“And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
Following the death of King Saul at the hands of the Philistines, David became king and began to establish and strengthen his kingdom. His army conquered Jerusalem, which will become known as the city of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9). Through God’s power, he defeated the Philistines in 2 separate battles (2 Samuel 5:17-25). Of this period in David’s life we read, “So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him” (2 Samuel 5:10).
However, David was aware that the ark of the covenant, which was supposed to have remained in the Most Holy Place of the Lord’s Tabernacle, was away from where the Lord wanted it to be. Instead, years earlier the Israelites had taken it with them in battle believing that by doing this God would help them defeat the Philistines. God never told them to do this. Instead, Israel was defeated by the Philistines and the ark of the covenant was captured. After suffering a plague from the Lord, the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant to the Israelites by setting it on an ox cart and setting the oxen off in the direction of Israel (1 Samuel 4:1-7:2). The ark of the covenant returned to Israel and remained in the Israelite city of Kirjath Jearim for many years (1 Samuel 7:2; 1 Chronicles 13:6).
Because God had so greatly blessed him, David wanted to do something for God. He wanted to bring the ark of the covenant up from Kirjath Jearim and set it in its proper location within the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Lord (1 Chronicles 13:1-4). He had the ark of the covenant loaded on a new cart and had a massive celebration as they brought the ark of the covenant towards Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1-5; 1 Chronicles 13:5-8).
However, then everything went wrong. The oxen stumbled, the ark of the covenant began to move on the cart, and one of the drivers of the cart, Uzzah, reached out and touched the ark to steady it. God’s anger was aroused against Uzzah and he died (2 Samuel 6:6-7; 1 Chronicles 13:9-10). David also became angry and confused about why God did this (2 Samuel 6:8-9; 1 Chronicles 13:11-12).
Why did God do this? Did He not know that David meant well? Did God not know that Uzzah was trying to prevent the ark of the covenant from slipping off the ark? God knew all these things, but God also knew that His people had not respected His authority. They did not follow God’s instructions regarding how the ark was to be transported via poles on the shoulders of the Kohathites of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 25:14; Numbers 4:1-15). David later realized this and, after consulting God’s Word, has the ark of the covenant transported to Jerusalem in the manner in which God had prescribed (1 Chronicles 15:1-15; 25-29).
God is angered when His people do not respect His Word and show reverence or godly fear for Him and His statutes. This account serves as a powerful reminder that I must strive to learn God’s Word and submit to His Will for my life. I must worship Him and serve Him in the manner He has prescribed, not in the way I think may be right. For whatever reason David and the Israelites had failed to do this and it cost Uzzah his life. Today, I will rejoice that God has given His Word to direct me in the way I should serve Him! I will fear Him and keep His commandments!
“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments” (Psalm 119:73).