Imagine you are an Israelite. David has recently been anointed as King. He’s not a politician or a palace brat. He’s not the most handsome. He doesn’t come from money—but he’s hard working. He is a skilled soldier, battle tested, and God fearing. David is a man’s man, a man’s king. So he establishes his city, the City of David, Jerusalem. This is the city of the King, and it will also be the city of God. So what does David do? He decides with all of the leaders to bring the Ark of God, the Ark of the Covenant home. So, “David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before God with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.” (1 Chronicles 13:8) and the Ark was being carried on a new cart, when one of the oxen pulling the cart stumbles. Not wanting the Ark to slip off the cart, Uzzah steadies it, and God kills him for touching the Ark. Obviously the celebration stops. David is angry with God. God is angry that His rules weren’t followed. And someone is probably mourning the death of poor Uzzah.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” What seemed like a good idea to King David; what seemed to be a responsible and respectable way to move the Ark; wasn’t. What seemed instinctive, to reach out and steady the Ark—to make sure that what was Holy to God did not fall—was a bad call. Bad enough that God struck Uzzah dead. I wonder how many times God looks angrily at His people today and says, “That is not what I told them to do!” I wonder how many times I think something is right, something is good, something is pleasing to God—and it isn’t. I think there are two very important lessons we need to learn from Uzzah. Number One: we must be people of the Book. We must be in our Bibles more. We must learn what God wants—because what we think God wants and what God really wants may be different—and the Bible is His gift to us. But, the gift is useless if we don’t open it. Number Two: we must be “in Christ” (Romans 8:1) because we need grace. We are bound to screw things up. We are certain to fall short. We are guaranteed to wind up like poor Uzzah, unless we the righteousness of Jesus is attributed to us (1 Corinthians 1:30-31, Philippians 3:9). This too requires the Bible. There are lots of people out there who think they have clothed themselves in Christ (Galatians 3:27) but have not—because they did things in a manner that seemed right to them—but was not what God had directed. Let us learn from Uzzah. Let us be God’s people doing things God’s way.