My wife and I were recently studying through 2 Samuel, chapter 6, which tells of when King David desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to Jerusalem. David led a huge procession, which accompanied the Ark as it rode on a new (and probably very ornate) cart specifically built for that purpose.
“(5) And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. (6) And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. (7) And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.” – 2 Samuel 6:5-7
This is a befuddling passage at first glance. Uzzah was only trying to steady the Ark when the oxen stumbled. Why would God have struck him dead when he was only trying to protect the Ark?
Well, we know from Exodus 25:10-15 and Numbers 4:1-20 that God had given very strict instructions that the Ark of the Covenant was only to be transported by hand using poles inserted through rings and only by the Kohathites. David deliberately disobeyed God’s instructions by transporting the Ark on a cart. He was copying the Philistines who had used a cart previously to transport the Ark after they had captured it.
We know that the Ark, with its mercy seat sitting atop the enclosed stone tablets of the Law, a sample of the manna from Heaven, and Aaron’s rod, was an object of the utmost holiness because it was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ and foreshadowed His redemptive work and offices. The Ark was not to be treated casually as David and the priests who were present had done. Uzzah had committed an act of desecration by touching the holy Ark. He died because David and the priests had not followed God’s instructions. This wasn’t the first time or the last that others perished because of David’s disobedience.
When David moved the Ark the next time, he made sure God’s instructions for moving the Ark were followed to the letter. See 1 Chronicles 15:1-28.
What applications can we glean from 2 Samuel, chapter 6?
- The passage reminds us that we are to worship and obey our Almighty and Holy God with the focus and reverence He deserves. Our relationship with the Lord is often far too casual and/or given a low priority compared to other “interests” and demands on our time.
- We shouldn’t look to the world for how we are to worship and obey our God.
- The commands of God are not relative or open to debate. In this era of plurality and tolerance, no one wants to hear that there is only one way to salvation, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. It is not up to individuals to choose how they want to worship God. He revealed His way, the only way, in His Word.
- Is it possible that one of the other lessons from this story is that no human effort can assist the Lord Jesus Christ in His offices of Savior and Mediator? Uzzah attempted to steady the Ark as it sat upon the cart when the oxen stumbled. The Ark symbolized Jesus Christ. God did not accept human assistance in steadying the Ark and He cannot accept the sinful works of sinful men in their attempts to merit their salvation.