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APRIL 12 2015

The Blessing of Obed

Part One

 

Our Scripture reading is 2 Samuel 6:1-15. 

 

[I. Introduction]The ark of the covenant was a divinely inspired memorial of the mutual covenant between God and the people of Israel. (A covenant is an agreement or solemn promise between two parties.) It consisted of the ark itself (an ark is just a container meant to hold precious items) which was plated in gold. The ark was about 4 feet long, 2 ½ feet wide and 2 ½ feet high. It held three items to remind the Israelites of their covenant: a sample of manna, the heavenly food that sustained them in the wilderness, the rod of Aaron that had miraculously budded, and the ten commandments on two tablets of stone – the law of God. Each item reminded them of an aspect of the covenant, but the foremost item was the law of God. We know this because the law of god is called “the tablets of the testimony” and the ark, over and over, is called “the ark of the testimony.”

 

Why is God’s law called a testimony? Because it testifies who God is. The law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. It tells us much about who He is. The ten commandments are moral and the moral law is eternal.

 

  • It is perpetual.
  • It is eternal because God is eternal.
  • It is moral because God is a moral Being.
  • It is a reflection of love because God is love.

It manifests love towards God and love towards our fellow man. Jed Smock has said that it “promotes the highest well-being of all and works to prevent the highest misery of all.”[1]

 

Because the most important item in the ark was the codification of God’s law it is called the ark of the testimony.

 

God thinks highly of his law. “Preacher, how do you know what God thinks?” I do not know because I have some special insight into the mind of God. We can know what God thinks by what he has revealed to us in the Scriptures.

 

The account of the tablets of God’s law is fascinating, both God’s delivery of them to Moses as well as what happened afterwards. When the Philistines captured the ark during war they brought it to the Philistine city of Ashdod. When it was there the statue of Dagon their God fell over twice and was broken. Then tumors began to afflict the residents. So the Philistines moved the ark to another one of their cities, Gath. There, people began to die and again were afflicted with tumors. For a total of seven months the law of God was in the possession of the Philistines and everywhere it went people began to get tumors, including the lords of every city – five cities in all.

 

The Philistines said, “We have had enough of this! We are returning the ark to Israel.” So they did. And the plagues ceased.

 

You see, God takes his law seriously and he expects us to do so as well.

 

Where our story picks up is twenty years after these events. The ark had been in the house of Abinadab, a Levite priest living in a place called Kiriath-jearim. David desired to bring it to Jerusalem, where it belonged.

 

[II.] We have already seen, from the experiences of the Philistines, that God is holy and His law is holy. But this is seen in an even more pronounced way when David is bringing the ark back to Jerusalem. (Reread verses 5-7.) There was rejoicing and praise because the ark was on its way to where it belonged. When the ark was about to fall on to the ground Uzzah reached out to steady it. His intentions were seemingly good: he did not want to see the holy ark be defiled by the dirty ground. But he was struck dead by the Lord for his action.

 

Some have found this action by the Lord as difficult to accept. Some are even critical of God for it. But this is because of a failure to understand both God and who we really are. God had already commanded that not even the Levitical priests were permitted to touch the ark. It was holy because God is holy. Uzzah’s error was not in trying to keep the ark from falling but in thinking that his hand was less dirty than the ground.

 

Not just Uzzah. All our hands are dirty with sin. We are unholy and cannot touch what is holy. But the Lord has a way to take away our unholiness, our dirtiness, our sin, and make us holy. Today, it is through His Son and only through His Son, the Lord Jesus.

 

Uzzah, despite his seemingly good intentions, did not treat God’s law with respect. We must treat God’s good, loving, and holy law with respect! Never think that because you may be in a covenant relationship with God already that you may ignore or disrespect his law. Uzzah was in a covenant relationship with God, albeit the previous covenant. There is no doubt that he is with the Lord now, but he suffered the severest consequences in his earthly life for his disobedience.

 

I will never forget, when I was in my late 20’s and had been a Christian for nearly ten years, that I disrespected one of the Lord’s commandments. The Lord struck me down. I found myself in a great deal of misery for a full year. Even the Lord’s “striking” is because he loves us. He disciplines us for our own good – so that we will live His life, a life of goodness and separateness form the ways of the world.

 

God is holy and His law is holy. Let us live by it.

