I used to have an intern called Sam.
He loved biblical bit parts, those characters that only appear a few times but whose appearance is significant.
He also had a quirky sense of humour and loved it if they had a name that sounded funny Phinehas (pronounced according to Sam as ‘Fine-arse’) made worse (or better depending on your perspective) by the fact that this fella came from Shittim!
Another of Sam’s favourite stories was the story of David dancing before the Lord in his Pants (see Undignified worship blog previous). Yet there is a character both he and I missed, his name is Obed Edam, and he was a Gittite. Sam how could you miss this?
Perhaps we were distracted by the reigning monarch dancing before the Lord in his pants that we didn’t spot this fantastic unsung hero.
Obed Edam, at the start of the story is just a normal guy with a family and a house near a main road, nothing special really.
Yet the Ark of the Covenant is being carried back to Jerusalem on a cart, it was never meant to be carried by cart, God gave the people clear instructions about how to transport it, but they were so excited about the Arks return they ignored them.
Uzzah, a servant, places his hand on the Ark, when the Ox stumbles, and he is struck dead.
I wonder when I read passages like this, perhaps we forget how awesome and powerful God is, my friend Mark Rich sometimes talks of the ‘fear of the Lord’ and this would be a good passage to read to remind us not to play fast and loose with God and his word.
King David, who is heading up this procession suddenly gets a bit nervous, and wants to get rid of the Ark as soon as possible.
Sometimes when we are reminded of the reality and the power of God we sometimes flee from him because we know of our sinfulness.
The Israelites wanted Moses to be an intermediation between them and God, they didn’t want to face him.
The Priests were attached to a rope so they could be pulled from the Holy of holies if they were struck dead.
Simon Peter at the great catch of fish said to Jesus “Lord get away from me for I am a sinful man”.
David flees from Gods presence and asks Obed Edom to take care of the Ark of the Covenant in his house.
Imagine the feelings Obed Edom must have had.
will I be struck dead? will my family die? Yet as Pete Greig says in his great book “Dirty Glory”:
“Caught somewhere between wonder and fear, he must have thanked God for this unspeakable honour of his presence with one breath and begged God to spare his life with the other.More than a thousand years before the cross of Christ, Obed-Edom was forced to gamble his life on grace”.
Yet we see Gods presence and blessing resting on Obed-Edom, and then eventually David plucked up the courage to take the Ark back to Jerusalem.
Yet this isn’t the last we hear of Obed-Edom, he pops up as a temple porter, a temple singer and finally as a treasurer in the Temple. I believe that once he had experienced something of the presence of God he couldn’t live his life without it (1 Chr. 15:18, 21; 2 Chr. 25.24).
It made me wonder how desperate I am for Gods presence?
Do I crave to be in the presence of God?
Am I hungry for more of God than I have previously experienced?
Or am I like David and want an ‘arms length God?’ that is a bit distant, aloof and impersonal?
A Psalm-writer talks of “better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”, is this how we live?
Moses had been in the presence of God that his face shone and he had to wear a veil, when we have been in God’s presence it shines out of us, people notice the difference.
God’s presence transforms us.
Yet as I began to think about this story, Obed-Edom didn’t just have a visitation of God, a theophany, but rather he had habitation, Gods presence dwelling with him.
what of us and our Churches, are we happy with the Holy Spirit visiting us every now and again, or are we seeking and longing for habitation, God is in this place, God is dwelling with his people.
One of the names for Jesus is “Immanuel” which means “God with us”, Pentecost means that the Holy Spirit is in us and with us for all time, never to leave us or forsake us, we approach the throne of God with boldness, not just for an encounter but to transform our lives as he lives in us and through us.
Let us be like Obed-Edom, with an insatiable thirst and hunger for more of the powerful presence of God.