How to Worship

II Samuel 6

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2021

What does real worship look like?  Is what we do in most churches real worship?  Today, we are going to look at an important passage on worship.  It is interesting.  It is practical.  It is thought-provoking.  It raises some questions. As we read the chapter, eight questions stand out to me.

Eight Crucial Questions

Question One – Has God ever been mad at you?

Many preachers have said that God is not mad at you, but it sure looks like He is mad at someone in this chapter.  II Samuel 6:7 says, “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah” (NIV).  God was angry at Uzzah and Uzzah dropped dead.

God struck him dead and Uzzah was a believer.  He was not a pagan.  He was not an idol-worshipper.  He was a Jew.  His dad was the priest.  It is like one of the pastor’s kids dropping dead.  He will probably be in heaven. God killed him.  That is strange.

God judges two people in this chapter.  He judges a man, and He judges a woman. Uzzah loses his life and Michal, David’s wife, loses her fertility.  Michal was the woman in the window.  Instead of worshipping with David, like she should have been doing.  She is on the outside, criticizing and judging those who are worshipping.

She had a negative, judgmental critical spirit.  She despised her husband in her heart.  She mocked him. God kept her from having any kids. Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (II Samuel 6:23 NIV)

We think of infertility as just a medical condition today but, in this case, it was divine judgment.  In our culture today, some might see infertility as a blessing but, in that culture, it was considered a curse.

You say, “This is OT.  It is old covenant.  God does not do that today.  He doesn’t get angry at people today.  He does not get angry at believers.”  The only problem is that God’s nature has not changed.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Furthermore, the same thing happened in the NT.  It happened to Ananias and Saphira.  They were Christians.  They were members of the first church in Jerusalem.  Read Acts 5.  It is the NT that says, “our God is a consuming fire.”

Question Two – Have you ever been mad at God?

Many have experienced a terrible tragedy in their life, such as a monstrous crime, the death of a loved one, or loss of a child, and they are mad at God.  Sometimes, we do stupid things, get in trouble and blame God for our problems.

Proverbs 19:3 says, “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord” (NIV).

Some people in the Bible were mad at God.  Some of the greatest saints in the Bible were mad at God.  David was one of them (II Samuel 6:8) and he was a man after God’s own heart.

David was angry. He was angry at God.  He tried to bring the ark to Jerusalem.  He tried to put God first.  He tried to honor God and a man died.  If people were going to die, he did not want anything to do with it.  He let someone else take it. Some people stay angry and bitter forever.  They never get over it but David didn’t stay angry forever.

Question Three – Have you ever been afraid of God?

Should we be afraid of God? Most Christians have no fear of God.  Many see God just as their friend and buddy. The Bible talks about the FEAR of the Lord.  The Bible says that fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).  In this chapter, David was afraid of God (II Samuel 6:9).  Why?

A man in this chapter dropped dead.  God struck him dead, and people were afraid.  The same thing happened in the NT.  When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead, we are told that, not just fear but GREAT FEAR “seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11 NIV)

Question Four – How do you respond when you fail at something?

How do you react when you fail at something?  You try something and it does not work.  Your failure may even be public and embarrassing, like David’s was.  Many of us try something fail and just give up.  David tried to bring the ark into Jerusalem and failed.  Three months later, he tried again and this time he was successful.  He did not give up.

Question Five – Have you ever done the right thing and been punished?

How many of us have done the right thing and got in trouble for it?  In this chapter, the ark of God is being transported.  It starts to fall.  A man reaches out his hand to stop it from falling on the ground and he dies.

That seems a little harsh.  It seems a little excessive.  You touch something and you die.  You touch something that you are trying to protect.  It is like getting in trouble for trying to help someone.

It sounds like he did the right thing. It sounds like he did what anyone else would have done in that situation.  There is only one problem.  God said NOT to touch the ark, or you will die (Numbers 4:15).

The ark was so holy that it could never ever be touched by human hands.  You could not even touch it accidentally.  If anyone did, it would be instant death, like touching a live wire.  Uzzah defied the Word of God.  He defied God’s revealed will and did what seemed right to him.  Many still do that today.

Question Six – Is it wrong to dance in church?

Many churches say that it is.  The Bethlehem Christian Church in Elon, NC adopted a strong stand against dancing over a hundred years ago.  In 1898, it adopted a motion saying, “whereas dancing is a sin, therefore be it resolved that any member of this church engaging in any form of dancing shall be considered guilty of disorderly conduct and dealt with accordingly.” [1]

Many Baptist churches teach that dancing is a sin.  Are they right?  Sometimes dancing is wrong.  Some worldly dancing today is without question sin.  It can also lead to sin.

