And they set the ark of God upon a new cart…. (2 Samuel 6:3a)
David’s heart was in the right place. He wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. So, he put the Ark on a new cart, purpose-built for the sacred duty of moving it to its proper home. It was a huge affair. For the occasion, David called in thirty thousand of his choicest men, and like the Philistines had done before them (1 Samuel 6), the people of David manhandled the Ark and put in on the cart.
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.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
God’s People Should Know Better
In His patience, God allowed this to happen, but God’s patience will only go so far especially where His name and His honor are concerned. The Philistines were allowed to get away with their violations of the Ark because they were ignorant of the law surrounding it. God’s people should have known better.
Like the Philistines, David and his men drove their new ox cart with the Ark upon it up toward its rightful place. Scripture tells us two men were in charge of the cart itself: Ahio and Uzzah. Samuel tells us that Ahio went before the Ark (2 Samuel 6:4). Uzzah probably came up alongside it or toward the rear.
As this huge entourage made their way to the city of David (v. 10), there was singing and celebration (2 Samuel 6:5). Nothing wrong with that. Not all worship has to be austere. There is a place for celebrating in worship. God did not rebuke David and his people for that, but then “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. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God” (vv. 6-7).
“Christianizing” the way the world does things does not make it Christian.
No one saw God’s judgment coming because no one sought out God when it came to transporting the Ark of the Covenant properly. God’s people just looked to the world’s way of doing things and assumed it would be alright. All David and his religious advisors had to do was look into the law of God. The instructions were plain: Four rings were installed into the corners of the ark. Staves (or poles) were to be passed through those rings and the Ark was to be borne upon the shoulders of the Levites by means of those poles. No one was to touch the Ark and no one had to. (See Exodus 25:12-14; Numbers 4:15.)
When Uzzah was killed for his indiscretion, David was displeased (v. 8). This can mean angry and it can also mean grieved. Given the circumstances, it was probably a combination of both. It did not matter. God will never compromise His character, not even for a man after His own heart. In addition to his displeasure, David was also fearful (v. 9). It was a right response. God is our heavenly Father, but we should also have a healthy fear of Him so that we do not become overly familiar and think of Him as one of us. At a loss for what to do, David cancelled his plans for the Ark and put it at the house of Obededom the Gittite where its presence blessed his household (v. 10).
Worship is never about me.
When Moses rebuked Aaron after his sons Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering “strange fire” upon the altar of God, he told him plainly what God Himself said about worship: “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3). While the worship of God may cause me to rejoice, the purpose isn’t about making me feel good. It’s about giving God His worth. In Revelation 4 John tells us of the four and twenty elders seated around Christ’s throne and notes they are constantly engaged in worship of the Lord. Were they happy to do that? Of course. Did they want to do that? Absolutely. Were those the reasons they worshipped the Lamb of God? No. They worshipped Him because He is worthy of all praise and honor and glory (Revelation 4:11). The joy that comes as a result of worship is a byproduct. It is not the goal.
The worship of believers must be distinctly God-centered.
My worship of God cannot resemble the world’s idea of what that is. The first time David attempted to move the ark, he did it the way the Philistines had done it and it cost Uzzah his life. David was fortunate that more lives were not lost. When he moved it the second time, he did it God’s way. 2 Samuel 6:13 refers to those that “bare the ark.” Clearly, David had taken the time to seek out God’s way of moving the Ark and now he had people properly bearing it to its new location. He gave to God the reverence due His name. Biblical worship of God cannot have the marks of the world. My music, my prayer, my service – all that I do in worship and praise of God must be distinctly God-centered. It cannot be like the world and its focus cannot be me. It must always be God.