Uzzah's Disobedience
by Sandy Simpson, 1998

Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended time away. So he says to you and the other trusted employees, "Look, I'm about to leave. While I `m away I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I'm away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip." Everyone agrees. He leaves and stays away for a couple of years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally, one day, he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess - weeds growing in the flower beds, windows broken on the front of the building, graffiti is one the outside walls, the girl at the front desk is asleep, loud music is playing in several offices, two or three people are in one room shouting and throwing things at each other. Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation he calls everyone together and with a frown asks, "What happened? Didn't you get my letters?" You say, "Oh yes, sure. We got all your letters. We've even bound them together in a book. Some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have a "letter study" every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters." The president then would ask, "But what did you do about my instructions?" No doubt the employees would respond, "Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!"

I suppose you can guess what this story is an illustration of. God left us His Word, the Bible. Someday Jesus Christ will return. Will we have followed the instructions God has already given us in His letter to us, the Scriptures? Or will we be found to have ignored His instructions for us?

There is a story in 2 Samuel 6:1-15 that illustrates the problem of ignoring God's Word. I think that this passage is especially appropriate for the church today. This is because some people are doing things that are against or outside of Scripture. If they do this, they will have to face the "president" of the universe someday when He returns and answer for their behavior. Let's read the story of David and a man named Uzzah. I will stop along the way to fill in parts of the story from other places in the Bible and to comment on why this story is of importance for us today.

2 Samuel 6:1-15

1 David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all.
2 He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark.
3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.

Notice that they set the ark of the covenant on a new cart. They had obviously planned to use this form of transportation for the ark ahead of time. All the time while they were building this new cart and getting more and more excited about bringing the ark back to the city of David, they never bothered to check the Scriptures for instructions on how to transport the ark. Or maybe they thought, "This is a new day. I'm sure God can see that we always carry things on carts nowadays." Maybe they even said in their hearts, "God is doing things in a new way today." But if they had checked the Scriptures, they would have found out how dangerous what they were doing was. Let's go back in Scripture to the time of Moses and check the Law that God gave about transporting the ark. First, let's read Ex. 25:13-16.

Exodus 25:13-16

13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.
14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it.
15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.
16 Then put in the ark, the Testimony, which I will give you.

The ark was to be carried by poles that were made especially for it and the poles were not to be removed. How was the ark to be carried and by whom. Turn with me to Numbers 1:51 first.

Numbers 1:51

51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who goes near it shall be put to death.

We discover here that the Law said that the Levites were to prepare and move everything from the Tabernacle. No one else was to touch it or even go near those things. Numbers 4:15 gets even more specific.

Numbers 4:15

15 "After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the Tent of Meeting.

The Kohathites were a clan of Levi and were the ones who were to carry the ark. No one else. And even they were not allowed to touch the holy things, including the ark, because if they did God said they would die. God does not make laws and then go against His own laws. He is a righteous judge. Now, going back to the story - two men were guiding the new cart, Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab. The ark had been at Abinadab's house for some time. They had gotten used to it being there. Too used to is, as we shall see.

Samuel 6:5

5 David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.

David and Israel were very excited to be bringing the ark to the city of David. However, in their excitement, they had forgotten to do what God had already told them to do in Scripture. Excitement and zeal for the Lord can never replace simple obedience.

2 Samuel 6:6

6 When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.

It says in one commentary that the translation of the oxen "stumbled" can be taken to mean that they got stuck in the mud and stumbled because of that - or - it can also be translated "the oxen shook". This is because the word "it" is an English supplement word. It could have been that the oxen shook "as if their bones and muscles were coming apart" or in fear because of the holiness of the ark, as if somehow they sensed that it was wrong for them to carry the ark when it ought to have been carried on the shoulders with poles by Levites.

The other important thing that happens in this verse is that Uzzah reaches out and takes hold of the ark. Uzzah and Ahio were not only probably not Levites, but were definitely not Kohathites. Kohath was one of Levi's sons, and all his decendants were called Kohathites. Kohathites were the only ones that were to carry the ark, as we have seen in Numbers 4:15.

2 Samuel 6:7

7 The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

Uzzah had become too familiar with holy things. He took the ultimate sovereignty of God too lightly. He thought that because they were all worshiping God and excited about it that God wouldn't care about His law. We don't know whether or not Uzzah knew the law, but the Levites should have and David also.

