Ferris wheels have come a long way since the first one opened in 1893. At 550 feet, the High Roller in Las Vegas is more than twice the original’s height. Once safely enclosed within its 28 cabins, up to 1,120 riders can soar to breathtaking vantage points. It’s not unlike a relationship with the God of creation, where a surrendered heart secures us for a ride to new heights.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and reveal truth as you read 2 Samuel 6. Permit yourself to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Remember, God is the best teacher.
Key Passage: 2 Samuel 6:1-23
The ark of the covenant is a sacred object designed by God to symbolize His power dwelling among the Israelites. It’s being brought to Jerusalem by David, who loves the Lord and longs for His presence and favor. This is an occasion for worship and the entire nation of Israel is on hand to celebrate. But they receive a terrible shock. Even the great King David is angry and frightened when disaster strikes.
Can love and fear occur simultaneously? Is the result something you’d want?
God wants us to honor Him and delights to bless us. But His perfect holiness creates demands that are not always easy to fulfill. One example is found in the story of Uzzah. How do you feel when you read 2 Samuel 6:6-7? Fearful? Angry? Surprised? Does your reaction change when you remember God had previously warned that the ark could be carried only by its poles, and by special priests (Num. 4:15)?
After Uzzah’s disturbing death, David brought the ark temporarily to the home of Obed-edom. In its presence, the entire household experienced blessing (2 Samuel 6:11). Think of a time you felt near to God and blessed by Him—was obedience securing you on your “Ferris wheel ride”? Explain how this story sheds light on Jesus’ role in our life. In what way might He help us to obey? In what way might He serve as the ark in your life?
Continuing the Story
There’s joy in submission to God. Emptying ourselves before Him makes it possible to be filled with His glorious life.
Strong’s Concordance says the etymology of the Hebrew word for “worship” is to “bow down” or “go low” before a superior. Given this definition, what in your own life would you call “worship”?
Besides involving an offering, what we often think of as worship was, in the Old Testament, really two distinct activities: bowing in submission and praising with joy. What do you think is the relationship between these things? What is the difference?
Imagine the scene (2 Samuel 6:13-15). It’s David’s second attempt to retrieve the ark. A huge parade with singing, dancing, and musicians is brought to a halt after six steps. In light of the failure in the previous attempt, why do you think this was so important?
2 Samuel 6:14 contains one of Scripture’s happiest expressions of unrestricted joy toward God. Can you think of times when you physically or figuratively dance “with all your might” before Him? In what sense does your joy occur hand in hand with surrender?
When he finished worshipping, David turned his attention to the people (2 Samuel 6:18-19). His actions indicate our hearts aren’t big enough to contain the joy of the Lord. It spills over like a river, flowing with good things to those around us. Do you have enough outlets for your joy in Christ? What do you do when you want to “give out cakes” to everyone? How might focusing on worship help the church be a “city on a hill”—a place of love and a witness for the gospel?
Worship is often a private matter, or an attitude of the heart expressed silently. But it’s also a privilege of the church and a community activity. What does 2 Samuel 6 reveal about how corporate worship benefits the church? Think about Uzzah, David, Obed-edom, Michal, and the maids.
God wants us to honor Him. But His perfect holiness creates demands that are not always easy to fulfill.
As followers of Jesus under the new covenant, we have special reason to praise God—and a continued need to worship Him.
Compare David’s actions with the instructions in Ephesians 5:18-21, when the early church was learning what worship looks like under the cover of grace. How is the fear David experienced different here? How is it still present?
This is one of the clearest descriptions of praise and worship in the New Testament—and it’s a picture of shared happiness between believers. With that in mind, what do you think is the importance of Eph. 5:21?
When obligation to submit to God becomes gratitude for His lordship, worship can coexist permanently with praise. This is what creates a heart that “sings and makes melody” and always gives thanks for all things.
Emptying ourselves before God makes it possible to be filled with His glorious life.
Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.
If worship means “bow down” or “go low” and exalt means “be high” or “rise,” then our relationship with God really is something like a Ferris wheel ride. As we go low and submit ourselves to Him, we lift up and praise His name. And it’s part of His generous, loving nature that as we do, He lifts us up, too. In fact, it’s the descending, or the “bowing down,” that makes it possible for us to be lifted by God (Matt. 23:12). And being lifted by Him is an experience we will never forget.
Do you find it hard to imagine what “bowing down” or “lifting up” looks like in daily life? Worship and praise take many forms. Some experience it while working or watching a sunset. In truth, for a believer in Christ, it’s possible to be in submission and joy at every moment (Col. 3:17). And giving expression to those feelings is part of living the Christian life. Read Psalm 66:1-20, which many attribute to David. How do you think people throughout the ages, from his contemporaries down to you, have benefited because he shared his song?
Psalm 66, like many others, is not just a song from David to God. It begins with an exhortation to the listeners: “Shout joyfully to God” (v. 1). The speaker is doing so himself, making this an invitation rather than a command. What does this tell you about the role of faith and testifying in the church? Try finding a psalm that appeals to your heart, and then, in the spirit of Ephesians 5:19, share it with someone else. Perhaps try writing your own!
Understanding the difference between worship and praise helps us make sure our joy is accompanied by submission, and our submission by joy. Surrendered to God’s lordship and open to receiving His life, we’re safe in the car at the top of the Ferris wheel—and the view is amazing.
As we go low and submit ourselves to Him, we lift up and praise His name.
Illustration by Adam Cruft