Sunday night I spoke on Psalm 68: a psalm of David used in the procession of the Ark of the Covenant into the newly conquered city of Jerusalem. It’s an epic psalm that tells more like a story with God as the main hero in the past, present and future. If you want to know more about it, you can listen to my sermon here.
But, as with all sermons that have a targeted length or goal, some stuff that I would have loved to talk about had to get cut… so this little tidbit is “From the cutting room floor.”
One of the big take-aways from Psalm 68 is a radical and life altering understanding of who God is and how He has been at work, is working, and will work in the future SO THAT we will trust Him completely. He is the Hero and the God who Saves. However, sometimes when we have a psalm or a sermon that says, “Trust God, hope in God,” can sound pithy and shallow.
“It’s just not that easy.”
And you’re right, it’s not easy. But don’t believe for a minute that David, the author of this psalm, made these claims in any sort of shallow or insincere way. He had to work hard to trust God, and the events surrounding this psalm show us just how much.
In my sermon I read from 1 Chronicles 15:25-28 in order to depict this triumphal procession with the ark into Jerusalem. The problem is… this wasn’t the first attempt, and the first try didn’t go so well.
We read in 1 Chronicles 13 that David had conferred with his commanders and the “whole assembly of Israel” about bringing the ark into the city. So David assembles a vast crowd and again “David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets.” Just like in chapter 15 it is more than just a procession, it is a parade in God’s honor. It is a party for the Lord. And I have to speculate that if Psalm 68 was written for the ark coming into the city, that they must have sung it as part of these first festivities as well.
But then tragedy occurs.
The ark, traveling on a cart, starts to slip and one of the men guiding it reaches out his hand to steady it… “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. (1 Chron 13:10) “
A man dies.
The party ended. The parade canceled. The ark was left at a nearby house. “David was afraid of God that day and asked, ‘How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?’ (13:12)”
Now, Uzzah died because he did not take God’s holiness serious enough and because they disobeyed God’s commands as to how the ark should be moved (poles, not cart and oxen). It was righteous wrath against rebellion doing the things of God by man’s ways.
But my point is less about Uzzah and why he died and more about getting back to 1 Chronicles 15. You see, David was angry and scared. He was sad for the death of this man, and it took him a while before he was ready to try again, 3 months to be exact. David was burdened, David was uncertain, but once again he chose to sing:
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens. Selah
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
Part of me wonders if David added the “Selah” for the second time that they sang it, just so they’d pause and remember. Remember the death of Uzzah, but also how God can and does carry these kinds of burdens and gives the ultimate escape from death.
So, did David know what it was to go through tough times? He was responsible for man’s death! And yet, he still calls upon us to trust this God who saves.