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From Festival to Funeral

1 Chronicles 13:8-11 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. 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.

A joyous occasion suddenly turns to mourning. A celebration becomes a funeral. I do not know how many times I’ve read this passage, but every time my initial reaction is similar to David’s. It seems as if God is being unreasonable. After all, it was a good and noble thing to bring the ark up to Jerusalem after it had been in a private home for 100 years (it had been in the house of Abinadab since the early days of Samuel, from 1104 to 1003 BC). Not only so, but all Israel approved of this action, and all Israel participated in the grand event (observe how many times the phrase “all Israel” occurs, just in this short chapter). This was an unusual display of unity among a nation of tribes that so easily turned on each other (as the earlier OT books demonstrate). I think the writer is setting us up to react this way in order to prompt us to probe more deeply into the reasons for the unexpected outburst of divine wrath. A few things need to be remembered:

1. The ark of the covenant symbolized the glorious presence of Almighty God among His people. Therefore, it needed to be handled with extreme care and holy fear. Only divinely authorized persons were supposed to carry it, and only a different group of divinely authorized persons was to prepare it for transport (which included covering it, see Exodus 37; Numbers 4).

2. As pure as their motives were in wanting to take the ark up to Jerusalem, it was extremely important to follow this prescribed method of transport. David realizes this afterward (1 Chron 15). It was a huge mistake not to read the revealed Word (the instructions were already spelled out by the Lord to Moses) and to ask God for guidance (always a good idea), and so what makes this incident especially tragic is that it could have been prevented!

3. People in the past had already suffered greatly over their irreverent and flippant attitude toward the ark (both Philistines and Israelites, see 1 Sam 5-6). What is truly amazing is not that people died when they acted this way, but that God did not wipe out entire nations for such impiety and disrespect!

4. One final and very, very important point. The ark had been in the house of Abinadab for 100 years. Uzzah, as a descendant of Abinadab, lived his entire life with the ark in his home and around his family. How easy it must have been simply to take it for granted, perhaps even viewing it as an awesome piece of antique furniture. It is highly likely that Uzzah’s over-familiarity with the ark caused him to lose sight of the One Whose Presence it symbolized. Thus, we should not marvel that Uzzah died in his seemingly innocent act; rather, we should marvel over God’s great forbearance and mercy over a people who had lost sight of His radiant holiness, which should never be trifled with or trivialized!

We need to have the same sense of respect, reverence, and holy fear for our glorious Lord today. He has not changed. He deserves our worship, love, and obedience. We must never grow “accustomed” to divine truths; we must never pray superficially. We must never worship with our lips only; we must never sing great hymns mindlessly. We must never attend church out of empty habit. AND, we must never, like Uzzah, grow “accustomed” to the Lord or take His glory for granted!

This is why we contend so earnestly for the Christian faith here at Christian Rights Ministries and the Alliance Legal Group. Our country is in a tragic state, for it has lost its fear of God. No amount of “fixing” our country is going to work if we continue our downward slide. Please join us in prayer for our nation, its leaders, and its future!

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