Bringing the Text to Life

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Moving God 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Moving God

It's not about us moving God; it's about God moving us.

At a Glance

How can we move our stuff? Let's count the ways: pods or containers, u-drive trucks, bus, car, overhead containers, air, ship. The moving industry is changing before our eyes. It seems like almost every day we are hearing about new startups that offer easier, cheaper and more innovative ways to move our stuff. In today's OT reading, David has one objective: move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Doesn't sound too hard. But then, something goes wrong.

Editors' Pick

For material based on today's epistle text, see "Look-Alikes," July 16, 2006, at

You'd think that we could not possibly have a problem with storing our stuff.

Why would we think this?

Because over the past 50 years, the average size of the American home has tripled!

Because many of these homes have two-car garages -- in which to store stuff.

How many of us with two-car garages can actually park two cars in the garage?

This is why 1 out of 10 Americans rent off-site storage, and why there are upward of 50,000 storage facilities, and 7.3 square feet of storage space per every man, woman and child.

And then, inevitably, we need to move the stuff in the storage space.

How can we move our stuff? Let's count the ways: pods or containers, u-drive trucks, bus, car, overhead containers, air, ship.

The moving industry is changing before our eyes. It seems like almost every day we hear about new startups that offer easier, cheaper and more innovative ways to move our stuff. Similar to what Amazon did with the publishing industry and then with retail, and the impact Uber is having on the taxicab industry, entrepreneurs are aiming to disrupt the moving industry as well.

While new technology is one driver of change, there are larger shifts in society that are driving different expectations for service. What we move and the ways we choose to move are also in flux.

For example, on-demand storage companies like Closetbox and Clutter give people the option to outsource their storage needs versus the traditional self-storage model. These companies will pick up your stuff, take it away, and bring it back when you need it. There are also on-demand transportation and labor companies that specialize in small moves or delivering furniture bought at a local store or even via Craigslist.

King David had a storage problem and he had a moving problem.

The storage problem was that the Philistines had the Ark of the Covenant which properly belonged to Israel. It wasn't right that the enemy of Israel had the Ark in storage.

He had a moving problem because he had some stuff -- some really holy stuff -- to move. He had to move the Ark from the control of the Philistines to his new Jebusite capital of Jerusalem.

David and his people had one job to do, and they screwed it up.

You don't move God in an ox-cart.

The Philistines had used a cart to send the Ark. David copied what they'd done. What was he thinking?

What is the Ark?

What is the Ark? This question should probably be addressed, because the word is not used in common, everyday English. The word is virtually archaic, and if we do recognize it, we think first of Noah's ark, and assume that an ark is a really big boat. (See Exodus 25:10-22 for a description of the Ark of the Covenant.)

The Ark was basically home to the presence and glory of God. It contained the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron, as well as a golden pot of manna.

The instructions for transporting this Ark were specific. It was always covered in a certain way with skins and a blue cloth, virtually concealed as it was moved from one location to another in the 40-year wandering in the wilderness before reaching the Jordan under Joshua's leadership. The transportation people entrusted with the job of moving God in the Ark were the Levites and particularly the priestly class.

There's nothing in there about an ox-cart.

As for its size, it was about the size of a large trunk, maybe 4 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet -- something like that, give or take. It was carried by means of two poles threaded through brass rings on either side, as porters might carry a settee for a Far East potentate.

And it had a history. It was linked to a number of miracles. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan before entering the Promised Land for the first time, the waters of the Jordan parted as the Red Sea had parted decades earlier during the seminal event they called the Exodus.

As the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, they encountered formidable resistance at Jericho. The priests carried the Ark around the city for a week, and on the seventh day, the walls came down.

This was the beginning of the Ark's association with military success and it became a sort of military talisman or mascot, and now, as we look at our text, the Ark which had been captured by the Philistines, was now about to return to its true home -- like a trophy being returned to the city in which it belonged.

The story

Israel, suffering a defeat at the hands of the Philistines (losing 4,000 men), concluded that their loss was due to the absence of the Ark. "Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies" (1 Samuel 4:3, emphasis added).

So they brought the Ark to battle -- to no avail. But the Philistines, although fearful of the presence of Israel's sacred relic, rallied, and in the subsequent battle, soundly defeated the Israelites, resulting in the death of more than 30,000. The Ark, too, was captured, and two of Eli's sons died.

Now, years have passed. The leadership of Israel fell to Samuel and then to their first king Saul and then to David. When the latter was anointed king, the Philistines went hunting for him. David met them, and the armies of Israel defeated the Philistines -- without the Ark. David then gathered 30,000 men to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines and bring it to Jerusalem.

He put it in a new cart, and the procession began, accompanied with music and dancing.

But the cart hit a pothole or something, and Uzzah, walking beside the cart, reached out to steady the Ark, and God struck him dead because he had dared to touch the Ark of the Covenant.

This was a definite buzz kill, and the Ark went no further. It was placed in the hands of a certain Obed-edom and there it stayed for three months. And this family was blessed because of its presence.

Seeing how God blessed Obed-edom, David decides to move God again, and this time he does it right.

So how do we move God?

Very carefully.

