Sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing – what is right? But God doesn’t. God is right.
In 2 Samuel 6, David was excitedly bringing the ark of the covenant, which was a physical symbol of God’s throne and sovereignty, to the royal city of Jerusalem. He wanted to honor God and set an example for the Israelites by showing the proper respect, worship and awe of God and he wanted to bring God’s presence into his holy city. This was a very good and right plan. God likes to be honored.
However, the Levites were supposed to be responsible for moving the ark of the covenant by following the law given by God as to HOW to move the sacred ark. God had earlier given rather specific directions on how it was to be moved. It was not to be touched. Covered with layers of curtain, sea cow hides, and a blue cloth, the ark was to be carried on poles stretched across the shoulders of the Levites. Generations before, God had specifically said, “They must not touch the holy things or they will die.” (Numbers 4:15). But, those rules and consequences had been given so long ago…
Rather than following God’s rules, they were doing things the way they had seen others do. They were following what had been advised and done by the pagan Philistines who had earlier captured the ark of God, been greatly afflicted because of it, and returned it to Israel on a new cart. (That is also a great account about the ark of the covenant found in 1 Samuel 5 & 6. )
So now the Israelites were moving the ark of God on a new cart, just as they had seen others do before. The oxen stumbled and the cart jerked and the ark shifted and well-meaning, but wrong, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark. He died immediately for touching the holy things that God had said to not touch.
It is so much easier getting into trouble because we don’t do things the right way when we dumbly follow the example of the ungodly rather than the law of God. And it’s not just the Israelites of David’s day, it is a common problem with Christians today as well. What are things that God has said are wrong that society says are fine? And way too many of God’s people are following in the ways of the world instead of remaining firmly rooted in God’s directions for holy living? We aren’t supposed to do things the way we see others do them: lying, cheating, gossiping, divorce and remarriage, addictions, abortion, living together before marriage, one night stands, disrespecting our parents and leaders, homosexuality, course joking, hurting others, touching the ark of the covenant. There are reasons for God’s rules and they are right. He is a righteous God and there are and will be consequences for disregarding God’s right way.
At Uzzah’s sudden death, David was angry and afraid of the Lord. It seemed God was harsh and cruel. This is often what happens when a righteous God does what He says He will do when people who are wrong fail to follow God’s right way and heed His warnings.
Luckily, David doesn’t stay in this mindset. After leaving the ark behind for three months, they try again. THIS time David makes sure they do it the right way. The Levites are ready to do the job the way God had designed and instructed. There is no cart and no touching the ark. The story is also retold in 1 Chronicles 15 and there it specifically records David as saying to the Levites, “‘It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.’ So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.”(1 Chronicles 15:13-15 NIV)
Rather than continuing to be angry with God, David searched to see what was right. How could they fix the mistake they had made? How could they try again to do it right in the eyes of God? And God was pleased as they entered Jerusalem with the ark upon the shoulders of the Levites.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- In what way(s) have you followed what you have seen others do, rather than what God has directed? Have you already seen any negative consequences? How can you try again to fix the mistake and do it God’s right way instead? In nothing comes to mind, pray about it.
- What would be wise to do when we find we are angry with God?
- When David’s wife Michal saw David worshiping and praising God with dance (in his linen ephod – a sleeveless hip-length garment worn by those in service to God) she despised him. Why? What did God think of her reaction? Are you ever guilty of being more concerned about appearing proper and dignified and “royal” than lowering yourself to give God the praise He deserves? How are you willing to be humiliated in your own eyes (2 Samuel 6:22) in order to worship God?