A Heart Prepared For Worship
I conclude this three-part teaching on becoming a man of God by focusing on the glory of God. By that I mean the presence of God in our lives. What will it take to have the glory of God manifested in our lives? How do we live in such a way that God’s presence is near?
Our text for this segment involves King David seeking to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Having consolidated his political power in the Holy City, David then moved to make Jerusalem the religious center as well.
He wants to place the Ark in the Tabernacle he has built and subsequently in a Temple for God he hopes to build. We know that God did not allow David to build the Temple. That honor went to David’s son Solomon.
In a sense mankind is pictured in this episode. Man has been created to know the reality of God and to long for His presence. There is emptiness within man that can only be filled by the presence of God.
The Hebrew for glory is “kabod.” The word carries the idea of substance, depth, and weightiness within a context of significance and worth. I think this is the reason people ask questions such as, “Why am I here?” “What is my life about?” or “Where is my life heading and why?” These are all questions related to significance.
It’s very interesting that once a person is born-again those questions become focused on God’s presence. “How can I draw nearer to God?” “How can I experience more of God in my life?” “God, what is your plan for my life?” These questions relate to God’s significance to us.
Let’s examine a passage of scripture this morning that presents a beautiful picture of the way to experience the glory and presence of God. I’ve entitled this message “A Heart Prepared For Worship.”
2 Samuel 6:1-23
V1-2 The Ark of the Covenant was the central fixture in the worship of Israel. It was placed in the Holy of Holies and was where God’s presence dwelled with the nation. The OT refers to it as the “Shekinah Glory.” You may recall that the Ark held the 10 Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and manna that fed the Hebrew people in their desert wanderings.
The Ark was the place where the priest would take a goat one day a year – The Day of Atonement – and sacrifice it there for the sins of the Hebrew people.
Kiriath-jearim (Joshua 15:9) was the ancient name of Baale-judah. This village was about 9 miles from Jerusalem.
David called together 30,000 Israelites to help him celebrate bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. At the heart of the issue for David was a longing for the presence of God in his life and in the national life of Israel. He understood the need to be close to God and it was his heart’s desire to experience that closeness.
We see that in many of the Psalms David wrote. Psalm 63 for example says:
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me (v. 1-8).
In Psalm 84 David proclaims:
How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You! (v.1-2, 8-12)
V3-5 The Ark was loaded onto a new cart. This fact is presented because the Philistines sent the Ark back to the Hebrews on a cart. So the Israelites built a new cart for the Ark and did not use the same cart.
This was a time of celebration and must have been a grand parade. With 30,000 people playing instruments, shouting, and dancing it must have been quite a spectacle to behold.
V6-11 Along the way the oxen evidently hit a rut and the Ark slid across the cart bed and looked as if it was going to tip over. Instinctively, Uzzah, one of Abinadab’s sons put his hand out to stop the Ark from falling off the cart.
Can you image the pall that fell upon the people? Get the picture – the people in front of the cart would not have known about God striking Uzzah dead but the people following the cart would have seen it. As Uzzah fell to the ground dead all dancing, shouting, and instruments would have fallen into stunned silence.
The cart would have been stopped and slowly one by one the celebrants in front would realize something had gone terribly wrong. As word spread throughout the crowd all the way to King David, a hushed murmur would have risen as David walked back to the lifeless body of Uzzah.
Notice David’s response. First anger, then fear, then a decision to abandon the Ark to the household of Obed-edom the Gittite where we are told it stayed for at least 3 months while David returned to Jerusalem with all the people. That must have been a painfully quiet return to the capital city.
In verse 9 notice the question that David asks perhaps out loud “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” That’s a key question in this passage that we’ll answer in a moment.
V12-15 When we read this account we ask what is different from the previous account of David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem? We notice that they stopped every 6 paces and sacrificed. Something else had happened though.
While the Ark was in the house of Obed-edom David returned to Jerusalem and sought an answer to the question he asked in verse 9 – how could he bring the Ark to Jerusalem. We find the answer to that question in 1 Chronicles 15:1-2, 11-15.
1Now David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it.
2Then David said, “No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.”
11Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab,
12and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it.
13″Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.”
14So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel.
15The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.
This passage recounts for us that David researched the Ark and how it was to be transported. This led him to read Exodus 25 where the specific instructions for transporting the Ark are found.
