Well David is finally king over all Israel. At God’s direction, Samuel had anointed him as the future king when he was a shepherd boy of about 12 or 15 years old. As we read today, he was 30 when God finally put him there. God always keeps his promises, but we never know what his timing will be.
So upon taking the throne, David decides that the Lord’s chest, better known as the Ark of the Covenant, should have a proper home. It had been captured by the Philistines many years before, and then brought back to Israel, where for some time it was in the home of Abinidab.
Now, there are some passages in Scripture that are hard to understand. This is one of them. Scholars have some ideas, but still some people really struggle with the following scene. First I’ll recap what happened then I’ll give some possible explanations.
The Ark is loaded onto an ox-drawn cart to make the trip from Abinidab’s house to David’s City. The two sons of Abinidab, Uzzah and Ahio went with it. Ahio was in the front to lead the oxen, Uzzah was close behind. Something happened that caused the oxen to stumble, which Uzzah evidently thought threatened to cause the Ark to fall, so Uzzah put his hand on the Ark to steady it. God was angry at this, and He stuck Uzzah dead.
It’s hard for a lot of people to understand God’s reaction to Uzzah’s actions here, and we’re told that David became angry at God for doing this.
So what happened? Why did God do this?
Here are the thoughts of scholars.
First off, when God gave His instructions to the Israelites on how they were to build the Ark, he was very clear about the most minute detail, including how it was to be transported and who was allowed to move it and who was allowed to touch it. It was never to be put onto a cart, but it was to be carried by Kohathites only. There were two poles that went through two loops on each side of the Ark, and these poles were to be placed on the Kohathite’s shoulders, bearing the Ark between them.
No one but a priest was to touch the Ark, because the Ark had the very presence of God upon it. Remember, this all happened before the Messiah had come, and only the priests had direct access to God and only priests could perform the sacrifices that could cover the sins of the people. The Ark represented a holy and awesome (in the very real sense of that word) God, and God had made it very clear how it was to be honored, because it was a reflection on how they were to honor God Himself.
So by putting the Ark on the ox drawn cart, they were all guilty of transgressing God’s direct instructions. Why was Uzzah killed?
Touching the Ark was a direct violation of God’s clear instruction. It could be that God saw the condition of Uzzah’s heart, that he didn’t have the proper attitude toward it. It had been in Uzzah’s house, after all for some time, and he might have become indifferent to it. We must not become indifferent to God. He. Is. God. The creator of all that is. The One who gives us life and sustains us.
It could be that Uzzah had a cavalier attitude regarding God’s Word. He didn’t think it was important to sweat the details.
Maybe his reaching out to steady the Ark reflected a lack of faith on Uzzah’s part, that God somehow needed his help.
What we might want to draw from this is that we need to pay attention to what God says, and we should do all we can to be obedient to Him. Yes, He is loving and He is merciful. But He is also Holy, and it is important that we never forget that. It is His holiness and justice that requires payment for sin. It is His love that made a way for me and you to not have to make the payment for our sins. It is His holiness and justice and love that required the sacrifice of His Son in my place and yours. Because of His holy and just nature, he couldn’t just overlook the sin. It had to be dealt with.
I’m thankful that God made a way for me to escape His wrath, and that He has offered that way, that gift, to anyone who will receive it.