A major difference between King Saul and King David can be seen in how they treated the Ark of the Covenant. Saul basically ignored it and God. In his forty-year reign, Saul only mentioned the Ark once (1 Sam. 14:18) when he wanted God to help him defeat his nemesis, the Philistines. He met with Samuel a few times after being anointed king, but rebellion led to his demise. David, by contrast, made the Ark a central part of his life and reign. In fact, when he became king, he said, “It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul” (1 Chr. 13:3, NLT).
Some people treat God like the paramedics—they only call when they have an emergency! Many people want to keep God at a safe distance (close enough to be saved, but far enough away to run their own lives). They want a Savior to bail them out of trouble but not a Lord to whom they must surrender control. A relevant church sign reads, “Don’t social distance from God!” In other words, don’t be like King Saul who only sought God when he needed help. One of the first things David did as king was to relocate the Ark to Jerusalem, so it was close to his palace. David dreamed of building a Temple to permanently house it, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!” (2 Sam. 7:2, NLT). While the Prophet Nathan agreed it was a good idea, God vetoed it due to David’s history of warfare and bloodshed. His son, Solomon, whose name means “peace,” would later build God’s Temple.
David was a true worshipper who wanted to be close to the Ark and God’s presence. By moving the Ark to Jerusalem, David was saying, “God is important to me, spiritual things are my top priority, I want to be as close to God as possible, sacred things matter in my life.” It was his way of honoring and putting God first. While David’s motives were right, the method was wrong. The first attempt to move the Ark was a fiasco ending in a funeral. They made the mistake of putting it on an ox cart (2 Sam. 6:3). Obviously, they didn’t learn from the Philistine’s and the Bethshemite’s blunders that provoked God’s wrath and resulted in plagues and 50,070 deaths (1 Sam. 5-6). God let the ignorant heathen treat the Ark as common cargo, but not His people who knew better. The priests were supposed to carry it on their shoulders whenever it was transported. They used a man-made cart instead of handling the Ark the right way. God’s glory doesn’t come through man’s methods! Sacred things should not be treated carelessly or casually. The Ark (an icon of God’s presence) was to be honored and reverenced.
David led a festive parade with music, singing, shouting, and dancing but the celebration ceased when the cart hit a pothole and the Ark shook. Uzzah tried to steady it but, when he touched it, he was stricken dead. So, they parked the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house for three months while they mourned and studied how to move it properly. Meanwhile, “The Lord blessed Obed-Edom and his entire household” (2 Samuel 6:11, NLT). Later, he was among those appointed to minister before the Ark continually in the Tabernacle of David (1 Chr. 16:4-6). He wasn’t satisfied with a short-term visitation, he desired long-term habitation.
Then David presided over a second procession to bring the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:12-23). This time the priests hoisted it high on their shoulders as God required. David could have sat in his palace and dictated and spectated. Instead, he participated. He didn’t act stoic or dignified. He got so excited he couldn’t contain his joy and broke out in extreme worship and “Danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod” (2 Sam. 6:14, NKJV). Notice David removed his fancy, kingly attire and put on an ephod (a priestly garment). He didn’t sit on his throne and tell people how to worship, he shed his regal robes and showed people how to worship by example. David put his position and pride aside to exalt Yahweh—the true KING of Israel! His actions said, “I’m not the focal point here, it’s not about me today. I will worship the great God of Israel without hesitation or reservation.” David is a fitting type of Christ who laid aside His heavenly throne to become our great High Priest.
Moving the Ark to Zion was a glorious event for Israel. Most people were thrilled, especially after receiving gifts from the king—bread, meat, and wine (their ancient stimulus checks—2 Sam. 6:19). But naysayers will always rain on your parade. Sourpuss Michal, King Saul’s daughter and David’s first wife, watched through her window with disgust and despised him in her heart (2 Sam. 6:16). She wanted her husband to act like a KING not a PRIEST! Kings rule, priests serve. She was ashamed of him because he didn’t act very dignified. Our ego wants us to act like kings—show everyone who’s boss, bark out orders, and make others serve you. God wants us to be priests—remove our phony facades and serve God and others. Are we kings or priests? Do we demand that people serve us or do we serve them? Do we act like celebrities where it’s all about us? Or do we, like David, recognize it’s all about HIM?
Notice Michal’s words dripping with sarcasm, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Sam. 6:20, NKJV) She made it sound like he was prancing around naked, but he was clearly wearing “a robe of fine linen” (1 Chr. 15:27). She wanted him to act like a proud king, but David dressed and acted like a humble priest. If you get too extreme praying or praising God, people will criticize you. Remember, Mary poured her alabaster box of ointment on Jesus and the disciples threw a fit. David responded, “I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight” (2 Samuel 6:22, NKJV). In modern slang, “Girl, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
The Ark arrived in Jerusalem—it’s home for the next 456 years until Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. David made Zion his political capitol and the spiritual epicenter of Israel (God’s headquarters on earth) by bringing the Ark and setting up a new Tabernacle. Unlike Moses’ Tabernacle which revolved around sacrifices, rituals, and ceremonies, David’s Tabernacle was based upon continuous worship. In fact, he appointed Levites to minster before the Ark around the clock (1 Chr. 16:1-6, 37). There apparently was no veil in David’s Tabernacle, no barrier to hide the Ark. It speaks of New Testament worship which grants us unlimited access into God’s presence by the blood of Christ. The modern worship music movement is a trend David pioneered 3,000 years ago.
So, what is our affection focused on? Spiritual, heavenly things or carnal, earthly things? Paul wrote, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2, KJV). David’s affection was aimed at the Ark of God and the God of the Ark. If David held such deep affection for a golden box, shouldn’t we fall in love with what that box represented—the presence and glory of our great God?