The Ark Upheld with Irreverent Hands
2 Samuel 6:6-8
And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.…

Read who the Church would cleanse, and mark
How stern the warning runs:
There are two ways to guard her ark -
As patrons and as sons."

(Lyra Apostolica.') The fair prospects of a great enterprise are sometimes darkened, as by a thunderstorm, in consequence of the improper manner in which it is conducted. The forbearance of God toward those who transgress his ordinances is often unheeded, and becomes an occasion of further transgression, until the occurrence of a signal disaster fills them with fear and trembling. The act of one man, it may be, gives definite expression to the spirit which influences many, and on him falls the lightning stroke of Heaven, as a punishment for his sin and a chastisement of all who are associated with him; a solemn call to consideration and amendment.

"Give unto Jehovah, O ye sons of God,
Give unto Jehovah glory and strength;
Give unto Jehovah the glory of his Name;
Worship Jehovah in holy attire.
The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters.
The God of glory thundereth."

(Psalm 29:1-3.)

I. A SEEMING EXIGENCY. The ark in danger! "For [at the threshing floor of Nachon, or Chidon] the oxen shook it [kicked, broke loose, or stumbled]," so that the support of Uzzah was apparently needful to arrest its fall. In like manner religion - the Church, its worship, sacraments, doctrines - sometimes appears in perilous need of human help. But the apparent exigency:

1. Is commonly the result of previous neglience and disobedience on the part of those to whom its interests are entrusted, and the false position in which it is placed. If the "due order" (1 Chronicles 15:13) had been observed, the danger would never have arisen.

2. Serves the purpose of testing and manifesting the character of men. Will it lead them to consider, Perceive their error, and amend; or occasion further aberrations?

3. Can never warrant an interference which is expressly prohibited, however great the danger or sincere the desire to avert it. "You must rather leave the ark to shake, if it so please God, than put unworthy hands to hold it up" (Bacon).

4. Is not so great as it appears; for God is able to prevent its fall or overrule it for good. "The special moral of this warning is that no one, on the plea of zeal for the ark of God's Church, should resort to doubtful expedients and unlawful means for the attainment of his end" (Wordsworth).

II. A SERIOUS ERROR. "Uzzah reached forth to the ark of God, and took hold of it." The Levites (of whom Uzzah was one) were to carry it on staves; but "not touch any holy thing, lest they die" (Numbers 4:15). His error was practical; though in itself trivial, a direct breach of the legal requirement; and (as is often the case with an apparently insignificant act) indicated an unsanctified mind. He was "a type of all who, with good intentions, humanly speaking, yet with unsanctified minds, interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of God from the notion that they are in danger and with the hope of saving them" (O. von Gerlach).

1. He acted "unnecessarily, and from the precipitate impulse of human nature" (Ewald), unregulated and unrestrained by proper thought and a higher will.

2. With rashness, irreverence, and profanity; begotten of long familiarity with the venerable relic (see 1 Samuel 6:19). He looked upon it as little other than a piece of sacred furniture.

3. In a spirit of official pride and presumption, as its hereditary guardian and immediate conductor. "Perhaps he affected to show before this great assembly how bold he could make with the ark, having been so long acquainted with it" (Matthew Henry). Men of high position, great possessions, and eminent gifts in the Church, sometimes display a similar spirit, and even affect to patronize the worship of God!

4. With improper anxiety about the means of progress and success, and want of faith in the Divine presence and might. "In our own days there are not awanting men like Uzzah, who act as if it were all over with Christianity if they did not maintain it against the power of modern negations." Their zeal is shown in various ways. But "this zeal, notwithstanding its good intention, is yet unholy, because it is as faint-hearted as it is presumptuous. The Lord needs not such helpers" (Krummacher).

III. A STARTLING JUDGMENT. "And the anger of Jehovah was kindled .... and he died there by the ark of God." A flash of lightning, an apoplectic stroke, or other secondary cause, was the instrument thereof; in the presence of all Israel, and even before the mercy seat, he suffered the penalty of his error ("rashness," ver. 7); and the spot where he fell became a monument of the wrath of God and his power to protect his "holy things" (Ezekiel 22:8).

1. On those who continue to break the Divine Law "the fiery indignation," though long delayed, breaks forth suddenly and "without remedy" (Hebrews 10:31).

2. Punishment is most severe on those who are most honoured, and who ought to be a pattern to others of reverence and obedience (Numbers 3:4; 1 Samuel 5:6; 1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Chronicles 26:21; Acts 5:5; Acts 12:23).

3. The consequences of sin reveal the measure of its sinfulness.

4. The judgment inflicted on one affects many, and represents their desert, The procession was stopped, the enterprise hindered, rejoicing turned into mourning, "and great fear came upon all" (Acts 5:11). "When many have sinned God commonly punishes one or two of the leaders, in order that others may remember their sin and beg forgiveness" (Osiander). Judgment is mingled with mercy. The punishment of one is for the good of many.


1. To consider the awful holiness and majesty of the great King (Malachi 1:11, 14); "for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29).

2. To learn the spiritual meaning and sanctity of his ordinances.

3. To cherish a spirit of profound humility and reverence in his service.

4. To exercise repentance and trust, and new and faithful obedience to his will in all things. Then -

"Jehovah will give strength to his people;
Jehovah will bless his people with peace."

(Psalm 29:11.) D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

WEB: When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put forth [his hand] to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the cattle stumbled.

Nature's Penalties for Disobedience
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