7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:7
Reading the comments on ‘poor Uzzah’ and the seeming severity of God’s apparent swift judgement on Uzzah, I decided to spend an extra day on exploring the story of Uzzah and see if we can learn something fresh from this rather tragic story. (This is a long read, so get a cup of tea!)
I want to start with a few statements. God is never unjust. God is never vindictive. God never does evil. God’s actions are always full of integrity. God always does right. Let’s settle this. Having established this, we can move forward without risking irreverence and blaming God.
Who was Uzzah? Uzzah (his name simply means strength). Knowing the Israelites always name their children like most Africans, based on prophetic revelation of something they perceive as a feature of the child, Uzzah must have had some type of strength or was a strong guy), we will leave that for now. He was one of three sons of Abinadab. (Ahio, Uzzah and Eleazer). Who was Abinadab? Abinadab was a Levite who lived in Kirjath-Jearim.
How did the ark end up in the house of Abinadab on top of the hill? Due to the apostasy of Israel, the Philistines captured the Ark for seven months, God plagued the Philistines and they wanted nothing to do with the Ark anymore. They returned the Ark to Israel on a cart driven by oxen. The Ark arrives in a place called Beth-Shemesh (House of the Sun). The oxen of their own accord brought the Ark to Beth Shemesh and the people of Beth Shemesh were so happy to see the Ark. The Levites came and took the Ark down and set it up and sacrificed before the ark. Then, the men of Beth-Shemesh looked into the Ark and God struck them, a total of 50,070 men died as a result of this irreverence. Please take note of that number. They then sent for the men of Kirjath-jearim and they brought it to the house of Abinadab, then they consecrated one of his sons, Eleazar to keep the ark.
Now this is where the story picks up. The ark was in the house of Abinadab for about 20 years.
He had a son named Eleazar (God is my helper), who was consecrated and set aside for the care of the ark? Why was he not involved with bringing the ark into Jerusalem? Why was it Ahio and Uzzah his brothers, who now took charge? Did they have a conflict? Did Eleazar warn them not to do it the way they chose to? What happened? We can’t say for sure.
One thing we know for certain is that God judged Uzzah for his error.
Uzzah had the ark in his father’s house for 20 years. Had he been irreverent towards the ark? Remember he was not consecrated to look after the ark. Was he too familiar with the ark that he had lost the awe the ark demands? They say familiarity breeds contempt! Did he muscle his way into this position, pushing his brother aside? Remember this was a very big event. All the important men of Israel were assembled. Did he advice king David to use the methods of the Philistines, cart and oxen to move the ark, because if he had followed the prescribed order, he would definitely not feature in the procession?
One can only wonder and ponder. What really happened is in the realms of mystery until God decides he wants us to know
. I am particularly intrigued by the simple fact that the Ark was in their house for 20 years and nothing was mentioned about the house being blessed. Contrast that to Obed-Edom who only had the ark for 3 months and his house was blessed.
Is this an indication that they were irreverent, though, Eleazar appeared to have done his work well, perhaps the other brothers were definitely not as dedicated and clearly, not consecrated. Why did they choose Eleazar to look after the Ark among the three brothers? These are questions that begin to give us a clue.
I want to make some personal assumptions here.
1. Uzzah must have been a forceful guy, strong man. The Ark was supposed to be carried by 4 priests on their shoulders. Uzzah was going to carry the ark alone. Hmm! The Ark weighed quite a bit, enough to warrant four men carrying it.
2. He was most likely a man who used the flesh and fleshly means a lot. How did he take the place of his anointed and consecrated brother?
3. He must have been over familiar with the ark. (Like some say, he had began to treat the Almighty God like his buddy). God loving us and condescending to behold us, does not and can never give us the license to dishonour Him. Whatever you do, never dishonour God. It cost Moses the promised land. It caused the death or Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu. God must always be honoured and hallowed.
4. He touched the ark, which was strictly forbidden. At this stage, it is a culmination of many acts irreverence and willful, fleshly attempts to help God. Before the Ark came to their house, Uzzah must have known that the Philistines were seriously plagued and the over 50,000 men of Beth Shemesh were killed for looking into the Ark. Where did his fear of God go?
5. If God struck him for his error. God saw what we did not see. God sees beyond external actions; he sees the state of the heart. What was in Uzzah’s heart when he touched the ark?
I saw this entry by Pastor Francis Chan and thought I align with his perspective, so I have reproduced it here (I hope he does not mind).
“To us, many situations in Scripture involve a punishment that was too severe for the crime. But why do we feel this way?
We don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” We live in a human-centered world among people who see themselves as the highest authority. We are quick to say things like “That isn’t fair!” because we believe we deserve certain rights as humans. Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God. Even in the Church we can act as though God’s actions should revolve around us. The stories in Scripture are meant to show us that there exists something of greater value than our existence and rights. There are things that belong to God. Sacred things. His ark of the covenant, His command to Moses, His offerings in the temple, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Communion, His sacred Church. In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters.”
Francis Chan, Letters to the Church (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2018).
What can we learn from this tragedy?
1. We must always do our best to let the Holy Spirit lead and we should depend of God’s Spirit for God’s work. The arm of flesh will fail. It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.
2. Let’s not get too familiar with God that we lose our fear of Him. I mean reverential fear of God. Because God loves us does not mean will not judge us. We have to remember that God has absolute integrity. We must remember the basis on which we stand in His presence. It is the blood of Jesus alone and may we never lose sight of that and begin to think that we have some type of privileges because we did somethings for God.
3. We live in the dispensation of grace, but it is never a license to sin. Quite the opposite. Grace empowers you to live right and to shun sin. I said this to answer those who say, ‘that was God in the Old Testament’. God has not changed. He remains the same. Let us not abuse His grace. I love the grace of God. It is why I am who I am. I will always depend and draw on His grace, but may I never take the grace for granted.
4. God striking only Uzzah and not the entire procession is an act of both His mercy and grace. By the mercies of God, we are not consumed. The Hebrew description of how God dealt with Uzzah implied Uzzah basically exploded. So, God restrained himself to one man, perhaps the one man who truly initiated the error. He covered the rest of the 29,999 men and gave them an opportunity to get it right. Thank God for His mercy!!!
5. Today we can walk in liberty and freedom, because the blood of Jesus has been shed for us. The provision of the blood of Jesus precedes all our predicaments. All our sins. All our errors. This is mercy. But the blood also releases God’s abundant grace, so we are empowered to avoid costly errors. (We shall explore this deeper soon).
Finally, a view of the Cross is important here. Jesus was sinless. He took upon himself the sin of man. God released the full punishment upon Jesus for our sins, in order to fulfil His righteous judgement, yet in the same act, he protected us from His wrath, absorbed our punishment, whilst extending mercy and grace to us. That is why, to ignore the Cross of Jesus, and refuse its provisions, is to tell God he does not know what He is doing. That is why, the bible says in John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Let Us Pray: (Make it personal today) Lord help me to always honour You and revere You! Help me never to become too familiar with You that I lose the sense of Your Awesomeness. Help me to always remember to ask for the help of The Helper, The Holy Spirit, so I am not operating in the flesh. Let me always remember the provision of the cross and appropriate both the mercy and grace it provided for me. Thank You for the continuous speaking of the blood of Jesus for me. Amen