I feel sorry for God. He is so misunderstood. His created ones love to pick on Him, finding ways to mis-represent Him and misunderstand what He does.
The story of God striking Uzzah dead is one of those stories that is hard to understand. It can diminish our trust that God is loving and just. Remember the story?
But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
Why did God consider Uzzah’s action as “irreverence”? Wasn’t he just responding in careful concern for the well-being of the ark?
I know I didn’t understand God’s actions and felt like I wanted to defend Him but didn’t know how.
But I just finished reading R. C. Sproul’s book The Holiness of God and he gave an explanation that I found very helpful. The whole emphasis of his book and this story is God’s holiness. He gives these points:
1. Uzzah was most likely a Kohathite, a family branch of the Levites who were trained to transport the ark by carrying it with long poles inserted into the rings built into the ark. Numbers 4 gives the instructions for this group of men and verse 15 says, “When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.” The Kohathites were only to touch the poles and nothing else! They were not dedicated for the holy job of touching the holy ark.
2. What was the ark doing on the oxcart in the first place? God’s original plan was that it would be carried by the Kohathites via the poles as they walked. It was never supposed to be on a cart.
3. Uzzah touched the ark in violation of God’s specific instruction that such an act would bring death. R. C. Sproul writes, “He touched it anyway. He stretched out his hand and placed it squarely on the ark, steadying it in place lest it fall to the ground. An act of holy heroism? No! It was an act of arrogance, a sin of presumption. Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that would desecrate the ark; it was the touch of man.“
Sproul then goes on to explain that the earth is an obedient creature–it is always obeying God. (IE Sproul points out: “It brings forth its yield in its season. It obeys the laws of nature that God has established.”) Only man is in rebellion to God and Uzzah’s corrupted hand wasn’t supposed to touch the holy ark.
4. Sproul writes, “Uzzah was not an innocent man. He was not punished without a warning. He was not punished without violating a law. There was no caprice in this act of divine judgment. There was nothing arbitrary or whimsical about what God did in that moment.”
Uzzah had been trained specifically and thoroughly of what his job was and what he shouldn’t do. And because of the seriousness of the holiness of God and how the ark represented that holiness, high consequences had been placed with corrupting that holiness.
These are heavy things to think about. God doesn’t need me or anyone to defend Him, but I’m glad there is understanding of why something like Uzzah’s death had to occur.
In my next post, I’ll look at these ideas more fully.
(Photo found at http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=ark+of+covenant+images&id=6F94A6F320F4ECC7400F32CFD8E0AAE7CC185FFB&FORM=IQFRBA#view=detail&id=C94BC39F399BDA8144261F05D92A2E21CC35A2AD&selectedIndex=5)