So what can we learn from this?

Here are some ideas that might stimulate your thinking as you prepare to preach on this text.

1. We want God's presence with us as we journey through life. David had moved his capital to Jerusalem and he wanted to move God. He wanted God to be where he was. The presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem was ceremonially and symbolically significant.

Who doesn't want God to go with them and to be with them in life? We all do. If we're faithful Christians, we are anxious not to make any big decisions or changes in our lives unless we feel that we're in the will of God.

David's desire to have the Ark moved to Jerusalem was a good one. Our hope that God will be with us through all of the events of our lives is also a good one. God does not want us to be alone, and we aren't.

2. God does not need protecting. Let's not presume to speak for God, set God right or move God back into a proper safe position. A God who needs our protection is no god at all, and we've then assumed God-like duties.

Often, we feel as though we need to speak up for God against what we believe are pernicious errors, doctrinal mistakes, cultural misinterpretations and so on. Perhaps there's nothing wrong with this. But we should probably use caution when claiming to speak for God.

3. God is in the details. David learned quickly that there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. Sometimes, our motives might be pure and our intentions laudable, but the methodology leaves something to be desired. We're impatient when patience is needed; we're unkind when kindness would be better; we're stubborn when flexibility is needed; we're more inclined to talk when listening is critical.

4. David learned that it was not all about him. And it is not all about us. In the first attempt, he travels with a huge entourage as king; in the second, he's wearing the same robes as the priests (1 Chronicles 15:27).

5. Follow Scripture. In his second attempt, David does it right (see 1 Chronicles 15). He makes elaborate preparations to bring the Ark from Obed-edom's house. In the first attempt, they had a committee meeting and overwhelmingly voted yes, and moved the Ark on a cart.

In fact, the priests were supposed to carry it.

No committee was needed.

Scripture was needed.

"When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the Kohathites shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, or they will die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the Kohathites are to carry" (Numbers 4:15). For Christians, the Bible is our authoritative source of how to live godly lives.

6. David's first plan failed. But that was not the end of the story. David was not a person who gave up. He recognized that a failure was simply a step on the path to ultimate success.

We all fail at something. But a failure is not the end but the beginning of something new. With a failure, we have a chance to go back to square one and do something entirely different, or to tweak and massage our first effort until we get it right.

We really don't need to move God.

Rather, we really want to be in a frame of mind in which we're willing to let God move us.

God, as the ancient philosopher Aristotle noted, is the Unmoved Mover or Prime Mover. God has never been moved; it is God who does the moving.

Let's be willing for God to move us when and how God wants to move us.

Possible Preaching Themes:

+ The value or importance God places on obedience, even down to the smallest details

+ Weird worship -- David dancing in the streets

+ How to ensure that we're moving with God

Participation Pointers:

+ Go online and search: "What did the ark of the covenant look like?" Select IMAGES and you will find a number of possibilities that you can show on a screen or even print in the worship bulletin.

+ See the YouTube clip of the scene in which the Ark is discovered in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Time: 1:39.

+ In verse 19, we read: "Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each." Perhaps the fellowship time after the service could feature raisin bread and date bread.


Becker, Joshua. "21 surprising statistics that reveal how much stuff we actually own." Retrieved January 22, 2018.

Gregory, Jennifer. "How we'll move in 2016: The future of moving.", December 7, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2018.

Lovett, Richard A. and Scot Hoffman. "Ark of the Covenant." National Geographic. Retrieved January 15, 2018.

Alternative Sermon Idea

Keeping God in the Box

The worship of God must be scriptural -- do it (6:1-5): "They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill."

The worship of God must be spiritual -- believe it (6:6, 7): "When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled."

The worship of God must be sensorial -- feel it (6:8-15): "Then David was angry because the Lord's wrath had broken out against Uzzah."

The worship of God must be sentimental -- mean it (6:16-23): "She saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord."

--Thanks to the Rev. Dr. Steven D. Eutsler and adapted from a longer version of his material.

Worship Resources

Music Links


All Creatures of Our God and King

Sing with Hearts

Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty


Praise You with the Dance


Dance of Praise

†For licensing and permission to reprint or display these songs on screen, go to The Praise songs suggested by Homiletics

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on 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

from Jul 15, 2018

David's installing of the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem, found in today's reading, was one of the pivotal events in ancient Israel's religious and political history. In one action, David consolidated his power and authority as both a political and a religious leader, began the process of centralizing religious and political authority in Jerusalem and laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Is... Read more (you must be logged in to read the commentary)

Animating Illustrations

We were getting ready for the big move. An appointment change. Leaving for a new town, a new community, a new home and a new church and of all things, the moving truck was late. 

Our four boys had worked diligently to pack all their stuff, and my husband and I had worked for weeks making sure everything was packed and ready for the movers.

But where were they? 

Finally, they showed up -- three hours late! And instead of getting right to loading up our furniture, they walked through every room of the house making lists. Then they stood in the driveway for 10 minutes talking. 

Finally, they broke huddle and came into the house again, but they didn't move one piece of furniture. Instead, they tagged every item that would be loaded onto the truck. 

