In college, I had the great privilege of working two summers at Mount Hermon Christian Camps in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I worked one summer at Redwood, with elementary and junior high students, and one summer with the high school and junior high at Ponderosa. I learned to surf, and go down a half pipe, I stayed up late multiple nights in a row, while also getting up early to spend time with God (maybe this is where I became addicted to coffee). I worked on the ropes course, I counseled kids with difficult home lives, and also ate camp food for ten weeks straight. I learned so much more than I ever thought possible about who God is, who I am, and what God had called me to be, while also teaching kids the same. I cultivated important spiritual relationships, and had more God conversations than I could begin to count. And I also believe that is where I learned to truly worship the Lord.
I have attended church since I was born, and went to quite a few Christian summer camps myself, but being immersed in worship twice a day for ten weeks of the summer brought me to my knees more than once. But more than the worship itself, or the frequency of the worship, it was the humble reliance on God that brought me into those moments with Him. We were running on very little sleep, having heavy conversations with campers, and going all out all day every day. The energy we had was supernatural; it’s the only way to explain it. And I was fueled by the Lord day in and day out. And because I acknowledged where that fuel was coming from, I was able to truly worship God. I was able to kneel, raise my hands, and cry out to the Lord because I knew he was greater than me. In my weakness, he was being strong, and I was so grateful for it. When we are pushed to the end of our rope, and our only path toward survival is reliance on the Lord, we find him there.
Before summer camp a lot of the things I did and experienced were miracles of the Lord, and I would come to him in those times with a deep sense of awe for what he had done. What I didn’t do was acknowledge in all things, that he was the Lord, and that I was grateful. I still struggle with this; I think we all do. But when we come to the Lord and acknowledge his greatness, and praise him for it, we will find a closeness with him we haven’t had before. We will find a true reliance on him that says I am nothing without him, in my weakness he is strong. If we can humbly approach him, and know in our hearts and minds that he is the only reason for our being, and our success, and our ministry, than we can give appropriate gratitude to him. And we certainly won’t do it perfectly every time, but we can try.
David had truly relied on God in so many moments leading up to being crowned king: defeating Goliath, running from Saul, defeating other enemies, etc. Now, as king, he could bring the symbol of God into his town and his kingdom. This was a way for David to show who was really in charge: God. It was a way to bless the kingdom with his presence. When I first read chapter 6, I just thought “oh bummer for that guy Uzzah.” But when I looked deeper into some commentary, I realized God was speaking to David in that moment, too.
Transporting the ark of the covenant was a big deal; there are entire chapters of the old testament devoted to it. Only certain people are allowed to carry it, there are fancy poles with rings attached, specific sacrifices to be given, no one can actually touch it, etc. Instead of following all of the rules detailed by God, David threw it on a cart and started dragging it to Jerusalem. When it inevitably is tipped over because it is being pulled by an oxen (really David?), Uzzah reaches out to steady it. He is immediately struck dead for touching the sacred ark, and the procession stops at once. The ark is left in a town along the way to Jerusalem for three months while David figures out his next steps.
David was so grateful to God for being there for him and directing him for years. His time had come to be king, and he was stoked. He was ready to bring the ark to Jerusalem, so he just did it. He didn’t stop to think, he didn’t remember the greatness and sacredness of God. He held the procession where he was dancing before the ark and praising God, but he forgot to follow the sacred rules that God had put into place years beforehand. He remembered what God had done for him, and for his people, but he had forgotten how sacred, and powerful, and awesome He was.
Like David, I think we can be so grateful and excited for an event in our lives that we run to thank God for it. We’re leaping and dancing and praising him for the thing that has been accomplished. I’m not saying praise and gratitude are bad, I’m just wondering what we are praising. Are we praising God for the thing he finally did for us? Are we praising God because it’s the right thing to do in the moment? Or are we praising him because he is God? Simply that, he is God. And if we are praising him for being God, can’t we do that every day, all the time, in the good and bad?
David forgot what he was in all of this for. For a fleeting moment, his excitement overrides his awe and fear of how great God truly is. For a moment, he forgets that God can strike down anyone who does wrong against him. For a moment he forgets, and God sends a reminder in Uzzah. David takes a minute (three months), calibrates his gratitude, and goes back with a more humble attitude to bring the Lord to Jerusalem. He gets the guys that God ordained to be allowed to carry the ark, he gets the special poles, he makes the sacrifices, and then he becomes “even more undignified than this” as he brings the ark of God into his kingdom (1 Samuel 6:22). His praise is genuine, it’s full of awe, it’s in deep acknowledgment that the Lord is great and good and powerful.
“Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” 2 Samuel 7:28
That’s all David needed to say, you are God, your promises are good, and you’ve promised only good things to me. He acknowledges that God is over everything, and that he is trustworthy, and that there are good things ahead. When we praise the Lord, is this what we are saying? Lord, you are over all things, your promises are trustworthy, and good, and they are for me. Let that be our prayer of praise.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34
He is good, forever. Let’s praise the Lord not for specifics, but for God. Instead of rushing through gratitude, going through our list, thanking him for things, let’s thank him for being who he is. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he began with “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” (Matthew 6:9). It doesn’t say “Our father, who gave me my three beautiful children, and the good parking spot at Target…” He did do those things, and I am so grateful for them, but he is also God, and he is everything we could ever need. We need to start with praising him for who He is.
What characteristics of God make you most in awe of Him? Think on those things, pray on those things, worship on those things!
2 Samuel 11
- We’ve spent six weeks talking about how David is awesome. What can we learn from this chapter?
- What does it say about our God that David is a “man after God’s own heart,” yet still sins?