The big day had arrived. The new cart was ready. The people were all in unity. Their hearts were all well-intentioned. Their praises rang out loud and clear. But then the ox stumbled …and God couldn’t stop His ark from stumbling! Did the The Almighty Creator of the Universe really need the help of a man to steady the Ark of His Presence? Would this blasphemy have occurred if the Ark had been carried God’s prescribed way?
7 So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart.
8 Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.
9 And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. 11 And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. 12 David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?”
13 So David would not move the ark with him into the City of David, but took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 14 The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that he had.
– 1 Chronicles 13:7-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
God had warned His people in Numbers 4:15, “15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.”.
“Lest they die.” Uzzah died. And David became angry with God (v.12). Did it not occur to David that God might have ample reason to be angry with him and all those who allowed this unbiblical action to occur? In other versions it states that David was “offended with God,” that he “blazed up in anger against God.” Does that idea terrify you? That puny man would let his anger blaze against the Creator of all things, the Savior of all men? Should David’s reaction not have been one of total humility under God’s mighty hand?
SYMPTOMS OF UZZAH’S SYNDROME
I have studied 1Chronicles 13 for many years. However, it wasn’t until recently that I began with deep sorrow to recognize the same symptoms in today’s church as were present during this tragic period in the history of Israel. Collectively, the symptoms center around the lack of seeking God and His will through obedience to His Word as the most important action of our lives. No matter what other motives we have – noble though they may seem – obedience to Him and His Word are all that matter. It is here that David and the people erred; how “good” it all looked on the outside.
They had good intentions – but were their intentions driven by self or by the Holy Spirit? There was unanimity – ‘popularity’ is the more modern word. There was passionate singing – but, again, was the singing the excitement of the flesh or the anointing of the Spirit? They had a bright, shiny new platform for God, a new cart – but was that the Holy transport God commanded?
When all this is put under the microscope of God’s Word we see instead that these are all symptoms, symptoms of death. How is that possible? David gave the answer himself:
11 And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites: for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. 12 He said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. 13 For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”
– 1 Chronicles 15: 13 New King James Version (NKJV)
Everything we do has to be completely in accord with God’s Word and not with what we think is best, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how popular our ideas, no matter how good it looks on the outside, and especially as we will notice, not on a “new cart.”
The noted Charles Spurgeon had the following comments on 1Chronicles 13:
David loved his God and venerated the symbol of His presence. He desired to restore the Lord’s appointed worship, and to place the ark where it should be, as the most sacred center of worship. But right things must be done in a right manner, or they will fail. In this case the failure was sad for Uzzah died.
Here were multitudes, “David and all Israel,” and yet the business came to naught. Crowds do not ensure blessing.
Here was energy: “they played before God with all their might.” This was no dull and sleepy worship, but a bright, lively service, and yet… There was very little spiritual feeling! More music than grace.
The priests were not in their places, nor the Levites to carry the ark: oxen took the place of willing men. The worship was not sufficiently spiritual and humble.
There was no sacrifice. This was a fatal flaw; for how can we serve the Lord apart from sacrifice? I wonder that David did not notice this fatal omission, and I am not surprised that Uzzah died as there is no mention of the sprinkling of blood upon the mercy-seat that day. And, beloved, if we leave the blood of atonement out of our worship, we leave out that which is the very life of it.
There was little reverence. We hear little of prayer, but we hear much of oxen, a cart, and the too familiar hand of Uzzah.
There was no thought as to God’s mind. David confessed, “we sought him not after the due order” (1 Chron. 15:13).
As Spurgeon highlighted, we have eminently good intentions, conducted with the total agreement of the people of God, with praise abounding and yet disaster ensues. The result: God was displeased, Uzzah died and David’s anger delayed the entrance of the Ark into Jerusalem by three months.
Verse 12 states that David was afraid of God. Fear is the result of sin. Down deep inside David knew he had done something wrong. He felt guilty. Yet, this was a man who truly loved God and his subsequent actions would show that. Wonderfully, God would speak from His mercy seat and give David and all the people a second chance. This time they would follow God’s Word to the letter and that would make all the difference.
Yet, before we discuss David’s and the people’s repentance, God’s blessed mercy and the glorious outcome that unfolds in 1Chronicles 15 there is one other sober topic that needs to be covered and that is this: how do all the errors of 1Chronicles 13 relate to the church at large today? We will expand further on this topic in our next post.
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
“David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem” by Darlene Slavujac, 1993. Original oil on 24″x36″ canvas. Copyright 1993 Slavujac.