Irreverently Abusing God’s Presence

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 6.2-11
2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.
8 Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

Reflection: Irreverently Abusing God’s Presence
By John Tillman

David and all Israel zealously celebrated…but they were zealously irreverent and Uzzah paid for it.

At first, it might seem like David and the Ark-keepers committed a minor infraction and Uzzah’s “irreverent act” was his well-intended steadying of the Ark. We need context.

For centuries, Israel properly cared for the Ark, the presence of God, and no one died. But, before Saul’s reign, Israel weaponized the Ark, taking it into battle where many Israelites died and the Philistines captured the Ark. (1 Samuel 4.3-11) The Ark, God’s presence, was a curse to the Philistines (1 Samuel 5.1-12), so they sent it away on a cart towed by animals. (1 Samuel 6.7-11) When the Ark returned, the Israelites disobeyed its regulations again, and more of them died. (1 Samuel 6.19-20) After that, the Ark was put under guard and rarely consulted. (1 Samuel 7.1-2; 1 Chronicles 13.3-4)

Scripture explicitly describes the Ark as God’s throne. It is “called by the Name,” meaning God’s name. Yet, David treated it just like the Philistines did—as a treasure or weapon to be transported by animals. Uzzah and David’s irreverent act was putting the Ark on the cart in the first place, not reaching out to steady it.

In fear, David leaves the Ark with Obed-Edom, the Gittite. The Gittites were one of the Philistine tribes from Gath—the same town and tribe Goliath was from. So David, using animals to carry the Ark as the Philistines did, returned it to Philistine care. But this time, its presence is a blessing. (After this, Obed-Edom’s sons were even included by David as gatekeepers at the Temple. 1 Chronicles 26.1, 4-8)

God’s presence no longer hovers between the Ark’s cherubim. His Holy Spirit is among believers. Jesus’ presence abides with “the least of these,” and how we treat them is how we treat him. (Matthew 25.40, 45)

Let us examine ourselves. Are we zealous for God yet irreverent of him? Do we abuse God’s presence? Do we take “the Name” in vain?

Do we weaponize God against enemies? Do we treat him like a magical charm? Or like a treasure we must hide and protect? How do we treat believers who are “called by the Name”? What about “foreigners” God blesses? How do we treat them? What “irreverent acts” like Uzzah’s do we commit against humans for whom Christ died?

May God have mercy on us, as he did on Obed-Edom, the faithful foreigner. It is better to be a gatekeeper in the house of God than dwell in wickedness. (Psalm 84.10)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
In the morning, Lord, in your might; we will sing and praise your power. — Psalm 21.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings

2 Samuel 6 (Listen 3:34)
Revelation 15 (Listen 1:29)

Read more about Undignified Weeping and Dancing
When we witness undignified worship, we would be wise to train our hearts to see and expect the best possible motives from others rather than the worst. 

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Undignified Weeping and Dancing

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 6.21-22
I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.

“As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance.” — C.S. Lewis

Reflection: Undignified Weeping and Dancing
By John Tillman

There are places in the Bible in which we see people rightly critique the worship practices of others. In our recent readings of 1 Corinthians, Paul critiqued the way the Corinthians exuberance and lack of discipline or order was harming church members rather than helping them.

But there are other, less pure and less nobly intended worship critiques. Two, which bear similarities to each other, are of the weeping of Hannah and the dancing of David.

Whenever we begin to feel our spirit desire to critique a fellow worshiper for their response to the presence of God, we need to pause and investigate our hearts, motives, and prejudices. Otherwise, we may follow in the path of Eli and in the path of Michal.

Hannah carried the weight of her grief to God’s presence and broke open her heart with shameless weeping. She was so physically incapacitated by her grief that Eli falsely accused her of drunkenness.

David was lifted by the wings of gratefulness and joy in God’s presence and broke into shameless, exuberant dancing. He was so physically swept up in celebration that Mical falsely accused him of lustfully showing off to attract the attention of younger women. 

David’s audience was not in the crowd of other worshipers. His joy was given to the Lord in humility.
Hannah was not drowning her sorrows in alcohol, but draining them into the palms of a waiting and loving God who heard her cries.

When we witness undignified worship, we would be wise to train our hearts to see and expect the best possible motives from others rather than the worst. 

Scripture tells us that Mical had no children following her condemnation of David. But it is silent as to the cause.

Scripture does tell us that Eli, after his initial error heard Hannah’s prayer and prayed for her. This made Eli able to take part in the fruit of this blessing as he trained and raised Hannah’s son, Samuel—a redemption for his failed effort to raise his own sons. 

May we not be barren critics of others’ exuberance or sorrow. May we, instead, learn from our prejudices how to pray with others.
May we be so undignified as to worship God, uncaring of what others might think.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. — Psalm 84.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 6 (Listen – 3:34)
1 Corinthians 16 (Listen – 2:54)

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Read more about Room For Hannah
At times, we do a better job of accepting the exuberant dancing of King David than the distraught expressions of Hannah.

Read more about Prayers of Woe and Weeping
If prayer is relationship then when God weeps, we should join. What friend would weep, whom we would not join in weeping?