Attempting to steady the Ark

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.

12 thoughts on “Attempting to steady the Ark

  1. It reminds me of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who added incense to the blood offering. God struck them down immediately. They also seemed to be doing something that seemed honorable, but imagine if their actions were allowed to stand. Then the blood offering could be enhanced by human effort, wealth, or outward displays. Nothing but the blood! Thank you, Lord, for making us all equal at the foot of the cross. And thank you for this explanation!

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  2. Interesting topic, Tom. You know God is sovereign and can certainly do what He wants when He wants and so forth. The topic of David honestly causes one to pause a bit when we think about the number of people who suffered directly because of his actions. As if others bore the penalty for what David did. Of course, God has a plan we may or may not be privy too, but some of these stories seem problematic on the surface. David is the one who ordered the Ark to be transported that way; that fellow never would have had to steady it had David not issued that order.

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    1. Thanks, Wally. When I hear people talk about “heroes of the Bible” my ears perk up because they had their failings. People talk about David’s sin with Bathsheba as if that was his only sin, but there were several other instances where he definitely “dropped the ball’ like this one. One of the reasons we know the Bible is true is because men would never have recorded the failings of the “heroes of the faith.” I’m really encouraged by the fact that David, a man after God’s own heart, made some bad decisions periodically.

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  3. That was a fantastic post, brother! Thank you for expounding on this passage. I love how you pointed out at the end that it’s a perfect picture of Gods sovereignty in salvation. When the entire world is attempting to steady the Ark, this is a much needed message!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, sister! That’s right. People can contribute nothing to the finished work of the Savior! That is so contrary to the ubiquitous “good people go to Heaven” philosophy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So true, brother, I rarely share the Gospel with someone who doesn’t proclaim their own goodness. With one exception, I spoke to a Satanist the other day who readily admitted they were a bad person. They said if God was real they were ok with going to Hell. They most likely had a cartoonish view of eternity.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have never witnessed to a Satanist, but I’ve spoken with several scoffers who said they would rather go to hell because that’s where all their friends will be and all the partying, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

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