In a short number of chapters (since 1 Samuel 22:2), David has accumulated thirty thousand chosen men of Israel from the curiously named lords of Judah, Baale-judah, to finally retrieve the ark of covenant on which the LORD of hosts, the Father and First Person of the Trinity sits enthroned (v.2). Here we must remember that the ark has been neglected during the reign of Saul, since 1 Samuel 7.
Yet, in the midst of merry worship (v.5-8) is a horrifying scene of Uzzah’s death. In spite of the new cart (v.3) which carried the ark, the stumbling of the oxen meant that the foundation of the cart was unstable. Yet, Uzzah’s sin did not merely manifest upon the touching of the ark as traditionally interpreted as God’s holy wrath burning against the sinful unprotected flesh, not robed by the garments of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Rather, as Matthew Henry meticulously noted,
“Uzzah thereupon laid hold of it, to save it from falling, we have reason to think with a very good intention, to preserve the reputation of the ark and to prevent a bad omen. Yet this was his crime. Uzzah was a Levite, but priests only might touch the ark. The law was express concerning the Kohathites, that, though they were to carry the ark by the staves [my emphasis added], yet they must not touch any holy thing, lest they die, Num_4:15. Uzzah’s long familiarity with the ark, and the constant attendance he had given to it, might occasion his presumption, but would not excuse it.”
The key thing here is that the staves where not used; the staves/poles (Exodus 25:14) which were appointed by God to be the method which by which the Levites were to carry the ark. What presumption it is therefore to carry God on a new cart, as if there could be a man-made foundation which could only stumble? Instead, the key focus here is that the household of Uzzah is the cause of this new cart, which relied on the movement of a mere animal. Is this not the key reversal at the dreadful fall of man in Genesis 3, that the God and man relationship is inverted where we have worshipped the brute, the animal-serpent over God? This is why God is so angry, that we should presume to be able to touch the Father in heaven and that this was brought about because we have placed an oxen as the foundation before the ark itself. And this is the same lesson learnt by the men who bore the ark of the LORD (v.13) instead of carrying it on a cart which relies on the stability of an animal rather than the stability of priestly men as types of Christ carrying the ark as an analogy to preaching in the Name of His Father. No oxen dares to bear that role, and no man who by man’s strength (as Uzzah is so aptly named) could arrange for the Father to arrive by the way of an animal when the First Person has ordained the arrival to come by way of the true Levite, the true King David, the true Priest-King.
And so this provocation of anger (v.8) in David’s heart is not that of David being furious against God; the Hebrew charah (חרה) suggests the possibility that it is a vexation against oneself, and a general fear that God cannot be with us. What a ridiculous notion, that the King of Israel should fear the ark, and yet a little servant such as Obed-Edom, the servant of Edom (Esau) should receive the ark so pleasurably and be blessed by God (v.11-12)!
Yet, these things shall be no meaning until we take these verses into the wider context of chapter 6, and further into the wider context of God’s grand plan of salvation. Where in chapter 5 we witness Baal-perazim, where the LORD burst through the Philistines, here we see Perez-Uzzah, a bursting forth upon Uzzah. This parallel is brought to recognition when we see the fall of Israel in the second book of Kings despite God protecting Israel in her early days. And similarly, just as God had burst forth upon the Philistines, so He bursted forth onto Uzzah who represented the foolish Levite who disobeyed the mandate of tabernacle management and denied Christ His due glory. Is not Uzzah, the strong man, a representative of those in physical Israel who perceive themselves as strong? Perceive themselves are arrogant enough to carry the weight of the ark? Perceive themselves as clever enough to provide a new cart which balanced on the idolatrous oxen (Exodus 32)?
Instead, the presence of the Father goes to Obed-Edom, the “servant of Edom”, the rejected brother of Jacob. This Gittite, he who belongs to Gath, is the definitive mark of the Gentile; and so we see here the New Testament period shadowed in the ark going to Obed-Edom. Salvation is first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles – and so we see the Jews rejecting the ark, even the king rejecting the ark, and instead the Father blesses the Gentiles. This jealousy (Romans 10-11) would then lead to the ark being brought back to Israel whereupon the second iteration of bringing the ark to the city of David is successful, upon the blood of ox and a fattened animal. Although it is not indicative of whether it is the same ox which caused the stumbling (v.6), this is symbolic of the death of the animal and the birth of new life after six steps before the throne of the Father (1 Kings 10:9, the calf head being at the head of the throne) – and so the ark’s re-entry into Israel by way of the Gentiles is the mark of the new covenant, by the death of the enemy in Christ Jesus:
“So in summary, from the Old Testament, we learn that the Law is in essence the Old Covenant, although it is under-girded and talks extensively about the New. Its primary purpose is to show the Person and Works of the Anointed One, the Prophet, Priest and King, and how He is the Righteous One, He is just, He is holy, He is God’s beloved, He will inherent the land. From this Israel and the world become aware that they are not God’s chosen Messiah, they made aware that only Him, Joshua will enter the promised land. They are not made sinful by the law, but they become aware through the law that they are sinful already, because of Adam, because of the flesh. They are told that refuge, and blessings await within the Messiah, who is God, and are pleaded with time and time again to love Him, to trust Him, to obey Him, to put their faith in Him. The world is also told that those who do trust Him, they will dwell in peace with God forever, under the eternal covenant, in the eternal land. Moses in Deuteronomy pleads with stiff-necked people to obey the commandment (singular), which is to love the Lord their God, to trust in Him – that is the whole commandment, just like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did.” – Dev Menon in his “Law and Gospel” essay
And so David danced before the LORD as the King-Priest in his linen ephod (c.f. Exodus 28 – the ephod to be worn by the priest), the joy of the typological Son dancing before the Father as the Kingdom of Israel is truly restored in Triunity.
Yet, in the face of this joy is the immediate contrast of Michal’s despising of David (v.16). What she despised was not merely David’s etiquette; what she despised was His God – what she despised was the whole picture of salvation, of familial blessings brought through the partaking of the Trinitarian love (v.14-20), such awesome distribution that no human secular government communist, capital or other could ever provide. Her words of spite, “How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself” (v.20) is therefore not merely a strong opinion against David’s ‘inappropriateness’, for David immediately appeals to the one explanation. “It was before the LORD” (v.21). Should there be any other explanation? When one is naked before the LORD as in the days before the fall (c.f. Genesis 2), but that this recapitulation is of greater glory than that experienced in the Garden of Eden, should Michal despise such a fundamental truth rooted in the very history of the race of adam? “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death (v.23)”. The Promised One shall not be born through her, not through a woman who wholeheartedly despised the reunion caused by the ark of the covenant; Saul’s line thus continues to diminish one by one.