Friday, April 11, 2008

The Return of Sunshine and the Return of the Ark in 2 Samuel 6

She beckoned through the ceiling-high windows, flaunting her freedom, vaulting through luminous leaves, sparkling off the azure sea (the really real simulacra of cheesy literary adjectives). But we were inside the board room, haunted by the spectre of inter-governmental meetings, gathered round the enormous whiteboard, adding structure upon structure to an already complicated deal.

Then at last it was over. And I ran like a beggar's dog into the last light of the day.

Sunset at Siloso Beach, Sentosa, Singapore
Finally, the fresh salty taste of sea air and warm soft sand between the toes, frisbee pick-up on Siloso Beach and spectacular dives into the foamy water. And the very fetching silhouettes of oil tankers and refineries on the horizon.

Sunset at Siloso Beach, Sentosa, Singapore
Later, we lay on deck chairs at Coastes, cocooned against the cold breeze with hot fat chips and alot of garlic mayo, cheese-splurting hotdog sausages and a goodly rack of ribs. In front of us, kids dug huge holes and buried each other in the sand, then ran about screaming in excitement at the fireworks.

(We shall not speak in further detail of the Ah Beng-blue xenon dancing lights of a certain skateboard.)

Frisbee at KovanFrisbee at Seletar
The sunshine and blue skies lasted through the weekend, good for lazing around in vast grassy fields then for more frisbee, whooping at the silky beauty of flight trajectories until the cicadas awoke and it was time for sunburnt noses to head home.

Blueberry and Strawberry Galette Bound for Oven Hell
As hot day melted into sweltering hot day later in the new week, it was difficult to keep from lolling about in ice-cold pools with only ice-blended juices and cut fruits by the cold truckload for sustenance. But I needed to carbo load for the upcoming race, and puff pastry seemed the lightest and most minimalistic way of getting some carbo delivery, so a blueberry and strawberry galette it was.

Absolut Vodka bottle as rolling pin
In the appliance-challenged kitchen, the good old Absolut vodka bottle had to be enlisted for rolling-pin service and it discharged its duties faithfully. Unfortunately, there isn't an "After" photo of the galette because I was too engrossed with 2 Samuel 6.

Chapter 6 records the story of the return of the Ark of the Lord to the centre of Israelite life.

The Ark of God was sitting around in Abinadab's house on a hill in Baale-judah (2 Samuel 6:2, also known as Kiriath-Jearim (1 Samuel 7:1)). It had been lost to the Philistines in the, erm, battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 4).

The Ark wasn't merely a mouldy old piece of antique furniture. It was constructed at the specific instruction of God (Exodus 25:10-21) as a symbol of his presence with Israel (Numbers 10:35-36). David called it God's footstool, a reminder of God's kingship and rule (1 Chronicles 28:2). It was sprinkled with the blood of sin-offering, a reminder of man's guilt against God and inability to approach him without mediation (Leviticus 16:14-15). The Ark also contained the stone tablets on which were inscribed the word of God (Exodus 25:16,21; Deuteronomy 10:1-5), a reminder that the substance of God is informed by his word.

There are no magical objects in the Bible with inherent magical powers. The Ark wasn't worshipped as an idol but was instead a physical demonstration of the difficulty sinful man faced in relating to a holy God. The word "difficulty" suggests a possibility of relationship, no matter how remote; perhaps "impossibility" would be more accurate. Sinful man could not (and still cannot) expect to approach a holy God and live. The Philistines discovered their terrible error in presuming otherwise: the men who did not die were struck with tumours (1 Samuel 5). Being terribly logical folk, they were not completely certain that the God of Israel was behind all this until their little experiment in kiasu-ism proved it to be so.

But lest anyone think that the holiness of God was a problem for only the non-Israelites, even the rejoicing men of Beth-shemesh were struck dead when they looked upon the Ark (1 Samuel 6:19-20). And again at the start of 2 Samuel 6, when David decided to bring the Ark to his city, in the midst of great revelry and singing and dancing, the oxen carrying the Ark stumble and the unfortunate Uzziah reached out to steady it. He was struck dead instantly (2 Samuel 6:7).

David was incensed (2 Samuel 6:8). As are we. Why so legalistic, God? Why so finicky? These people weren't against you; they were for you, they were rejoicing at your presence.

Then David was afraid (2 Samuel 6:9). The reality, whether we like it or not, is that we have a deluded sense of reality. We refuse to understand that no guilty party can draw near to a holy God without death, the rightful punishment for sin, intervening. We cannot deal with God on our own terms. The reality is that God'd explained this reality to the Israelites but they didn't think it worthy of notice.

It was so as to keep them alive that God had warned them not to look at the Ark nor touch it, but to have Levites carry it on their shoulders with poles slotted through rings on the Ark itself (Numbers 4:15, 17-20; Numbers 7:9; 1 Chronicles 15:15). God's instructions on the subject were not the arbitrary shrubbery preferences of the Knights Who Till Recently Said "Ni" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; they were real warnings about a real danger.

Why so arbitrary? Why only one way to God through Jesus? Why have such a strict God who hasn't kept up with our tolerant open-minded era?

Because, says the Bible, that's the way things are. Take it or leave it, that's reality. I'm just warnin' ya. In fact, I'm pleading with you to take this warning seriously: God was, and still is, dangerous (1 Corinthians 11:30-31; Hebrews 10:26-31). God has remained consistent throughout the Old Testamental and New Testamental times and still remains so: remember Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Ignore him, choose not to believe in him, approach him lightly, at your own risk.

50 Siloso Beach Walk


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