One of the most common reactions I’ve had to King David’s life has been, “should he have done that?” There are areas of diplomatic strategy that have made me wonder about his motivation, and there are other areas, such as when he wore a priest’s garment to serve the Lord, where I wondered if he had stepped way over the line. Was wearing an ephod an arrogant act by the man in power? Or did he have a God-given right to do that? What surprised me when I researched this topic, was how much it speaks of how much God loves us. David’s dance became a reminder of what a beautiful, high status we all have in the Lord’s eyes.
In our times, for a political leader to publicly put on an priest’s outfit is unthinkable. Priests are called by God and especially trained for ministry. It would be offensive, but David did it.”Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” 2 Samuel 6:12-15
Jewish society has always had a definite order which was well established and adhered to. Originally, the firstborn sons of the Hebrew families were to have been the priests set aside to serve God in the Tabernacle and lead His people. However, when the children of Isra’el built and worshipped the golden calf, (while Moses was being given the ten commandments), only the tribe of Levi did not betray God by joining in. Because of this, the Lord had Moses sanctify them as priests and “Thus shall you set apart the Levites from the midst of the children of Israel, and the Levites shall become Mine… For they are wholly given over to Me from among the children of Israel; instead of those that open the womb all the firstborn of Israel I have taken them for Myself.” [Ref. Numbers 8:14 and 16]
Within King David’s dynasty, he took an active interest in ensuring the spiritual needs of the nation were set in place. David established established rosters for the Levites in 1 Chronicles chapters 23-25, prepared for the building of the temple and made God a top priority for everyone. He didn’t leave all the religion stuff to the priests, as Saul and his successor did. As a Hebrew King, David acted as the spiritual head for the nation; and as we see with later Kings, his influence could lead his people away from, or towards the Lord. What confirms David’s status further, is that the prophet Samuel anointed David with the same oil that was used on the High Priest. [Refs. 1 Samuel 16:13 and Exodus 30:31]
According to Rabbi Leibel Schapiro, within Jewish tradition, the king had to bow down before the Lord (in the tabernacle, and later, the temple) for much longer than anyone else, not only to keep his ego in check, but also to wait on the Lord for instructions on how to lead God’s people. The Rabbi also believes that the kings were vehicles by which God’s kingship could be manifest in the lives of the nation. Thus, David could guide the path of the Levites and wear an ephod to serve the Lord when he chose to. His actions were right.
The good news is, that is not the end of it. David had the right to wear an ephod, not just because he was the king and had special privileges, but simply because he was one of God’s chosen people. Regardless of the date on the calendar, we have the same right. Whether Jewish or Christian, we are all called to minister to and worship the Lord, and this was God’s decision which He initiated very early in Jewish history.
Exodus 19:1-6: “On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
This status hasn’t become outdated since Jesus atoned for our sins. In 1 Peter, chapter 2, Peter says this “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10
Reading about David wearing that ephod reminds me that I am special to God. I am not trained or ordained, I cannot lead a congregation, but there is nothing to stop me from worship and directly accessing my Father’s love and Will for me. He has never wanted there to be divisions which result in some followers having more, or less access and privilege. God’s heart is one of equal generosity to all.
When you look into the commands that the Lord gave to Moses, concerning Isra’el, they are incredibly generous, and exalted God’s people to a status which was the complete opposite to that which they had, had as slaves. In Numbers 15:38, the Isra’elites were told to add tassels to their garments which were died a specific blue, which is called tekhelet; an incredibly expensive product which was so costly, it was only worn by royalty and the highest ranking noblemen. It comes from a sea creature called the chillazon, and it takes many of these creatures to produce enough dye to make one thread blue.
This command of the Lord reinforced the value that God’s people had in His eyes. They were to be a royal priesthood, that served and thrived under Him. Instead of living the arduous, miserable life of a slave, they were valued, provided for and adored and the exact same thing applies to us.
David’s story may be about a king, but it is one which constantly teaches me where I stand with the Lord, boosts my faith and brings me closer to God. That is why I have spent so much time studying his life and I encourage you to do the same.
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