the Way God Says
David has 30,000 troops present for the first attempted transfer, and is humiliated in front of them. That is the same number that Israel lost to the Philistines in the battle at Aphek (1 Sam. 4). God had burst forth on the Philistines in the previous chapter, and He burst forth on Israelites for acting like Philistines in this chapter (transporting the ark by cart was a Philistine technique). This happens at a threshing floor, which is a common symbol of judgment in Scripture. David is defensively angry and fearful at first, but he learns the lesson of true gladness from the blessings that fall upon the head of the ark’s new temporary home. All of which is to say that reverence is defined by the Word of God, and not our own makeshifts.
Christ for the Nations
It would be easy for us to think that God loved the Jews exclusively in the Old Testament, but that the Gentiles are included in the New through a bit of reverse engineering. But the Gentiles are in view from Genesis through Malachi. There are too many passages to cite here, so let’s just look at what we have that is connected to our passage.
Obed-edom, who is given responsibility for the ark, is a Gentile. His name means servant of Edom, and he is a Gittite—which means that he was from Gath, Goliath’s home town. About 600 Gittites were in David’s refugee army later (2 Sam. 15:18), when he fled from his own son. David had 600 Israelites when he fled from an Israelite king, and 600 Gittites when he fled from Absalom. So here God blesses a Gentile and provokes David to action.
When the ark arrives in Jerusalem, it is established in a tabernacle that David built on Mt. Zion. When Solomon finally builds the Temple, he does so on Mt. Moriah. After Shiloh had been destroyed a generation or so before, the main high place was Gibeon—where God appeared to Solomon. What Solomon did was combine the functions of Gibeon and Zion in the building on Moriah—which is one of the ways music came into the formal worship of God. Some innovations are bad (carts) and others are good (music).
So what did the tabernacle of David on Zion represent? According to Scripture, it represented the salvation of the Gentiles. The prophet Amos declared that in the latter days, the tabernacle of David would be restored (Amos 9:11), and he was talking about this tabernacle. And James the Lord’s brother cites that verse from Amos as being fulfilled in the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 15:16).
So Christ is the Savior of the nations, and this is why we sing to Him.