I’ve recently been writing about how important it is to obey God. Sometimes not doing things God’s way has some pretty severe repercussions – like death. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like a logical consequence.
In the Book of 1 Chronicles, David is escorting the Ark of the Covenant to the new home he has built for it.
1 Chronicles 13 5-8
5 So David assembled all Israel from the Shihor of Egypt to the entrance of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kir′iath-je′arim. 6 And David and all Israel went up to Ba′alah, that is, to Kir′iath-je′arim which belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. 7 And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, from the house of Abin′adab, and Uzzah and Ahi′o were driving the cart. 8 And David and all Israel were making merry before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.
But then something terrible happens in verses 9-10.
9 And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and he smote him because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.
Uzzah didn’t intentionally reach out to the Ark – he was trying to protect it from falling. It was on an ox cart, and the oxen stumbled. He instinctually reached out, and he was killed by God because of it. This sounds pretty harsh. It was an accident. He wasn’t intentionally sinning. He was actually trying to do something good. It would have been terrible if the Ark had fallen and gotten damaged.
The story continues in verses 11-14.
11 And David was angry because the LORD had broken forth upon Uzzah; and that place is called Pe′rez-uz′za to this day. 12 And David was afraid of God that day; and he said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” 13 So David did not take the ark home into the city of David, but took it aside to the house of O′bed-e′dom the Gittite. 14 And the ark of God remained with the household of O′bed-e′dom in his house three months; and the LORD blessed the household of O′bed-e′dom and all that he had.
(Pe′rez-uz′za means “outburst against Uzzah”)
What are we supposed to learn from this story? It seems pretty illogical and capricious of God. I don’t want to follow a God who strikes down people without reason. I need there to be logical rules and consequences.
So I started to think about it. Why did Uzzah die? Perhaps there is something more to this story. Sometimes we can’t see the big picture because we don’t have all the pieces. I kept reading on. Perhaps there were more clues.
Perhaps it was to bless O′bed-e′dom and his family. Perhaps there is more to that story later – how the Ark being at his house had a result that we don’t see for years later.
Perhaps we don’t get to see the result. That too is part of our human perspective. Sometimes we will never know it all – we just can’t. Our brains don’t have the capacity. Plus – God doesn’t owe us any explanations. Sometimes the biggest thing we can do is trust.
But there is more to the story, and it comes fairly soon.
1 Chronicles 15:11-15
11 Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abi′athar, and the Levites U′riel, Asai′ah, Jo′el, Shemai′ah, Eli′el, and Ammin′adab, 12 and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. 13 Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke forth upon us, because we did not care for it in the way that is ordained.” 14 So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God upon their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.
So the problem was that they didn’t ask God how to do it before they did it. They tried to move the Ark, a very sacred thing, using their own ways rather than God’s ways. They even had a correct way to move it – Moses had already asked, and God had said to move it with poles resting upon people’s shoulders. It wasn’t supposed to be on a cart at all. Either they forgot this information over the years, or they thought they didn’t need it. But when it came time to move it, they didn’t inquire of God how to do it. That was the problem.
In the words of Solomon, King David’s son, we read in Proverbs 3:5-8
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
We are to constantly seek God to know how to do things. Then we will have life, and have it in abundance.