David solidifies his reign with the return of the ark of the covenant. It has been in Abinadab’s possession since it was returned by their enemies. This is the key to David’s reign because it was believed that God communicated from between the cherubim on the ark’s cover. This was God Himself coming to reside with David, with Israel, and to bless them. But this journey brings a few confusing stories with it.
The first is the story of Uzzah. As the ark travels on a cart pulled by oxen, they stumble and Uzzah reaches out “to take hold of the ark of God.” Most assume it was to steady the ark so it didn’t fall, but the text never mentions this. Like the disciples in the boat in which Jesus slept while the storm raged, Uzzah decides to take God’s safety into his own hands and pays a dear price for his lack of faith. But there is plenty more wrong with this picture. God had strictly said that only priests could carry the ark, and nobody was to touch it. Instead, it sat on a cart pulled by oxen like a piece of luggage. Looks like David and company need to re-read their Pentateuch!
After this, and remembering the ark’s capture and subsequent destruction of Philistine city after city that tried to hold it wrongfully, David decides not to take the ark to Jerusalem after all. He leaves it in the care of Obed-Edom, until Obed-Edom’s household is miraculously blessed by God. Only then does David return for the ark properly. This time, the ark is carried, and every six steps he sacrifices a bull and calf. While still not correct, it does show respect for God.
Yet Michal, David’s politically-binding wife and daughter of King Saul, is not impressed. She scolds David for his embarrassing display of worship, and is subsequently cursed with barrenness because of her own lack of respect for God, her husband, and her King.
Our culture has little to do with respect, seeking familiarity instead, but as we see today, respect for God is a deeply important thing.