A casual reading of the II Samuel chapter six could leave one with the impression that God was unusually harsh in killing Uzzah. Some 30,000 people and King David were worshipping in a parade. They placed the Ark on a new cart and proceeded to make the journey to Jerusalem. While enroute the oxen stumbled and the ark begin to slip, Uzzah put his hand on the ark and the Anger of the Lord was kindled and God killed him. Was this a case of unjust rage or an act of mercy? Let’s take a closer look.
The Philistines had place the ark on a cart and sent it towards Jerusalem and it had arrived at the house of Abinadab. When it was time to take to move it to Jerusalem; the Israelites simple built a new cart. However, the law required that the priests were to carry the Ark upon their shoulders, using the poles especially designed for this purpose. Placing it upon a cart was the first sin of the day. They had failed to hid His law in their hearts. Had Uzzah known the law of God he would not have reached forth his hand in human strength to try and save the Ark. Rather he would have trusted that God was able through whatever means he chose to save the Ark of His dwelling place.
There were very specific rules given regarding the Ark of the Covenant. It was always God’s desire to be as close as possible to His people. Thus knowing that they were sinful and must approach the Holy in a sacred manner or else they would be consumed by His brilliant holiness; God prescribes these rules to protect the people from the fullness of His glory.
In this instance there were over 30,000 people present that day, and God only took the life of one. Years earlier when Israel had welcomed the Ark back from Philistine the Lord stuck 50,070 men dead for simply looking inside of the Ark. (1 Sam 6:19) The people seemed to have forgotten the Holiness of the ark. Ignorance is never an excuse for disobedience; especially when the Law of God was available to them. Based upon this God showed very little wrath and was extremely gracious. The impetuous for Yahweh’s restraining was probably because the people were worshipping and had good intentions.
David takes a long period of time to study the law and discovers why Uzzah was killed when they first attempted to return the Ark to Jerusalem on a new cart. The Law of Moses speaks of how to handle the ark and so he know uses proper priests consecrated to carry it upon their shoulders. Like before there was worship and this time even feasting before the Lord. Done properly consecrated and holy God was pleased and no one died.
The Mercy of God was clearly shown that day, with death of only one; for all including the King could have been slain for such an infraction. While God desires intimate fellowship with God; it must always come through His terms and conditions. The sinful human in an unresurrected body can stand in the fullness of God’s glory without being consumed. Moses in the presence of a burning bush had to remove his sandals because the ground was holy. The children of Israel had to approach the Ark in a certain manner because the nature of His holiness requires it and the Ark housed the presence of God. God always strives to use the least amount of punishment possible to gain the greatest amount of obedience. This is another case were the life of one, accomplished just that David learned the law, repented, and the people got it right the next time.-ChriS Ferguson