Earlier this week, I was thinking of one of my granddaughters, Hero. She is just starting preschool and is the spitting image (why do we call it that?) of her mother. It is so much fun to experience this new season of her life. She is so like her mother at that age, not only in looks but in her spirit as well. She is very sweet, giggly and vivacious. The time I spend with Hero is enjoyable, not only because of this precious little child and her antics, but I also get to remember her mother’s childhood since Hero so closely carries her likeness.
In 2 Samuel 6, we see another idea about bearing one’s image. This one will not have a pleasant outcome. And before it’s over, there will be a strong reminder of who God is. One that will be apparent to all.
When the story opens, David, King of Israel, had decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant home to his city, and he planned to do it in grand fashion. He called up thirty thousand troops and a marching band to accompany him along the way. This procession would have everything! Can you just imagine it? And no parade is complete without a Grand Marshall, and who would fit the bill better than the Lord Almighty Himself. During that time in history, God chose to be present with His people by relegating Himself to the confines of this very ornate box called the Ark. And the delivery of that Ark would be stepped up a notch. They would add a ‘float’ to the celebration. God and His Ark would ride on an oxcart that would roll into town. It was going to be fantastic—right up to the fatal mistake, that is.
One man would reach out and do the unthinkable. He would steady the Ark with his hand to keep it from falling off the cart. That would be the last straw for God. He would keep His word as He always does. Death would be God’s response for the disregard of His Law. Harsh, you say? Yes, it is, but it should not have come as a surprise to David and his company.
You see, rules for transporting God from place to place and the promised punishment for breaking them were laid out in detail in the ‘handbook’ of the Law. David would have, or in any case should have, known the regulation. He was the Lord’s representative after all. Yet, here he was, changing the law up a bit to fit his desire. The Ark was to have been transported by the priests, lifted up to their shoulders. It was a picture of God glorified and the priest’s submission as they carried him. Somehow the oxcart just doesn’t portray that same feeling.
We do not really know why David decided that the ark would ride rather than be carried, but we do know that God nor His rules are subjected to change. His answer to their indiscretion would devastate a family. The parade of celebration was over and a funeral march of sorrow would be put in its place. Such a sad state of affairs. David’s plan was to bring God closer, to celebrate and honor Him in a way that seemed so perfect. So how could it go so wrong? His intentions were good after all. What made this such a big deal?
The problem was that God is not the one who will be changed to fit our sensibilities. He has standards and they are not up for discussion. They are what make Him who He is after all—Faithful and True. It’s so we can depend on Him. That’s why it was important that God’s agents carry Him according to His instructions. They should have never tried to make Him compromise with what they wanted.
For each of us, it is equally important to be mindful of how we carry God’s image into the world. Is it an accurate portrayal of who God really is? Or has He been pushed and pulled out of shape to fit our desires? God does not change to accommodate us. As seen in this story, He’ll have none of it. He doesn’t work that way. He will not be manipulated. And for those who try to make Him fit into their schemes, they will find themselves like those in Israel on that terrible day, devastated and full of sorrow.
When we take on the task of carrying God—bearing His image—we need to conform to Him and His ways. That’s what life is all about after entrusting it to God, learning to live it His way. We must to become His ‘spitting image’.
So that brings us back to the beginning. Why DO we call looking alike the ‘spitting image’? The English phrase spitting image comes from ‘spit and image’ which was a shortened version of ‘spirit and image’. Ah ha. . . Now, we get it and that is just what we need when we carry God into the world. Just as my granddaughter looks and acts so like her mother, those around us must see that God is our strongest feature. We need His spirit and His image to reside in our beings as we take our places, raising Him up for all the world to see.