V16-23 Michal was David’s first wife given to him by King Saul as a gesture of goodwill for David’s heroic military conquests. When God removed His blessing and anointing from Saul one of the first things he did was give Michal to another man as a wife. She obviously believed her husband acted inappropriately before the “common people.”
What does this chapter, this singular event in the life of David have to tell us? What can we take away from this that will help us in our personal lives and in our responsibilities to our families and our church? More importantly what is this story telling us about the heart of a person who worships God?
The first thing we can say is that the person who worships God must have a passion for His presence. David’s heart was aflame with a desire to have God’s presence near. This is what motivated him to go get the Ark in the first place.
But here lies our first warning as well. It is not enough to have the right motivation. David certainly had the right motivation. Our motivation must be coupled with a right method. This is where David went wrong.
David neglected the Word of God that gave specific instructions on how the Ark was to be transported. Notice that the Israelites built a brand new cart to haul the Ark. Why did they do that?
Partly because none of the priests knew God’s Word enough to say “hey wait a minute David. God says only the Levites are to transport the Ark and they must bear the burden on poles. It cannot be touched.”
The other reason is that they were quick to mimic what the Philistines had done. This enemy of the Israelites had sent the Ark away from them on a cart and thus the Hebrew people didn’t think a thing about utilizing the same method.
Brethren, the cart in this chapter represents the world’s ways. David was guilty of copying the world in approaching God. We must understand that God is not impressed with our good motives fulfilled in the wrong ways.
The old adage is right – the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Notice the results in V6-11 of doing things the world’s way. When we do things the world’s way there will be death. People will be hurt. If we want God’s presence we must do things God’s way. If we want God’s blessings then we must join together our right motives with God’s prescribed method of approaching Him.
Some people read this account of Uzzah’s death and say that God is unfair or that He is unduly harsh. They rationalize that Uzzah was trying to do a good thing. He was trying to help God by preventing the Ark from falling to the ground.
The problem with that thinking is that people overlook a fundamental truth – God doesn’t need our help. How often do we think that we need to reach out our hands to steady a “work of God?” How often are we tempted to lend a hand to God because His glory and honor are slipping or falling in the world’s eyes?
Notice a 2nd result of seeking God’s presence using the world’s methods – it results in anger and bitterness toward the Lord. David was one of those people who thought God was totally unfair to do what He did. This wrong attitude in turn led to fear.
David became afraid of the presence of God. What started out as a good thing – desiring the presence of God and setting in motion plans to accomplish that, turned into a disaster which in turn led David away from the God he longed to be near.
I see a very vivid picture of the church in this section of David’s story. The church says that they desire the presence of God more than anything (Well, some churches say that).
The motives may be right – desiring the presence of God – but the method is terribly wrong. So many churches today employee Madison Avenue marketing techniques that is completely foreign to God’s Word.
Many churches today look at people as consumers. So the goal for many churches today is to satisfy their customers. Churches conduct polls and surveys asking lost people what it would take to get them to come to church. Once the data is analyzed the church morphs into whatever the survey says.
People today are looking for entertainment in a church so the pastor becomes a comedian and the service becomes a fast-moving collage of drama, songs, skits, and sermonettes all designed to satisfy the pew consumer.
When numbers become the goal God is not glorified. David assembled 30,000 worshippers and they were all shouting and singing and playing instruments but notice that God was not being glorified because He was not being worshipped the right way and so disaster struck. It was a great religious show but it was void of God.
Here it was physical death. Today it is spiritual death. People are coming and going through the doors of our churches dead spiritually because they are not hearing the life changing Word of God. People cannot be saved by meeting their felt needs. Salvation comes through recognition that we are sinners saved by grace.
I remember John Courson talking about this church growth/marketing phenomenon. He spoke about a group of churches uniting in a campaign to reach their city. So they got a steering team together. Sort of an ad hock board.
This board consisted of some movers and shakers in the community. They decided that what they needed was a big wheel, a name, or several names to come into town and show folks how cool it was to be a Christian. The implication was of course that anyone could be as successful as they if they would become a Christian.
Courson concluded his story with this comment – “boards and big wheels. That’s a perfect description of a cart.” Brothers, God will not bless our carts. He will not bless our slick programs, our techniques and methods that we’ve co-opted from the world.
