Come with Joy

November 8, 2020/2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5

In a country that prides itself on its democratic government, we would do well to recognize that even the best governments – and leaders – are often quirky and difficult and downright messy.  If we had any doubts, if we were under the illusion that the “perfect” candidate was out there, just waiting for our vote, here comes King David, dancing through the streets of Hebron.

David had a modest enough beginning.  He was just a young boy when Samuel traveled to his home, under orders from God to find and anoint a replacement for Saul.  (Saul started out well enough himself, but by this time the power had gone to his head, and it was time for a change.)  Remember how Samuel checked out each of Jesse’s sons, leaning an ear to hear God’s whispers – no, not this one.  No, he’s not the one – until finally he turned to Jesse in exasperation.  Is this all of your sons?  Not even his own father had any idea that little David, sent out to keep the sheep from wandering off, was meant to be king of Israel.

Brought into Saul’s court, David got his start playing music.  The little guy had a way with music, by all accounts crafting poetry that would be sung for centuries to come.  He was pleasant to have around, and Saul took a liking to him, promoting him to armor bearer.  It’s still not clear how David came to think he could defeat the powerful Goliath.  He was so slight of build, so small, that he couldn’t even carry the weight of Saul’s armor.  So he set out across the battlefield to meet the giant carrying only his sling and a few stones.  At first, his victory pleased Saul.  But the more the people sang of David’s heroic deeds, the madder he got.

In those early years, David seemed like the perfect heir to the throne – nice looking, artistic, cunning.  “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (I Sam. 30:6), and he won battle after battle, all leading up to this moment, the moment when the people would confirm his call to serve as their king.  It was a bloody, chaotic, messy transition, with “growing animosity between [King Saul] and David.  But in the midst of this chaos, even during the radical takeover of the throne, this week’s passage reminds us that God’s triumph endures.”[1]

Indiana Jones made a generation of people familiar with the ark of the covenant with the first edition of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it was not Dr. Jones who made it important.  For ancient Israel, the ark represented the very presence of God with the people.  Instructed by God, Moses directed the construction of the ark, into which he placed the tablets of the law.  The ark traveled with the children of Israel throughout their wilderness sojourn and led them through the Jordan into the promised land.  For the new King David, the ark represented the God who had called him from his youth, whose call had now been affirmed by the people.

So he danced.

“David danced with joy leading the ark of God into Jerusalem.”[2]  He wasn’t concerned about “whether or not he looked foolish in the eyes of those who watched him.”[3]  “Joy flows from and accompanies the movement of the ark … into the city.  The presence of the Lord, when all else is stripped away, evokes joy.”[4]

I don’t know about you, but right now, that’s a message I need to hear.

I need to hear how God can bring joy and celebration out of tension and conflict and betrayal.  I need to know that God works through the complicated human messiness of governments and earthly power and even national elections.  I need to know there will be a time to bring God’s presence into our midst with singing and dancing.  I need to believe we will move from biting Facebook posts and protests in the streets to “a glorious procession of honor and celebration”[5] with God in our midst.  I need to know God relishes and indeed nurtures our joy.  I need to know that the God of creation and flood, of exodus and King David, of Jesus Christ, is also the God of now, of exhaustion and exasperation, of disillusionment and hyper-patriotism, of you and of me.

I want to pick up the tambourine and march – no, dance – through the streets of Powdersville and Easley and South Carolina.  I want to celebrate the One who brings us joy in the midst of whatever dark moment we find ourselves.  I want to sing with the hymnist:

Together met, together bound by all that God has done,

we’ll go with joy, to give the world the love that makes us one,

the love that makes us one.[6]

[1] Roger Nam, “Commentary on 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5; Psalm 150,”, accessed Nov. 3, 2020

[2] Samuel Giere, “Commentary on 2 Samuel 6:1-5; 12b-19,”

[3] Judith Hoch Wray, “Preaching Joy,” Living Pulpit, October-December 1996

[4] Giere

[5] Nam

[6] “I Come with Joy,” Glory to God, 515

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