The Ark of The Lord has made it to Jerusalem. The people are celebrating; David chief among them. They enter with joy; dancing, singing, and praise to the Lord. But one watches on without joy.
This final leg of the journey for the Ark has been short in distance but full and robust in celebration. Every six steps brought another sacrifice to the Lord. Music resounds on lyres, harps, cymbals, tambourines, castanets, and trumpets. Shouts of praise and lifted songs dominate the air. And, yes, dancing. Leaping with joy and whirling abound in the presence of the Lord. Not just from ‘paid praisers’ but from the king to the lowest of servants. ALL celebrating before the Lord from the doorsteps of Obed-edom to the tent David pitched for the Ark.
We left our story as the people approached the gates of Jerusalem. Our reading centers on one individual who didn’t share in the joy of this occasion; Michal, the daughter of Saul and first wife to David. But I don’t want to let her ruin the celebration so I’m adding a bit of parallel reading to fill out our story. I will be bringing in the narrative from 1 Chronicles 16 to fill in the conclusion of the Ark’s journey.
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No greater celebration has happened in the lives of the people assembled here. For miles, the slow and joy filled journey has reached the gates of the new seat of Israel’s power. The city David, their king, has named as his own; Jerusalem.
The gates are flung wide as the huge crowd moves into the city and towards its final destination. On the hill David has pitched a tent to house the Ark of The Lord. Those inside the city who waited for the arrival join in with those who participated in the procession.
Abiathar’s clothes are covered in blood from the knees down and from wrists to elbows from the many sacrifices he has offered on behalf of the people this day. He is tired but is unwilling to even entertain the notion of quitting before all is accomplished. The finish line is in sight!
As the procession moves through the city the sounds accompanying it bounce off the buildings. There is not an ear anywhere in Jerusalem that does not hear the sounds of joy spilling from the people. Every eye within the gates has the opportunity to see the crowd’s demonstration of praise to the Lord.
But in the beautiful home of David, near one of the windows, stands one who will NOT join in the celebration. This one is Michal, the daughter of Saul, David’s first wife. She is not seeing the joy of the people or the sacrifices being offered, or even the Ark of The Lord. Instead she is looking directly at David. He has dressed for this occasion in a simple ephod. One like any common person would wear. He has laid his royal robes aside. He is also dancing and leaping with the rest of the crowd. Hatred boils in her heart for her husband.
She sees him dancing before the Ark. She sees the lowly state of his dress. She sees him mingling with the crowd. And she sees him not acting his role as king. “How can you disgrace yourself so thoroughly; and ME by association? Have you no dignity? No other king would behave this way. I’m yoked to a fool!”
David is blissfully unaware of the thoughts of Michal. His entire being is focused on the Lord. He feels His presence from the tips of his toes to the roots of his hair. Nothing else matters at this moment except rejoicing in His presence.
The procession finally reaches the top of the hill where David had erected the tent for the Lord. He had taken great pains to make it special. He incorporated many of the design elements of the Tabernacle. The cherubim that were woven into the original coverings were represented in David’s design. The frames and bases were of the same construction as were the layers of coverings. The original design had withstood MANY years of travel in harsh environments without breaking down. One of the features David didn’t incorporate is having two separate areas within the tent. This tent was constructed to hold the Ark of the Lord only. The treasures sent with it from the Philistines would be put in a safe place with all the spoils that had been gathered throughout the battles. Worship would occur before the Ark and sacrifices would be conducted in an outer courtyard. It was not David’s intent to duplicate the Tabernacle, nor to replace it. Both would have their place in Israel. Both would serve the Lord.
The music and the people quiet as the final sacrifice is prepared. This sacrifice is conducted at the door of the tent of David. Abiatha raises his voice to Heaven one last time on this journey. “Hear O Lord our prayers of thanksgiving. Accept from our lips the praises of Your people. Bless Your people as we honor You this day. Remind us daily of this journey with You. Let Your presence settle in this place which we have prepared for Your name. May that presence fill our land and our hearts.”
The congregation stands silent while this last prayer and offering are given to the Lord. As the smoke rises from the remains of the flesh David steps before the door of the tent. He addresses the people.
“This tent is for the Lord. It is His place of worship. Do not go out beneath every tree in the land to make it an altar to the Lord. Bring your offerings of praise to His doorstep. Bring your praise unto His house. To the Tabernacle at Gibeon the sacrifices commanded by the Lord for the people will be offered morning and evening as He requires. For this house I appoint as priests to minister before the Ark of The Lord, Asaph and his brothers. Obed-edom and his sixty eight brothers will also be appointed to minister to the needs of the tent. Obed-edom and Hosah are to be gatekeepers for this tent of the Ark of The Lord. In Gibeon I appoint Zadok the priest and his brothers to minister daily in the Tabernacle and perform the daily sacrifices commanded by the Lord. So that praises will also be offered in Gibeon, I appoint Heman and Jeduthun of the brothers of Zadok to play the trumpets and lead the people in worship. Jeduthun’s sons will be appointed to the gates of the Tabernacle. We will praise the Lord and honor Him with our whole hearts.”
The people sent up another round of praise to the Lord after David had finished his instructions. Satisfied that all was in place David spoke one last time to the people for the day. “Please receive from my hand these gifts. A cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisin for each man and woman here today.”
David’s servants who had been standing to the side stepped forward at his words. The people began to move into lines and receive the gifts David had promised. Once their gifts were received from the hands of David’s servants they dispersed to their own homes and towns. There was not on man or woman who went away empty handed. All were blessed by their king and their God.
Finally David returns to his own home. He is tired but still excited from the day. He is met on the stairs by his wife Michal. The fire in her eyes stops him in his tracks.
“How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servant’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovering himself!” (verse 20).
David is shocked at her words. How could she not understand. Her attitude sparked a righteous anger in him. “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord – and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them shall I be held in honor” (verses 21-22).
David turns his face from her and enters his home without another word or thought to Michal. She was his first wife, but to him now, she has seen him face to face for the last time. He required her return after she had been stolen away from him but her heart didn’t accompany her body back to his side. Now his body will be withheld from her. She will lack nothing in his home except his presence.
(to be continued)
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I wonder how worship differed in the two locations. Did David visit both? Which place were the yearly sacrifices conducted? We know that after Solomon built a ‘brick and mortar’ house for the Lord all worship was moved to Jerusalem. This is where it remained. Even with the division of honoring the Lord it is better than our ‘church on every corner’ way of life in the United States. Israel was united in their worship. We have divided along every line and principle possible. I look forward to the day when God brings us all together in unity. One day the body of Christ will be completely united. Until then, make SURE your praise and worship centers on HIM. THAT is our unity until then.
Father God, thank You for Your stories. I grieve for Michal. Her heart was hardened by the life she led. Being used as a political tool on both sides. Was she ever truly loved? Was her heart wrapped up in appearances all her life? She physically ‘missed by a mile’ what happened that day but spiritually wasn’t even in the same hemisphere.
I pray I honor You with my WHOLE heart when I come to You each day. I want to abandon any pretense and worship You alone. Forgive me for the times I turn it into ‘my own thing’ instead of letting You lead where You will. Let me ‘dance’ before You Father!