You know the Levites carried the Ark of the Covenant around the Sinai desert for nearly 38 years and never stumbled. They carried the Ark through dry river beds over rocky terrain and never stumbled. The Levites carried the Ark around the city of Jericho for seven days and never once stumbled.
God didn’t need a cart then and He doesn’t need one now. God says to His people – you carry Me. You shoulder Me in your hearts and you carry Me everywhere you go.
In verse 13 we see a picture of David’s right understanding of the holiness of God. I’ve already mentioned that Kiriath-jearim was 9 miles from Jerusalem. Can you imagine how long it would take you to walk 9 miles if you stopped every 6 steps and offered a sacrifice?
Why did he do this? A few answers have been offered but I believe that the literal and symbolic meet here to provide us an answer. The number 6 is the number of man in Scripture. I think David was proclaiming before God symbolically and literally that man alone can not come before a holy God. It is only through the blood.
In order for mankind to be reconciled to God we must approach Him in the prescribed manner – through the blood of Jesus Christ.
In verse 14 we read that David danced before the Lord with all his might wearing a linen ephod. What is that telling us? It means that David gave all to God and that he did so as a man not as a King.
The same must be true of us. We do not approach God on our own merits. We might be a business owner, a wealthy merchant, an important political figure. God says that we will take off those robes of importance and approach Him as every other person.
We can understand “dancing with all our might” within a context of diligence.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Jeremiah 29:13: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Proverbs 8:17: “I love those who love Me and those who seek Me diligently will find Me.”
Proverbs 13:4: “The soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”
One last item I want you to see in this passage. Verse 20 tells us of Michal’s disgust with her husband. This pictures for us the truth that even though we may diligently seek God’s presence and His glory in our lives there will be those who stand in opposition.
See how this develops. David is “jazzed.” He has glorified God and experienced His presence by bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. He has blessed the people and sent them home to celebrate. Now he comes to his own home wanting to bless his family and gets a bucket of cold water on the head.
There will always be someone who says “don’t get too crazy or wrapped up in the God thing.” They might tell you “it’s ok to go to church on Sunday but do you have to read your Bible all the time and pray everyday?”
You keep on trucking brethren. Notice the outcome of all those who attempt to sidetrack those who desire to diligently seek the Lord’s glory – verse 23 – they will be barren. Misery loves company as they say and those who are spiritually empty cannot stand being in the presence of those who are spiritually full.
Let me share this real story with you. In his book, The Unquenchable Worshiper Matt Redman, who has written so many wonderful praise and worship songs, tells the story of how he came to write the song, “The Heart of Worship.”
The church Matt attended had been incredibly blessed w/some fantastic musicians & composers. The worship was incredible. But after a time, something went missing. As the bands became more proficient & the sound improved the sense of God’s presence diminished.
In Matt’s words, “The fire that used to characterize our worship had somehow grown cold.” Where once people would enter in no matter what, we’d now wait to see what the band was like first, how good the sound was, or whether we were ‘into’ the songs chosen.”
The pastor, Mike Pilavachi, decided to take some radical steps to turn things around. So one Sunday when the congregation arrived, they discovered the sound system had been removed & there was no one to lead worship.
Mike said, “When you come through the doors of the church on Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God? What are you going to sacrifice today?”
The first few meetings after that were awkward as people struggled to learn that true worship means offering one’s heart to God. Giving expression to that was difficult at first, but over several weeks, people realized worship is about more than singing songs.
It didn’t take long before the power & presence of God was renewed as they gathered to worship.
Over the next weeks they added the instruments back in. Matt shares, “Out of this season, I reflected on where we had come to as a church & wrote this song,”
When the music fades, All is stripped away, & I simply come;
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth That will bless Your heart.
I’ll bring You more than a song, For a song in itself Is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within Through the way things appear; You’re looking into my heart.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship, & it’s all about You, All about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, When it’s all about You, All about You, Jesus.
Brethren there is one thing God desires for us to carry into this world. It is not our fancy clothes, fancy houses, or expensive cars.
It is a changed life by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a testimony about the goodness of God verified by a heart that seeks Him above all else. That is the Gospel message of salvation in His Son that is written on our hearts.
When we seek God’s presence in our lives and are diligent to live for his glory then His joy and enabling power to live for him comes washing through our souls like a refreshing river. That is my prayer for you my readers.
As we walk this journey together may we be an encouragement to one another in godly living.