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.
When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day…
…So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 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.
…David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.’ And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
David was a pretty boy. When Samuel picked him out to succeed Saul as King he was the Cinderella of the family – left on the hillside to keep the sheep while his elders and betters met the prophet in Jesse’s house at Bethlehem. He became Prince Charming – red-haired, beautiful eyes and handsome (1 Samuel 16). He ruled for 40 years through good times and bad, always a charmer, especially with other men’s wives. Senior Citizens like me saw the movie: “David and Bathsheba” (Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward 1951). David was chosen to do God’s work not because he was a saint but because he knew in his heart that he was God’s servant before he could be Israel’s king, whether he liked it or not, We are chosen too.
David “danced before the Lord” with all his people – the cymbals, tambourines, and harps joined in. You don’t get that in “Strictly”. David danced before the Lord, not the Ark. The Ark was only the symbol of God’s presence, accompanying Israel on their wanderings and battles. Their neighbours and enemies had special places where the gods lived: sacred shrines and special stones. But Israel’s God was everywhere and anywhere. The Ark was their reassurance; it was powerful (see “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) but not the reality, David knew that, and that was why he danced wearing nothing more than a linen ephod, not like a king, but like a priest, a servant of God, much to his straight-laced wife’s disgust, David knew it was better to dance for joy in your boxers than pretend to be what you are not. Reflect on this moment in the great story of our deliverance, from the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and on to Jerusalem to find the King of Kings dancing to his cross so that we might be the forgiven and redeemed people of God (“The Greatest Story Ever Told” Technicolour 1965).
Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise Thee, In my heart, though not in heaven, I can raise Thee; Small it is in this poor sort to enrol Thee, E’en eternity’s too short to extol Thee
The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod and a member of St Andrew’s URC, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.