Thursday, December 18, 2008

2 Samuel 6:1-11

The advent of the ark of the Lord

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day. David was afraid of the Lord that day; he said, "How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?" So David was unwilling to take the ark of the Lord into his care in the city of David; instead David took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.

Comments: This is one of those stories that could easily be left out of the daily rota. But it does make for great movie scenes! In this passage, David is trying to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem where he can have the protection of the Ark. David is trying to solidify his power as king by bringing the Ark—the most powerful of Israel’s cultic objects, to his city. But the death of Uzzah makes it clear that God’s power is not to be manipulated. David realized that nothing could control the God of Abraham.

All too often I find myself trying to control God too. It is easy to think that we can because we find God so loving and helpful. But the God who is love is not one that can boxed in or limited. As I await the Nativity, I am reminded that the love that came at Christmas is also the love that overwhelms us. I find among those who call themselves ‘orthodox’ ( I do not mean those who are a part of the great Orthodox Churches of Eastern Christianity) try to manipulate God’s power to change their world. Their desire to control the God of the Universes eventually destroys them. Certainly in the Episcopal Church, those who tried to manipulate the Church have found themselves cast out. The God who comes as an infant is not weak. What a mystery!

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