2 Samuel 6 records the occasion when David moved the ark of the covenant from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem, after having conquered the city and making it his capital. When David became king, he resolved to bring the ark of the covenant to Jersualern and to re-unite the divided worship. Consequently, David gathered 30,000 chosen men of Israel and proceeded to bring the ark of the covenant from the house of Abinadab in Gibeah to Jerusalem.
And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God (2 Sam. 6:3-7). There are a number of lessons from this record which we can learn from today.
When God gives man a pattern, he expects men to follow that pattern. God had given Israel a pattern for transporting the ark of the covenant. The sons of Kohath, the son of Aaron, were given the responsibility of transporting the ark of the covenant. The high priest was to cover the ark of the covenant with a veil and the sons of Kohath were to carry the ark on their shoulders (Num. 4:1-15). For whatever reasons, the ark was not transported according to the Bible pattern. When the people placed the ark of God on their new cart they committed a serious trespass: they ignored the divinely appointed order and substituted their own arrangements. David acted without divine orders and substituted something in the worship and service of God for which he had no “thus saith the Lord.”
Sins committed with good intentions are still punishable by God. One could not persuade Uzzah that this is so – Uzzah’s intentions were good. He was concerned that the ark of the covenant might fall off the new cart when the oxen stumbled. With the intention of steadying the tottering ark of the covenant, Uzzah reached back and touched the ark. Immediately, God struck Uzzah dead in exact compliance with Numbers 4:15. Good intentions do not sanctify wrong actions.
In writing to the Romans, Paul commended their zeal for God but condemned them for not practicing the righteousness of God. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10: 1-3).
Failure to follow God’s divine pattern is a sign of irreverence. The man who does not show enough regard for the Lord to inquire from his word to see what he has said about the matter does not show reverence for the will of God. Before speaking on the subject of adultery, a man should see what God has said about the matter. Before deciding how often the Lord’s supper should be served, a man should see what God has had to say about the matter. He who rushes to speak or act without consulting the will of God shows disrespect for God’s work in revelation.
The counsel of great men does not constitute authority from God. When David prepared to bring the ark of the covenant from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem, he conferred with the prominent men. “And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us: and let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul. And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people” (1 Chron. 13:1-4). However, because it was right in the eyes of the people did not make it right in the eyes of God.
Conclusion: Brethren, let us never forget the fundamental lessons which we have learned from the study of such basic stories as the death of Uzzah. The lessons learned is that we need to go exactly by God’s commandments and not add to them our opinions or subtract from them in the slightest (1 Cor 4:6 ff; 1 Pet 4:11; Rev 22:18,19). Just because something sounds good in man’s eyes doesn’t mean it is approved of by God. If the story of Uzzah doesn’t make you shake and tremble as a Christian, then of a truth you are bound to repeat the mistake of Uzzah. I fear for many in the church, the warning of Uzzah is going unheeded and his punishment will soon be theirs. Don’t make it yours!