Dispatch One Hundred Ninety-Six

Posted: May 23, 2016 in Forty-Second Bundle
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2 SAMUEL 6:1-5, 12b-19

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, 19 and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

The Ark of the Covenant was about as close as ancient Israel was allowed to come in representing the deity named Yahweh, who had revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai through the burning bush. Graven images of the god (idols, reliefs, portraits) were prohibited, and even mental images (or concepts) of Yahweh were rejected by the more puritanical critics as sacrilegious attempts to reduce the transcendent mystery and holy otherness of Yahweh to visible and inferior form. While the Ark did not itself represent Yahweh, it was believed that the god resided in the sacred space between the outstretched wings of two golden cherubim positioned on either side.

As we might expect, and knowing the tendencies of human nature, there were some who made the Ark itself into an idol. A story from earlier in 1 Samuel tells of a terrible defeat suffered by the army of Israel at the hands of the Philistines, having advanced to the battle line in the belief that victory was guaranteed so long as the gold-plated war box was out in front. For his part, however, David appears to have kept the Ark in perspective, celebrating its history and presence with his people, but acknowledging all the while that the reality of God is beyond every symbol. Valid symbols and healthy ceremony relate us to the Divine without making absolute claims for themselves.

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