As we come to this week’s story, I find myself questioning God. In the end, I find the answer. But as the story begins, I am left scratching my head. Let me explain.
As the story opens, we find David excited about bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. David is establishing a kingdom that is centered on Yahweh (God) worship. As a part of the plan, they decide to bring one of the most important pieces of Yahweh worship to the city. The ark had been captured by the enemy, but is now back in David’s control. David plans to make the cavalcade a big deal. He commissions 30K men to make the journey. It did not take this many to make the transport; the ark is only a four foot box. Yet David wants to highlight its significance. It seems to me that David has the best of intentions. He is honoring God and contributing major resources to establishing his kingdom as a God-fearing, God-worshiping people. David is ecstatic that he is able to be a part of this venture.
(2 Samuel 6:5 NIV) David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
It is quite the worship celebration. All seems right; David is honoring God by bringing the ark to the city. What happens next catches David off guard. Along the way, the ox (the ark is on a cart being pulled by an ox) stumbles and it appears that the ark is going to be smashed into pieces. This guy named Uzzah tries to prevent the disaster. He reaches out to steady the ark. Look at what happens next.
(2 Samuel 6:7 NIV) The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.
I don’t know about you, but his actions don’t seem irreverent. Another translation (ESV) puts it this way.
(2 Samuel 6:7 ESV) God struck him down there because of his error.
Was he not trying to prevent the ark from being destroyed? What is the problem?
David’s response was like mine. He did not understand why God put a damper on his party. He was right in the middle of a worship parade and God strikes one of them dead. David is not happy. In fact the bible tells us,
(2 Samuel 6:8 NIV) Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath . . .
He decides to cancel the procession and store the ark in the house of Obed-Edom (rather than bringing it into the city). We are told that David is afraid of God.
(2 Samuel 6:9 NIV) David was afraid of the LORD that day . . .
I am not sure how long it took David to realize the problem. But if we go back to God’s instructions in Numbers, we discover why Uzzah’s action caused his death.
(Numbers 4:15 NIV) “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the Tent of Meeting.
David had not done his homework. Uzzah’s death was a result of David skipping God’s instruction. David chose efficiency rather than attention to detail. And God would not allow David to skimp on the particulars. Join us on Sunday as we explore this story.
A few week’s ago, when I was doing research on this sermon, I wrote an article entitled In a Hurry. I would encourage you to read it if you are interested in finding out how this story ends. And/or you can show up on Sunday as we engage 2 Samuel 6 together.