[III.] David, the man of God, had mixed feelings about what the Lord had done. We read in verse 8, “And David was angry because the Lord had burst forth against Uzzah.” Granted, it does not specifically say that David was angry towards the Lord. But I do not think that we can come to any other conclusion. The text says that he was angry because the Lord had killed Uzzah. It is possible that he was angry with Uzzah because Uzzah had disobeyed the Lord. It is also possible that he was angry with himself for transporting the ark in such a cavalier manner, also not in accordance with the prescribed way it was to be transported. (God had given instructions on how the ark was to be transported and it was not on a cart pulled by oxen.) But, knowing human nature and the way people still look at this event, it seems as if David was angry with God.

 

Have you, even as a believer, been angry with God? That is not a good place to be but, if we are honest, I think that most of us would say that we have been. Well, David was.

 

Anger was not the only emotion that David had. In verse 9 we read, “And David was afraid of the Lord that day…” David had mixed feelings. He was both angry and fearful. To fear God is a good thing and it is not inconsistent with loving Him. It most often leads to a consideration of our actions, a reassessment of what we have done and what we should do. This is the effect that it had upon David. He asks, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”

 

Despite his anger and despite his fear he still desired the ark! Despite his anger and despite his fear he still desired God’s law. Despite his anger and despite his fear he still desired God because the ark, at it’s most foundational level, represents God.

 

David desired God!

 

In verse 13 we read, “And when those who bore the ark…” This means that David then transported the ark the way it was supposed to be transported: upon the shoulders of the Levitical priests, not on a cart pulled by animals.

 

David reconsidered his ways.

 

So it is with us, brothers and sisters. We do not always heed God’s word. Things go wrong. That is not God’s fault when they do. It is ours. We may get angry. We may be fearful. But, if we will asses our ways as David did, then we can do things the right way, God’s way, and we will rejoice as never before! David “danced before the Lord with all his might!” This is an expression of great joy on David’s part.

 

Joy awaits those who amend their ways!

 

[IV.] Here is the most important part of what I wish for you to remember this morning: When the ark went to Obed’s house he was blessed. When David was afraid of the Lord he was so afraid that he, at first, would no longer try to bring the ark to Jerusalem. (Reread verses 10-12.)

 

The name Obed means “servant.” His full name is Obed-edom. This means that either he or his family were servants of the Edomites. The Edomites, if you recall, were descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. They lived on the southern border of Israel and were often in an antagonistic relationship with the Lord’s chosen people. God favored Jacob and did not favor Esau and this favor and lack thereof continued with their respective lineages. However, God did seem to favor the Edomites materially. King Herod, who was king during the time of Jesus (900 years after this), was an Edomite and extremely wealthy.

 

Obed or his family were servants to those who were often enemies of Israel. We can safely affirm that Obed, though a Levite, came from a humble, non-prosperous family. He was not a man of means. How many of us can relate to Obed? We may find ourselves in the same situation: working for those who are enemies of God’s people. Take heart! You may be lower in status but the blessing of God has little to do with status.

 

Because the ark was in Obed-edom’s house the Lord blessed him. In the Old Testament the blessings of the Lord were mainly seen as prosperity. When the ark came to Obed’s house things started happening to such an extent that others noticed that Obed was being blessed.

 

Not only did the Lord bless Obed but he also blessed his household. His wife and children would have been blessed, too. If he had any other relatives living with him (a common practice in Israel) they received the blessing, too. No one was left out. Notice that the last part of verse 11 says, “The Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.”

 

Sometimes, when the Lord’s blessing comes, it comes in spades! So it was with Obed. As an aside, do you know where the saying “in spades” comes from? It is not from the garden tool. It comes from the game of Bridge (which I have never played).  In that game spades are the most valuable suit, garnering the most points. Therefore, when someone or something is “in spades” they are having a lot of something. Obed had a lot of blessing!

 

Why? Because the ark of the Lord was in his house! We may further ask, Why did the presence of the ark bring blessing? Because God loves His law and where His law is, the blessing follows. In Psalm 1 David writes of the man who is blessed by God. He says of him:         but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

                        and on his law he meditates day and night. (vs. 2)

 

If the man of God delights in the law of the Lord so does God Himself. God delights in his law because it testifies of who he is.

