Dying to get the Message
Robert Wurtz II
So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God. And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. (2 Samuel 6:3-8)
Perhaps you are wondering why God would take the time to make sure passages such as we read above are contained in the Bible. After all, once something is written into the sacred text it would have to be meticulously and painstakingly copied every time a new copy of the scriptures were made. This was very hard work, so we can rest assured that everything contained in the scriptures is important. Paul reminds us that it is written for our instruction and in some cases as a warning to us. In other places we read that it is profitable for instruction. With this in mind may we approach this sacred text and find ourselves in it.
It happens that one hundred years prior to the events recorded above, the evil sons of Eli had fornicated with the women that came to the Temple and took of the meat offerings with such profanity that the people despised the worship of God. God warned Eli, but he honored his sons more than he honored God and would not reign them in. He even called-out Samuel’s mother suggesting she was drunk and needed to lay off the wine (though she was not drunk at all but was crying to the Lord for a son), but did not have the will to check his sons (I’m thinking of checking hockey style). The trouble is that men will honor their family, friends or anyone else that may serve their purposes. This is a frightful thing to consider. Nobody should have such a hold on us that we would dishonor God in order to please them.
God sent Samuel in to begin clearing the mess, but before he could come of age and start getting things turned around, the evil sons of Eli took the ark and went running into the Philistine camp with it. They had no respect for the things of God. They wanted to use it almost like a good luck charm or something. More pointedly; they being evil tried to move in the reality of the righteous. God had led His people with the Ark in the past, but that was when they were walking in His ways. Now they would put their sin and filth stained hands to it. The Ark was lost and the evil sons were killed. When Eli heard of it he fell over dead and his daughter in law fell into labor and named the son Ichabod, for the glory of the Lord had departed.
David was only the second king ever in Israel. One hundred years passed and David wanted to bring the Ark back up. In order to make sure the kings of Israel could rule according to God’s will and ways the king had to make for himself a personal copy of the Law. In Deuteronomy 17:18 we read, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.” God did not want a king in Israel, but He knew the day would come so He gave instructions for that eventuality. Contained in the copy of the Law that David made for himself were the instructions on how to handle the Ark. In fact, it contained the same instruction that you and I can read today. nevertheless, something had happened. A hundred years of living without the manifest presence of God had left the new generation devoid of the urgency and reverence necessary to move in the things of God. None now lived that remembered the way things were supposed to be done. Most had probably never heard many of the stories such as that of Nadab and Abihu that recorded the consequences of recklessness while handling the things of God.
God never leaves Himself without a witness to the truth. It was in their writings. It was undoubtedly in the minds of some of the Levites. Somebody had to know. Either they didn’t say anything or their voices were drowned out or marginalized. What did they do? So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. What happened? They tried to praise their way through their disobedience. They had forgotten the lesson recently learned by Saul, that to obey is better than to sacrifice.
The sons of Eli were profaners of the holy things; the Philistines profaned them; the house of Abinidab profaned them. In fact, only the Levites were to handle the Ark of God. It represented His authority and was to be attended by holy men only. Nevertheless, When they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.
It is sobering to know that this man had to die before the people would listen. Why not just do what God has said? Why keep testing Him? The instruction manual was readily available for their consideration. Some commentators have argued that the scriptures were expensive and rare and few people had them. Well, we know that David had a copy and so did the Levites. I find David’s reaction interesting; And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. (NKJV) Why did God tell us that? Did we really need to know that David was angry because of what happened? Who was he angry at? God? Himself? Uzzah? I don’t know. I only know that somebody died that day and that that death was exemplary. It showed us for all times God’s estimate of mishandling the holy things of God, and specifically His authority. From this point forward things changed and during David’s reign the people took God and His word seriously again.
What about 2014? Where are we in these great things? We don’t have the Ark and all the vessels of the ministry as did Israel in 1000 BC. Those things were only figures of the truth. The Church has known these things in their reality since the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The question is how are we handling them? Are there any parallels to our story in 2 Samuel 6?
I’m afraid there are. Around 100 years ago our evangelistic methods radically changed and instead of bringing people into the Kingdom discipled to Jesus Christ, multitudes have been brought in by repeat type prayers that had no power to effect change. Repentance and water baptism were replaced by man-made measures just like the Levites were replaced by the machinery of a cart and a couple of oxen. Moving the Ark became a mechanized ordeal – just like the machinery of mass evangelism is today. You simply can’t move the authority of God (Ark) into the heart and life of a person on a man-made cart. It will never do. And as we read with Uzzah, God wouldn’t have it. Not then and not now. But before the people would listen, a man had to be smitten dead. It was not until then that we read these words, David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9)
The evidences of 100 years of failed evangelism are all around us. As if a thousand Eli’s and his sons have crept in to profane everything we once held sacred. Every man does what is right in his own eyes. David’s question, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” is answered by a chorus of carnal men and women who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. Some actually believe God will come when we strike up the band. Some think He will come if we decorate our sanctuaries like the world. Few even care that we are watching our very heritage as Christians being profaned before our very eyes and are offending God in the process. We are losing our identity and purpose for being. We are supposed to be a Holy people unlike any on the face of the earth.
The Ark is on a cart – the band is playing – and nobody seems to care. The lonely voices that are crying for the instruction manual can only wait for that fateful day when somebody finally gets struck dead. Who knows? Will there be another Ananias and Sapphira or Herod as in Acts 12:23? Will some people have to be smitten blind as with Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13? I don’t know what God is going to do to get the attention and reverence of a generation that has decided to do everything their own way: evangelism, denominationalism, praise, worship, holiness standards, et al. What are we to make of a generation on the verge of dying to get the message?