2 Samuel 6:1-11
1 David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. 2 He and all his men set out from Baalah of 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 that are 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 the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. 6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, 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 aside 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.
Life can be cruel. Life can really suck sometimes. We are rolling along and then out of nowhere here comes life pulling the carpet out from under us. Usually, it is at this point that people turn to religion or seek some spiritual connection to help them regain their equilibrium. Men, women, and youth that turn to religion, or specifically the church, do so because they have nowhere else to go. The church becomes the place where individuals who have been knocked down by life come to find hope, feel better about themselves or their situations, or seek an answer to some problem they are facing. Unfortunately, in many cases people do not find what they are looking for, because while they are in the right place there focus is skewed. The answers they are looking for cannot be found in a place, but in a person. There are many places that people go to find solace and comfort. The solace and comfort they experience has very little to do with the place and more to do with what they experience in that place. It’s not the place, but it is the presence in that place.
Take David for example. David and Israel were experiencing unparalled levels of success as they engaged in their various military campaigns. However, even with all their success David realized that something was missing. David came to the realization that if he could obtain the missing ingredient his joy would be complete and he and Israel would never have to ever worry about anything ever again. And so, David brought all the people together to go after the one thing that was missing – God. David called the people together to pursue the presence of God. David was not interested in a religious experience, because Israel had that and engaged in the exercises prescribed by their religion. However, what they lacked was a presence, and more specifically the presence of God was not in their midst. Religion is for the religious, but the presence is for the hungry. Shortly after Jill and I started seeing each other I quickly determined that she was going to be my wife. Initially, she was not as enthralled with the idea as I was and put up some resistance. Despite her resistance, I keep up the pursuit until I won her heart and she agreed to marry me. It takes passion to pursue. Passion is the desire to obtain. Many people think discipleship is following Christ, but real discipleship is pursuing Christ. After awhile you get tired of following at some point the hope is to obtain the object of your pursuit. Have you ever noticed that after you get what you have been pursuing the passion dies down? Once the passion dies down we also slow down and we do not work as hard, we become lethargic. The fastest way to lose something is to lose your passion for it. No passion, no pursuit. The way we keep our passion burning is by keeping our pursuit up. After we acquire the object of our pursuit, we must then explore the different dimensions of that object. God is not a one dimensional God. The more of God we pursue and explore the more joy we will get from being in the presence of God. People who pursue and explore the depths and dimensions of God experience joy from being in the presence of God.
After David and his men found themselves in the presence of God they celebrated with all of their might. They recognized they were in the presence of someone special. There is a difference between special and ordinary. Special people receive special treatment. You can always tell when VIP’S, dignitaries, or celebrities are in town. There are special accommodations made for them at the expense of everyone else. Traffic is diverted, they receive police escorts, they travel in unmarked cars, and bodyguards who must be prepared to take a bullet for them always surround them. Ordinary people on the other hand receive ordinary treatment. You and I because we are ordinary the world treats us all the same. We have to wait in line at the DMV, we do not have a chauffer to drive us around, and if we go to the emergency room we have to wait like everyone else. How we respond to God is predicated on how we see God. The world makes a fuss and celebrates the celebrity of special people. When I was a child, on Christmas day in the Glover household I received special treatment because I was the baby, that is, until my sister came along. I received the lion’s share of the gifts, my gifts took up most of the space under the tree burying everyone else’s gifts, and I spent most of the day unwrapping gifts. When my sister came along she received the lion’s share of the gifts and her gifts took up most of the space under the tree burying everyone else’s and my gifts. At that point I went from special to ordinary. Looking back I realize that the reason my parent’s went to all that trouble was because they saw my sister and I, and our brother’s before us as special. When we realize we are in the presence of someone special, we feel free to express our love and let him or her know how much joy they bring us. I also understand today that special people take us to special places and that is the reason they are special. The birth of a child takes a man and woman, husband and wife, to the place of mother and father, a special place. The joining of a man and woman in marriage takes them to the place of husband and wife, a special place. When we reach a special place with a special person it prompts us to celebrate in the presence of that person. Special people are also game changers. They have the ability to change our moods, the environment around us, and our outlook and attitude. There are a handful of people that when they step into the room no matter how bad I am feeling, they have the ability to change my mood, the environment around me, and my outlook and attitude because they are special. God is one of those persons. The presence of God prompts us to celebrate in His presence, because the presence of God has the ability to take us to special places and is a game changer.
Just as things were going well for David and the whole house of Israel here comes life trying to steal their joy. On the way back to Jerusalem, the cart carrying the ark stumbles and Uzza reaches out to steady the cart and is struck dead. Life interrupts the celebration. Have you ever noticed how many of life’s pressing problems arise at inopportune times? Have you ever noticed how life’s problems seem to be synchronized to make an appearance in the middle of our celebration? It almost seems at though life has been programmed to interrupt our celebration. Problems ushered into our lives by life suck the joy out of our life they leave us deflated and dejected. David responds like any good Christian, he experiences the poor me’s. How could this happen to me, and what am I going to do now? While problems are bad, when we turn our problems into excuses it makes things worse. The problem with turning our problems into excuses is that there is no possibility of ever finding an answer, solution, or seeing an end to our problems. We just have to live with them. The longer we live with our problems eventually we will blame God for our problems. At this point we make it personal and have taken it personally. Have you ever met someone who cries all the time? Poor me the world’s not treating me right. Poor me things never go my way. I feel like telling them to shut-up sometimes. Quit bellyaching and wining. Problems are a part of life. Everyone has problems. In almost 99.9% of cases the problems we experience are the result of the choices we make. Occasionally, someone will come into our lives and create problems for us, but even in these situations they could not come in unless we opened the door. On all products that are harmful there are warning labels, and if we choose to go against the warning there will be problems. Warnings are meant to alert us of the potential problems that could occur. Therefore, one of the ways we can minimize some of the problems we face is by reading the warning labels before we open the bottle. What happened to Uzza was the result of the choice he made. With all the stuff going on in our world, you and I are not that important that God has time to sit around and pick and choose whom He should punish. God allow us to live with our choices and sometimes the consequences of the choices we make can be deadly. If we learn nothing else from what happened to Uzza, we learn that we need to make better choices. We learn that we need to take a moment to think about the consequences of the actions we want to engage in before we take those actions.
For his part, David too was faced with a decision. David had to decide whether to surrender and give up the presence of God in his life that brought him so much joy a little while earlier or live in the problem that life caused that brought him so much pain. David chose the later. By choosing to live in the problem, David essentially conceded life the victor and potentially forfeited any hope of experiencing the heights of joy he had just experienced again. Our forfeit is someone else’s gain. David’s forfeit became Obed-Edom’s gain. One of the things that I remember about my grandmother and it still encourages me up to today is that while she was preceded in death by both of her children, she never surrendered or abandoned the presence of God up until the day she died.
The message of this text is simple, life may take many things from us but only we can surrender or give up our joy. Joy is not found in people or even the things we accomplish and acquire in life. These things might make us happy, but they will not give us real joy. Real joy is found by living in the presence of God. For as long as the presence of God was in the house of Obed-Edom, he and his entire household were blessed. David on the other hand, after he abandoned the presence of God he was left with living in and with the problems that life had caused. Which would you prefer, to live in the joy of God’s presence or to live in and with the pain of life’s problems? While the presence of God in our lives does not exempt us from life’s pain and its accompanying problems, the blessings we receive from living in God’s presence sure make it easier to deal with anything life throws at us. Don’t give up or abandon the presence of God because life has gotten too tough. The presence of God is our only defense against life when it tries to steal our joy.