The Strange Case of Obed-Edom

Obed-Edom is one of those people we don’t pay much attention to in the Bible. Maybe many of you reading this may wonder who he is. Obed-Edom appears for the first time in 2 Samuel 6:10, when David sought to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. The first attempt wasn’t done properly, and resulted in the death of Uzza. David was terrified and left the Ark in the house of a man called Obed-Edom. This is the protagonist I want to examine.
We’re told Obed-Edom was a Gittite. A Gittite is not Jewish, he’s a Philistine. Don’t forget that, not too long ago, the Ark was in the hands of the Philistines and God brought such a judgment of plagues on them that they quickly returned the Ark to Israel. They were terrified of the Ark.

But here’s another Philistine who kept the Ark in his house for three months. Instead of judgment, he was blessed. Not just himself, but his whole household and all that belonged to him.

The blessings must have been so remarkable that, in three months, word got around and reached David’s ears that that Obed-Edom was being blessed because of the Ark. David then made an elaborate effort to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem.
Then we come to 1 Chronicles and David is establishing a system of worship in Jerusalem. This belonged exclusively in the domain of the Levites. He puts the priests into divisions, appoints musicians, creates schedules, and puts treasurers in place. But when it came to appointing gatekeepers, an anomaly appears. We find Obed-Edom and his family prominently featured. In fact, not only was Obed-Edom inducted into the service of the temple that exclusively belonged to the Levites, 62 of his descendants were included as well.
This is remarkable, especially in the context of the Old Testament. Obed-Edom was not from the tribe of Levites. In fact, he wasn’t from any tribe of Israel. He’s not a Jew but a Philistine. Yet he transcended all these boundaries to gain a place, not just for himself, but for his household, in God’s Presence. The turning point for his family lies in the three months the Ark resided in his home.
We’re not told what happened in those three months, no clue as to how they took care of the Ark. We’re not certain at all where the Ark was placed in the house but here are my guesses.
When we bought our first home years ago, we got a designer to plan the layout. On considering our living room, she asked where the television would be placed. At that point, Wendy and I had decided we’ll not have a TV. It was amusing watching the designer fumbling and stammering, and repeatedly asking us why no TV. For her, the television was the reference point from which a living room is constructed. Take the TV away, and she didn’t know how to go about designing the room.
I’d like to suggest that Obed-Edom and his household had to change the whole orientation of their home. The centrepiece of the house had to be the Ark. But the Ark isn’t a piece of furniture nor equipment for exercise nor electronic aid for entertainment. It represented the Most Holy Presence of God. It wasn’t to be trifled with, and had to be treated with utmost respect and reverence.
Even as Obed-Edom and his household altered their lifestyles, routines, and homes so as to host the Ark of God’s Presence, the Presence of God altered them in the process.

In my limited experience of being in God’s Presence, some things changed for us. Things that used to be important becomes unimportant. God readjusts the priorities of our lives. Forgiveness and love comes easily when we’re in His Presence. Work becomes effortless. Reflection and insight comes with sharp clarity. A spirit of intercession and prayer often arises in us as well.
Above all these, something permanently changed for Obed-Edom. He tired of everything else he was doing. He was wracked by those three months of being totally immersed in God’s Presence. He couldn’t go back to his farm nor to his cattle. He couldn’t manage the shopfront any more. I imagine these words spilling from his lips:
“How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God… For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84:1-2, 10
This is a tantalising offer available to every one of us. Who will draw near? Who among us is heavy-laden, tired, and jaded by the pursuit of the things of this world. Return to the springs of Living Water and be satisfied. Drink from Christ, and you shall never thirst again.


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