"Oh, for heaven's sake," I said to my husband, "this is going to take forever." 

After about 30 minutes, it appeared that everything was tagged with our moving number on it. "Now we can start moving," I thought to myself. 

But I was wrong. The moving crew walked out of the truck carrying tape and large rolls of plastic and protective covers. They taped padding around the door frames, rolled every piece of furniture and covered the main traffic areas of the house with plastic. Three hours later, they picked up the first piece of furniture. Within 90 minutes, every item was on the moving truck. 

It turns out that the early huddle was a planning session to determine where the big items would go inside the truck. And all the padding and plastic wrap kept everything safe so they could move down hallways and through doors really quickly.

And best of all, we showed up at our new destination right on time. 

So preparation, having a clear plan and following directions really does make all the difference.

--Rev. Stacie Williams, Wesley Church, Springfield, Missouri.

In 597 and 586 B.C., the Babylonian Empire conquered the Israelites, and the Ark, at the time supposedly stored in the Temple in Jerusalem, vanished from history. Whether it was destroyed, captured or hidden -- nobody knows.

One of the strongest claims about the Ark's whereabouts is that before the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, it had found its way to Ethiopia, where it still resides in the town of Aksum, in the Saint Mary of Zion cathedral. Church authorities, however, say only one man, the guardian of the Ark, is allowed to see it, and they have never permitted it to be studied for authenticity.

Another claim is that the Ark was hidden in a warren of passages beneath the First Temple in Jerusalem before the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. But that theory can't be tested either, because the site is home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, sacred in Islam. Digging beneath it simply isn't an option.

A third claim came from the late Ron Wyatt, an amateur archaeologist who said that in 1982 he found the Ark beneath the hill on which Christ was rumored to have been crucified. Blood from the crucifixion, he claimed, had dripped from the cross through a fissure in the rock and onto the Ark. But nobody has ever seen it again, and Wyatt also claimed a number of other archaeological finds that most scholars find dubious.

Perhaps the most famous quest for the Ark was on the big screen. In the 1981 movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, adventure hero Indiana Jones must find the Ark before the Nazis, who intend to use its power for world domination.

Searches for such biblical relics are compelling, says archaeologist and National Geographic Society fellow Fred Hiebert, but ultimately doomed to failure. Even if there is an ancient, Ark-like object in Ethiopia, he asks, how do you determine it's the one from the Bible?

"We are talking about things [at] the crossroads between myth and reality," he said. 'I think it's great to have stories like [that of] the Ark of the Covenant. But I do not believe, as a field archaeologist, that we can use the scientific method to prove or disprove [them]."

--Richard A. Lovett and Scot Hoffman, "Ark of the Covenant." National Geographic. Retrieved January 15, 2018.

We love animals. But we ask customers to confine their pets on moving day. It keeps the little critters out from underfoot so we can work more efficiently. A few years back, when we moved a lady to Idaho, she was careful to keep her cats contained while we packed and loaded. Apparently she was not careful enough.

When we arrived at the new home and took the stretch wrap off the hide-a-bed, out popped three cats. They were unhurt, but thirsty, after their two days of confinement in the back of our van. Later, the van operator told me: "I heard some meows at night when I was trying to sleep. But I thought for sure they were coming from outside the truck."

I wish we had a videotape of that moment when the stretch-wrap came off. I bet it would get a million views on YouTube.

--Ernie's Van & Storage Blog, July 31, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2018.

The Ark of the Covenant is not the first biblical example of moving God -- or gods. In Genesis 31, when Jacob is preparing to part ways with his father-in-law Laban, his wife Rachel "steals her father's household gods" -- a collection of idols (31:19).

The incident of the household gods -- so clearly forbidden under two of the Ten Commandments (the ones proscribing idolatry and theft) -- has caused consternation among students of the Bible ever since. Later generations have explained it as a prophetic act on Rachel's part: exposing the absurdity of her father's idolatry. Just as likely, it could be a carry-over from an earlier part of the Patriarchal tradition, when the concept of a portable god didn't seem that unusual.

Preachers who use media during their worship services may find it useful to show some of these "Hilarious Moving Fails" images: There's another collection here: Retrieved January 9, 2018.

Children's Sermon

As the children gather, tell them that today you're going to go on a pretend trip, and everyone needs to help pack what we are going to take. "Deciding what to take is a game we're going to play using the alphabet beginning with the letter A." Choose a child to say, "I am going on a trip and I am going to take an ______."  Call on the second child, instructing her to repeat what the first child said and then choose an item that starts with a B. As the game progresses, you can ask the younger children to think of the item and the older children to repeat the preceding items. Play as long as time (or attention) allows. Then ask them if we would really take all that stuff on holiday. Probably not, but what would we take for sure? Ask the children if any of them have moved from one place to another, either traveling to a new city or state or from one house to another house in the same city. Do we pack in the same way as when we go on vacation? No, of course not; we take everything with us. Whether we are taking a trip or moving, who is always with us, no matter where we go? Yes, Jesus is always with us and we always come home to him no matter where we go. Close with a prayer: "Dear Jesus, we thank for being our constant friend and companion. Please help us to remember. Amen."