With the start of my third year of medical school I've been shocked into a schedule quite foreign to me, waking up at four or five in the morning to make it to the hospital to see patients and have charts ready for interns and residents by six or seven. In the last week or so I've gotten in the habit of reading a chapter from the Old Testament with my coffee and oatmeal before heading to the hospital. I've made it through the OT before but in recent years I've neglected it a bit, spending most of my time in the Gospels and also a good amount of time in the rest of the NT in my regular devotional reading.
There are a lot of things in the Old Testament I wouldn't claim to have a good understanding of. This is certainly not the fault of one of my favorite professors at Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Lawson Stone, who taught a wonderful Old Testament survey class when I was there. I think the Old Testament is generally harder to understand than the New Testament and one area which has always been difficult for me is dealing with the ark of the covenant. It had bothered me that at times it seemed like the Israelites treated it as a good luck charm. And it almost seems that that was how it worked sometimes, as with Obed-edom in 2nd Samuel 6:10-11 where the Lord blesses Obed-edom, seemingly as a result of having the Ark under his roof.
During my mornings I've been reading through 2nd Samuel and recently read through chapter fifteen. Here David is fleeing from Jerusalem as Absalom prepares to take the kingdom from his father. As David is fleeing Jerusalem, the priests and Levites come to David bearing the ark of the covenant. But David tells Zadok, the priest, to, "Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, 'I have no pleasure in you,' behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him (2nd Samuel 15:25-26)." I'll admit that I had forgotten this passage and when I read that the priests had carried out the ark I figured that David would want to take it with him. But the first thought I had at David's words was that he did not view the ark as a good luck charm. I must be in good company with that assessment because I checked the text note in my ESV Study Bible right away and it read, "David does not try to use the ark as some sort of 'good luck charm.'" Instead David's attitude seems to be completely trusting in God's sovereignty, with or without the ark. David doesn't seem to think that the outcome of Absalom's rebellion will come about by chance or that having the ark will somehow increase his chances of success. David sees his return to Jerusalem as completely dependent upon the will of the Lord and nothing else. This one occasion certainly doesn't undo all of my lack of understanding in this area but I think David's perspective is very interesting here and I think it also reflects the perspective we should have as Christians on the grace of God. That is, we can't earn it and we can't manipulate God in any way to get it. How God bestows grace is completely dependent on his sovereign will and not dependent on anything we could be or do.