2 Samuel 6:8

8 Then David was angry because the LORD's wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. (the breach of Uzzah)

David's first reaction is that he is angry with God. But he had also forgotten God's law. He thought his public worship and praise was enough for God. He thought his excitement and zeal would satisfy God. But God is holy. God does not change. The law does not change.

Samuel 6:9

9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?"

Something dawned on David. He didn't have the whole picture yet. But he realizes that God is sovereign in all things and he had better find out what he/David had done wrong ... not God!

2 Samuel 6:10-11

10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.
11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of ObedEdom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.

The ark is now left in the care of Obed-Edom. God blesses his household. David goes back to his city. He fasts and prays and re-reads the Scripture. He realizes that he and the Levites were wrong. They were disobedient to the Lord.

1 Chronicles 15:11-15

11 Then David summoned Zadok and Abiatbar the priests, and Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab the Levites.
12 He said to them, "You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it.
13 It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not enquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way."
14 So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD.

The Scriptures and law are the word of the Lord! So David, in this passage, finally worships God by obedience. Samuel had said to Saul earlier in David's life:

1 Samuel 15:22

"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Now, because David and the Levites obeyed the Lord, their sacrifices and worship were acceptable.

2 Samuel 6:12-15

12 Now King David was told, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God." So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.
14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might,
15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

Now maybe we can apply some things that we have learned from this story.

(1) Always check God's Word.

It's not always a good idea to rush into something, claiming to be doing it in God's name. It is much safer and more productive to check it out with God's Word first. The Bible is our road map. God does not change the way He works. The Bible says that He is "the same yesterday, today and forever." Never try to go out and do ministry in God's name without a firm Scriptural basis. Paul said to Timothy "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (I Ti. 4:16) Sound doctrine is not found in exciting experiences, it is not found in some new revelation that is outside of Scripture, it is not found in signs and wonders, it is found in God's written Word. If we do not listen to God's revelation in Scripture, we are bound to make big mistakes, even to the point of losing our life.

(2) Always be aware of God's sovereignty.

God reigns. He created this universe and you. The world is His. God is love. God is justice. God is grace. God is never changing. Never become too familiar with God the Father in the sense that you begin to take His name in vain, or think you can manipulate the Almighty Jehovah God. If you think you can manipulate any member of the Triune God, you are walking on dangerous ground. If you think you can reach out your hand and prop up God's work, you are fooling yourself. God is love but He is also our judge and He will judge us if we do not obey Him and His Word.

(3) Always obey His commands.

Always be in obedience to God's Word. Biblical revelation has ceased today. The cannon of scripture is closed. Yes, God is still speaking and directing us and the church but it never conflicts with the revelation of Scripture. That is because God does not change. We have a record from the beginning of history of just how God deals with man. It also offers us a glimpse of His character. Never disobey Almighty God and expect that He will bless you. If you disobey, you must (a) find out how you disobeyed just like David did when He went back to the city and read the Scriptures (b) confess and repent of that disobedience to God as David did in front of Israel and (c) make things right again by obeying God as David did by following the law in Scripture. Thomas a Kampis once said "Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from grace." Uzzah withdrew from grace when He disobeyed God in a number of ways in the story of how He took hold of the ark. The name Uzzah means, among a few other things, "goat". The word "goat" reminded me of the Scripture in Matt. 25:32-46 which says:

32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 "Then the King will say to those on his right,'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 1 needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37 "Then the righteous will answer him,'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40 "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
41 "Then he will say to those on his left (the goats), `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 1 was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44 "They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45 "He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

God is the ultimate judge. God has given us our instructions in His Word. They are not given lightly because someday we will be called before His throne and asked the question "Did you obey my word?"

The first obedience we should show is confessing our sins, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, and making Him the Lord of our life.

The second obedience is to serve Him the way He wants us to serve Him. Worship without obedience is futile. In fact it makes the Lord angry. Getting excited and zealous for the Lord without obedience to God by living in accordance with His law and the doctrine of Scripture is futile and meaningless, and in fact, dangerous.

There's a famous hymn that says it all:

"When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus. but to trust and obey."

Copywrite 1998 Sandy Simpson/Deception In The Church
May be freely distributed as long as the content is not changed in any way.