2 Samuel 6:6-7
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.…
Some would have us believe that this was an accident; that Uzzah, in the effort to save the ark, dislocated his shoulder, or broke his arm, and died of haemorrhage. We are told, however, that it was a Divine judgment. David so understood it, and "he was displeased." Now God intended by this terrible visitation to teach a lesson of great importance. It is one that needs to be uttered even at this day with emphasis, viz., the need that exists for the deepest reverence in all things connected with the Divine service, and the danger that arises from over-familiarity with sacred things.
1. Uzzah was a Levite, and he knew or ought to have known the commands of God with respect to the ark. In Numbers 4:15, it is written that those who had to bear the ark were "not to touch any holy thing, lest they die," Not only so, but the ark was to be covered, and so kept from the gaze of the irreverent. This had been neglected. Again, that which was to be borne only on men's shoulders was put on a cart. This was a gross piece of neglect.
2. Then it is probable that the offence of Uzzah was aggravated by the fact that he had not sufficient reverence for the Divine command. The ark had been for seventy years under the care of his father and family. Eleazar, who had been set apart to take care of it, was probably dead. It may be that neither Uzzah nor Ahio his brother had ever thought that it was important that they should be consecrated to the work. They, presuming on their Levitical descent, may have taken upon themselves informally the position of attendants. Constant familiarity with it may have led them to think of it with even somewhat of contempt. It was like a piece of useless furniture. They may have forgotten how interwoven that ark was with religious and national life. To them it may have seemed a sort of Nehushtan. Others regarded it with expectancy and reverence, but to them it was only so much wood and gold. And thus many regarded Christ's cross as so much wood, and His death as a martyrdom, forgetting that they are of infinite value as the sign and seal of the expiation of sin and salvation of the world. There was no virtue in the ark, any more than in the cross itself, apart from God's appointment. God's revealed will makes all the difference in respect to any act or observance. Doubtless Uzzah had touched the ark in an over-familiar way before, and it may have been passed over; now he does it publicly, and as evil would result from his example, judgment follows.
(1) Some would say, "But how trifling the sin, compared with the severity of the punishment." Sin is never a trifle. Disobedience to God is not a trifle. Peter's few words of denial were easily spoken, but they were no trifle in their consequences. A few drops of prussic acid taken into the system are trifling, so far as size and substance are concerned, but not as to results. To touch the ark irreverently was no trifle; it indicated a state of heart not in accord with the office filled.
(2) Besides, the attention of the people had to be arrested, and the need for reverence emphasized. Hence the sin was not passed by. Great benefit arose. As in the case of the men of Beth-shemesh, the exclamation was raised, "Who is able to stand before the Lord?" so here we find David saying, "How shall the ark of God come to me?" A deep impression of the need for purity on their part and of unswerving justice on God's part was made.
3. Uzzah sinned with his eyes open. He knew the commands. He sinned with the warning of Beth-shemesh before him. He sinned publicly, and has perished suddenly and miserably. It was a sudden and severe judgment, but that was a stern age, and the people could only be influenced by such means. David saw the reason for the visitation, and so when he summoned courage to move on instead of going up to Jerusalem he turned aside to Obed-edom the Gittite, one who was not only a Levite but probably a Kohathite, to whom it rightly pertained to bear the ark. It may be objected that the punishment was needlessly severe, in that Uzzah's intentions were good. This is very plausible; but good intentions do not always justify wrong-doing. Many have been led astray by this sophistry. We may not do evil that good may come. God will not have His laws broken under pretence of serving Him. We may not bend to a course of expediency under the pretext of glorifying God. Whatever is really wrong must not be permitted, and it was wrong for Uzzah to break the Divine command and thereby perhaps lead others to similar irreverence. Uzzah died by the side of the ark of God. How terrible! Yet what a warning for the ages! Being engaged in religious services or connected with sacred things cannot ensure salvation. We should, therefore, watch any tendency to levity or lightness in Divine worship, or in treatment of sacred subjects. To use Scripture to point a witticism or to regard the Divine book as an ordinary book is not a good sign. There should be no listlessness in worship or in listening to God's truth. Is not Such carelessness an indication of indifference to the presence of that Divine Spirit in which we believe? Can we be bold and heartless in the presence of the King of Heaven?
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.