 

The presence of the ark also brought blessing because the presence of the ark meant the presence of God. In Exodus 25:22 we see that the Lord Himself would meet with Moses and speak to him right there between the carved cherubim (angels) on top of the ark.

 

God’s law and God’s presence brought the blessing to Obed.

 

[V. Conclusion] Obed-edom was already in a right relationship with Yahweh. He was an Israelite and a Levite. But it was when the ark of God came into his house that the blessing upon his life and the lives of those in his household came ‘in spades.” It came in a way in which it was noticeable to all.

 

      Do you sometimes feel as if the blessings of God have passed you by? If you have never given yourself over to the Lord Jesus Christ then you have been alienated from God because of your sins. You can experience the forgiveness of your sins and a new and living relationship with God the Father by surrendering to the Lord Jesus Christ and finding new life. The blessings will come!

      There was a boy growing up in Cleveland, OH in the mid-1800’s by the name of Henry Crowell. He had contracted tuberculosis when young and couldn’t go to school. He went to hear a sermon by Dwight L. Moody, the famous evangelist. There, he was convicted of his sin and gave his life to the service of God through Christ. He resolved to live by God’s law through the help of Christ. Things began to happen in his life.

Under the doctor’s advice Crowell left Cleveland and worked outdoors in the Western States of Colorado, Wyoming, and California where the air is drier and there is more sunshine. After seven years his tuberculosis was cured he then moved back to Cleveland and, in 1881, bought the little run-down mill formerly run by Quakers in Ravenna, Ohio not too far from Cleveland. It was a dubious venture because the last two owners lost all their money trying to make it profitable. At the time, oats were considered horse food, but Henry saw where rolled oats from the Quaker mill could become a part of America’s breakfast table.

Henry did something that was unusual for that century. Christian businessmen in that era kept their business life and their faith separate as if they were, somehow, two different realms. But he placed his business in the hands of God and made the Lord part of every decision. The mill did not do well at first. He took the struggling business to the Lord in prayer. An idea came to him when praying that was to change breakfast tables forever. Up to that point, oats were presented for sale in big barrels or boxes, set on the floors of grocery or general stores, attracting worms, insects and vermin. He envisioned his oats on grocery store shelves in individual, sanitary, cardboard containers. The idea worked. Demand soared. The Quaker Oats company became the most successful cereal company of its time and made Henry millions.

By 1908, the Quaker trademark was a known by more people in more countries than any other brand on any kind of good in the entire world.

Henry and Susan eventually moved to Chicago and were well known around Chicago due to their financial prosperity, but they were also known for their faith, sharing the Gospel as the opportunity presented itself. Henry shared his faith within his business circles and Susan within her social societies. Many corporate giants came to Christ as a result of their association with Crowell. And the Henry Parsons and Susan Coleman Crowell Trust donated to more than 100 Christian organizations, including the Moody Bible Institute.

For over forty years Henry P. Crowell faithfully gave 60 to 70 percent of his income to God’s causes, having advanced from an initial 10% -- because he read it in God’s law.

I do not tell this story to motivate you to come to Christ for financial blessings. That would be the wrong motive. I share Henry’s life because it illustrates a biblical truth: God blesses those who love His law. Many times those blessings will be spiritual rather than material. Yet, many times they will be both, as in Henry’s life.

 

    If you, like Obed, are already in a right relationship with the Lord but sense that you are in need of blessing, then bring God’s law into your house. The story of Henry Crowell is not an isolated one. I could tell you the strikingly similar stories of William Colgate or Harley Procter, the son of William Procter who took his father’s already successful business to even greater heights. Both men honored God’s law as faithful Christians.

    The physical stones upon which the law was written were in Obed’s house. Do not look down or think lightly of physical things. We evangelicals tend to do that. God created the physical. It is good. Even the physical presence of God’s law prominently displayed in your home will bring a blessing. If you do not have them on your wall, put them there.

 

    Even more than this – bringing the law of God into your house – bring it into your heart. Psalm 1 says that the godly one meditates on His law day and night. He transcribes it into his own heart. It is really the Holy Spirit who will do the transcribing. But it takes knowing it and meditating upon it.

 

Do this. And then be prepared for the blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Jed Smock, Grieve Not the Spirit: A Treatise On Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (Terre Haute, IN.: Campus Ministry, ©1992), 32.