The kingdom of David and Solomon is the zenith, the Camelot, the glory days of Israel’s history — and that is where our reading today is launching off into. As always there’s much too much to consider in detail, but I thought I’d focus on a few instructive passages.
Ish-bosheth was a weak king to begin with, but after the death of Abner, he was a particularly weak king — the handwriting was on the wall. And a couple of Ish-bosheth’s captains thought it wise to get on the “right side” of the politics and ingratiate themselves to the man who was clearly the next king of Israel by delivering the kingdom to him by assassination (ch. 4). Much to their surprise, however, David punished their act of murder with summary execution and hanging their hands and feet beside the pool of Hebron as further a warning to anyone else who might want to buy the king’s favor with murder.
The story is a great illustration of the principle that the ends don’t justify the means. Even though David was clearly “benefitting” from Ish-bosheth’s death, it was still wrong to have killed an innocent man, apparently in his sleep. Naturally, David also was interested in honoring his covenant with Jonathan, but the stated reason for the execution of these two assassins was the murder of an innocent. Lots of things in this life may look inviting because they accomplish a good thing, but they are done the wrong way. “My husband was more successful, because I pushed and nagged him to.” “Evangelism through manipulative teaching.” “Providing more for my family by cheating, lying, or stealing.” It makes a difference. The ultimate “good” accomplished is often short-lived and destructive in the long run. Doing good the right way (even if it is more difficult) is the Christian way.
After Ish-bosheth’s death, the elders of Israel came to give their seal of approval on David as king, David also decided to move to a more defensible city as his capital — Jerusalem. And he was receiving recognition from foreign kings, like Tyre. After all these things, 5:12 notes that “David realized that the LORD has established him as king over Israel.” It was the LORD that established David’s kingdom — not politics, not assassination, and not military might. And that’s what makes David’s kingdom so great, the ideal kingdom to compare the coming Kingdom of the Lord to — it was established by the LORD.
So also today with the Lord’s Kingdom, the church. It is established not by fancy programs, or glitz, or grand buildings; it is established by… the Gospel, God’s word.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16, NAS95.
“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21, NAS95.
In chapter 6, after capturing Jerusalem, fortifying it, and making it his capital, it was David’s sincere desire to have the Ark of the Covenant in his new capital, because of what it said about his love for the LORD, because of the blessings that apparently came from housing the Ark (6:11), and possibly because the Ark was otherwise relatively unprotected from raiders, Philistine armies, etc. So David made arrangements for the Ark to be transported from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem. Since the Ark had been transported last time on an ox cart, David or whoever was in charge of logistics decided to put the Ark on another ox cart — in spite of the explicit command to carry it on the shoulders of the priests. At the threshing floor of Nacon, an ox stumbled, the cart lurched, and the Ark almost tumbled — had it not been for the steadying hand of Uzzah, who was immediately “rewarded” by instant death for touching the Ark. David was, at first, angry at God for what appeared to him (and sometimes to us) to be an unjust punishment for something that seemed to be a good thing. David’s anger, however, didn’t last long; apparently after thinking about it, he remembered the proper way to carry the Ark, and made the appropriate adjustments on the second (and successful) attempt to bring it to Jerusalem.
There’s a point here, too. Careless disobedience isn’t erased by sincerity. Too often we human beings get taken in by Satan’s deception about sincerity — that it covers a multitude of sins, even if their deliberate or careless. We want an “E” for effort or an “S” for sincerity. But what God wants to see is a sincere desire to obey. The LORD is a holy God and not just anything will do. There’s a lot of religion today that cares little about what the Lord has said about worship and doctrine. They believe that despite their “technical disobedience”, their sincerity and God’s all-covering grace will be sufficient to get to Heaven. Uzzah’s story should give those who depend on sincerity to give them “a pass” on obedience some pause for thought.
Lastly, there’s the story of Michal. As David revels in the entrance of the Ark into Jerusalem by dancing and celebrating, Michal, the daughter of a possibly more reserved king Saul, shows disdain for David’s expressions of joy.
There’s a couple of things we might learn from this story. First, there will always be people among God’s people who are more reserved and those who are more demonstrative in their worship. Both have a sad tendency to disrespect the other. The reserved are often categorized as cold and passionless, while the reserved often regard the demonstrative as empty flash and touchy-feely. Neither are wrong — unless, of course, it really is coldness or empty flash. Both sides would do well to withhold judgment on the other and show Christian love and respect.
Secondly, Michal’s story shows that disrespect isn’t acceptable in God’s sight. Leaders are often scorned in our democratic, free-speech society. It might be good to rethink that mindset. Romans 13 tells us that we should show honor to whom honor is due, and this story today is one of a wife criticizing not just her husband, but her king. And there were consequences for her, and there might just be spiritual consequences for us, too.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.