Herodias’ daughter danced before Herod before John the Baptist was executed (Matthew 14:6).  Erotic dancing involved when Israel worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32:6) but all dancing is NOT sin.

King Solomon said that there is a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Psalm 150:4 says, “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” (NIV).  David dances in this chapter.  He is not just dancing.  He is dancing in worship.

This is a worship dance.  This was not Dancing with the Stars.  It was NOT entertainment.  It was worship.  Our chapter says that “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might” (II Samuel 6:14 NIV).

It is interesting to me that when we think of David in the Bible, we think of David the SHEPHERD.  That is what he was as a young boy.  We think of David the POLITICIAN.  We think of David the king. When we think of David, we think of David the MUSICIAN.  He played the harp.

When we think of David, we think of David the WARRIOR.  He was a military man.  He was a soldier.  He was a fighter.  He knew how to fight.  He knew how to use a slingshot.  He killed Goliath.

When we think of David, we think of David the WRITER.  He wrote Scripture.  When we think of David, we think of David the ACTOR.  He acted like he was completely crazy before the Philistine king.

Now we see another side of David. In II Samuel 6, we see David the DANCER.  He had some moves.  David was definitely NOT a Baptist.  He was leaping (II Samuel 6:14).  He was spinning.  There is a big contrast here between Uzzah and David.  One is dead and one is dancing.  One is face down on the ground and one is leaping in the air. [2]

Question Seven – Have you ever had marriage problems?

Everyone who has been married has some marriage problems.  No one has a perfect marriage.  What we don’t think about is people in the Bible having marriage problems, but they did.  Pastors sometimes have marriage problems.  Apostles had marriage problems.  Prophets had marriage problems.  Anointed kings had marriage problems.

David, a man after God’s own heart, had marriage problems.  Some of those problems were his own fault.  Having multiple wives didn’t help.  Having an affair didn’t help his marriage either.  Other times, they were not his fault.

David just finished blessing the nation, comes home to bless his family and when he gets home, he arrives to a battle zone.  David created a revival in the nation.  He brought unity and worship back in the nation.  People are happy.  They are celebrating but not Michal.  She is angry perhaps because David is more popular than her dad was.  Her dad was King Saul.

Instead of encouraging, and supporting him for what he had done, his wife Michal is angry with David.  She is bitter and sarcastic.  She mocks him.  What is even worse, she criticizes him.  David is out worshipping, and she is critical.  Have you ever criticized the way someone else worshipped?  Many act just like Michal, even today.

Question Eight – Have you ever been falsely accused?

Many of us have been false accused at some time in our life.  Joseph was falsely accused of a sex crime by Potiphar’s wife.  David was falsely accused by his own wife.

Michal accused him of being undignified.  She accused him of unkinglike behavior.  She accused him of immodesty.  She accused him of exposing himself in public.  She accuses him of being an exhibitionist.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (II Samuel 6:20 NIV)

Of course, it was not true.  It was a lie.  David did take off his royal robes, but he was NOT naked, and he did NOT apologize. He does not back down and say, “I am sorry you were offended by what I did.”  In fact, he doubled down and said he would do it again and even more.  He even gets a few digs in about her father, King Saul.

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (II Samuel 6:21-22 NIV)

The Return of the Ark

What is going on in this chapter?  The ark gets a new home. What exactly is the ark?  Why is David bringing it to Jerusalem?  Why is it important?  If you don’t understand that, this chapter will not make much sense.

This was the third thing David did since becoming king.  First, he conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital.  Second, he defeated the Philistines in two battles.  Third, he recovered the ark and brought it to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem became not only the political capital; it became the religious capital.  This was huge.

It is hard for us to understand.  We do not have anything like the ark in the world today.  We don’t have anything like it in the church today. The ark goes back to the time of Moses.  It was a little wooden box.  It was covered with gold and it was holy.  It was so holy that you could not see it or touch it.

This box did not just contain some religious relics.  It had some of those.  It had the Ten Commandments written on two stone tablets with the finger of God.  This box represented the presence of God.  It was the place of His presence.  God’s presence and glory filled this box.  This seems a little strange, God in a box.

God is not limited to a box.  He is not limited to the Temple.  He is not limited to church.  God is omnipresent.  He is not confined to a box or one location.  He is everywhere present.  He fills heaven and earth but, in the OT, He manifested His presence in a unique and special way to His people.

God does not manifest His presence on earth today.  God is not doing that today in a physical way.  For over eight hundred years, God manifested his presence on the earth in a theocracy.  We do not have a theocracy today.  We do not have a pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire at night.

The Philistines captured it in battle.  They stole it and took it home and put it in one of their pagan temples, but bad things kept happening to them, so they got rid of it.  They put it on a cart and hitched it to some cows who led it for miles to Israel.  What happened to it next?

