A Lesson From Uzzah
And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart....And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
2 Samuel 6:3, 6-7
Someone once said something along the lines that ‘The path of good intention is a byway to disaster.’ Nowhere is that better illustrated than in this passage. David had, for whatever reason, ignored God’s clear instruction that the Ark of the Covenant should be carried by the priests (Ex 25:12-15, Num 4:5-6), and put it instead on a new cart. Perhaps the cart was a very grand cart. I’m sure it looked nice, and imbued a great sense of pomp and respect to the occasion. I’m sure David didn’t put it on the cart just to break God’s command, and was acting from the best intentions. But it still was in direct contravention to God’s command.
Then, part-way along the road, the Ark looked as if it might fall from the cart. Uzzah saw it, and did what was surely a very logical and common sense thing – he put out his hand to steady it. Now although God had commanded that no one was to touch the Ark (Num 4:15), I’m sure you or I might well have done the same thing. After all, surely it is greatly disrespectful, if not a sin, to be so careless with something as holy as God’s Mercy Seat, where atonement was made for the people, as to let it fall to the floor. He had the best of intentions. If it falls, it might break. The holy contents might spill forth to the view of the people.
Might it? Would it have fallen? Was God not in control? He certainly would not have used a man’s sinful hands to save the symbol of salvation. Far better for it to fall to the dusty ground than to be defiled by fallen humanity.
But enough about what happened. I would like to summarise the applications I came to when thinking about this passage, firstly towards our personal life, then towards the church as a whole.
It may be that we have put our life on the wrong basis as we progress along life’s road towards our final resting place in the New Jerusalem. Things are starting to look a bit shaky and unsure. We must be very careful as to what actions we take – far better to do what God has commanded, even if it means our life seems to head for disaster, than to take quick, easy options, which go against scripture.
It may be that our church has been put on the wrong basis by our leadership, and is struggling in some way. The logical step might be to take quick fixes to try and bring in more people from outside – perhaps start a worship band, or perhaps a clowning ministry.
At the same time, we must be careful that we do not take a course of action because ‘it’s always been done’. David should not have had the Ark carried just because that was how the Ark had been transported ever since it was built. He should have had the priests carry it because God had commanded it. In worship, we should not be using just a piano and having a ‘hymn-prayer sandwich’, or alternatively having open worship and unaccompanied psalms, or whatever else it might be, just because that’s how our church has worshipped for the past 50 or 500 years. Perhaps it is right that a particular church should be using guitars. So long as what we do is guided by scripture and does not contravene God’s commands, then He will not let the ark of His salvation, the church His bride, fall and break.
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