Saturday, April 14, 2012

…and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah…

This is part 7 of a continuing series on hard questions from the Old Testament. They have been adapted from a series of articles I wrote for my church's community groups during our Old Testament Challenge. You can also read the introduction and  parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. 

In 2 Samuel 6 we read a bizarre account of God striking a man dead for touching the ark of the Lord at the beginning of David’s reign as king. However, this story must be understood within its context—and when understood, it sheds light on David’s life as well.The ark of the Lord was to represent the very presence of God among his people. As such, it was to be regarded and treated as most holy. When the tabernacle was built, it was to be kept in the Holy of Holies. When it was transported, it was to be carried by poles on the shoulders of priests. It was not to be touched because God’s holiness cannot be defiled by sin.

So when we come to the story of Uzzah, he seems to be doing a good thing. The ark is falling and going to get dirty or damaged. Yet R.C. Sproul insightfully points out the fatal assumption: Uzzah believed that mud would desecrate the ark, but mud is not evil. God’s law was not meant to keep the ark pure from the earth, but from the dirty touch of a human hand. Uzzah presumed his hands were cleaner than the dirt. God said no.[1]

What Uzzah’s story means for David and us

David’s reaction to Uzzah’s death was understandable: he was angry but he was also afraid (2 Sam. 6:9). Knowing he was no more holy than Uzzah, David asked “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” Of course, we know that this statement was truer than David realized, as he would soon commit both adultery and murder, and then later in life make a shipwreck of his family.

And if we are honest, we should understand the same thing that David did. If David—a man after God’s own heart and his chosen king—fears for his life, how can the life of any sinful human being endure in the presence of a holy God?

God himself provided the solution for humanity. Jesus Christ came as the promised king in the line of David. He bore the wrath that David and every other human being has earned for our sin and died the death we all deserve. In return he offers us his holiness and right standing with God so that each of us, without fearing for our lives, can live in the presence of a righteous God.

[1]R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1985) 157-167.

1 comment:

Carol said...

This makes Uzzah's death another example of the mercy of God through Christ toward us.