They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. (I Samuel 7:1-2 NIV)

Abinadab kept the ark for twenty years.  When David became king, he decided it was time to move it from the border of the country (Kiriath Jearim) to the center of the country (Jerusalem).  David wanted to bring the presence of God back to Jerusalem.  He wanted to bring the presence of God to the capital of the nation.

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals. (II Samuel 6:1-5 NIV)

Thirty thousand people go to get the ark.  The Philistines’ no longer have possession of it.  Aminadab has it and he lives in Kiriath Jearim.  They get the ark and begin the nine-to-ten-mile trip from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem.

The ark was placed on a new cart.  They did not want to carry it nine miles.  A cart was more convenient, so it was placed on a cart, pulled by oxen and guided by two of Aminadab’s sons.  They were familiar with the ark.  It had been in their house for twenty years.  Everyone is happy.  Everyone is celebrating and then the ark comes to the place of Nakon (which means “to smite”).

Then the oxen started the stumble and the ark started to fall.  Uzzah reaches out to touch the ark and he drops dead.  Suddenly, the music stops.  The worship stops.  David is angry and he is afraid.  He does not want anything to do with the ark, because some other people might drop dead as well, so he took it to the house of Obed-Edom (II Samuel 6:10).

Nobody else wanted the ark.  People were dropping dead but Obed-Edom said, “I will take it.”  Obed-Edom took a risk and invited God into his home and something amazing happened. We are told that God blessed Obed-Edom (II Samuel 6:11).  The ark stayed in his home for three months.

God blessed the fire out of him, as our pastor would say.  He allowed God into his home.  He invited God into his home and God blessed him and his whole family for three months.  What would God do if we invited him into our home?

Apparently, he obeyed what the Bible says about the ark.  He didn’t touch it.  Hopefully, he did not have any little kids running around in his house, playing.  They might see it and say, “What’s this little golden box?  Can we play with it?”  Obed-Edom obeyed the Word and was blessed, and we can be too.

Three Principles of Worship

What is the application from II Samuel 6 for today?  This chapter tells us how to worship.  It gives us three principles of worship.

1) We are to worship biblically

Uzzah died because he didn’t read his Bible.  The Bible said not to touch the ark.  He touched it.  Not knowing the Word cost him his life.  The leaders of the nation did not do things biblically.  They brought the ark back on a cart.  It was a new cart, but it was still a cart.  Leaders of churches today do not always follow the Word either.

What is wrong with carts?  Nothing but God said that the ark was not to be transported that way.  It gave a very specific way to transport the ark.  Only certain people could move it (Levites).  They could move it only a certain way (on poles) and there were certain things they could not do.  They could not touch the ark or look at it.  It had to be covered.

Jesus said that worship has to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  It has to be biblical.  Where did the Jews get the idea to bring the ark back on a cart?  They got it from the Philistines.  That was how they moved it in I Samuel 6.

We have some new carts in the church today.  We have churches that throw out what God says and does what the world does.  This is Oxcart Christianity.  It follows the world, rather than God.  We have churches that teach gay marriage and do many other things contrary to Scripture.

2) We are to worship passionately

That is the second thing we see in this passage.  There is praise.  People are blessing God.  There is worship.  People are making animal sacrifices to God (burnt offerings, peace offerings).  There is music, all kinds of music, stringed instruments (lyre) and percussion instruments (harp, cymbal, timbrel, castanet and cistrum).  It was not quiet and somber.  It was loud.

There was shouting (II Samuel 6:15).  There was not just music, loud music (cymbals, trumpets).  There is dancing and leaping.  Psalm 1492-3 says, “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (NIV)

Does this describe our worship?  It is passionate?  Do we do it with all our might (II Samuel 6:5), like they did or are we half asleep when we worship?  Do we do it before the Lord (II Samuel 6:5).  This was not a performance before people.  It was all for God.  Is there passion, enthusiasm and emotion in your worship?

3) We are to worship reverently

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. (II Samuel 6:6-7 NIV)

Reverence has become a dirty word today but reverence is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing. We can have joy and reverence at the same time.  Uzzah died because of a lack of reverence.  God struck him dead because of his irreverence.  That is what the text says.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably WITH REVERENCE and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV)

We have a problem today with a lack of reverence in society.  There is no respect for teachers, for parents, for law enforcement, for government leaders.  There is a lack of respect for authority today.  There is a lack of respect for God who is THE ultimate authority.

We see irreverence by comedians.  In fact, when people today talk about a comedian being irreverent, it is seen as a good thing.  The problem is that this same spirit has crept into the church.  Some preachers are irreverent.  They show a lack of respect for God and His Word.  When you mock the Bible, you are not reverent.  When you mock God, you are not reverent.


[2] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, 111.

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