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WHY DID UZZAH DIE?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

30 JUNE 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Numbers 4:15
            7:6-9
1 Samuel 7:1
2 Samuel 6:1-11
1 Chronicles 26:4-5, 8
Colossians 3:17

Preparation Verse: (Colossians 3:17)

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Why did Uzzah die?

At first glance this is a question that many people ask as they read 2 Samuel 6:1-11, or 1 Chronicles 13.

Uzzah was the son or perhaps the grandson of Abinadab, King David's second oldest brother.

And it was in Abinadab's house that the Ark of the Covenant was placed when it was returned by the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:1).

1. And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the Lord and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord.

So with this in mind, let's begin our study into the ways of God, and of man (humans), beginning at 2 Samuel 6:1.

1. Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.

2. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah [or Kiriath-jearim], to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.

In the Hebrew tradition, even to this day, the name of God is so holy, that it is not mentioned. Instead of saying, "the Lord", or "God" they refer to Him as "Ha-Shem," which means, "The Name."

That holiness is here being attributed to the ark; but at the same time, there is casualness about their handling of it.

Note verse 3:

3. And they placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.

Now, what we see on the surface doesn't seem to be casual; in fact they seem to be taking special care of the ark.

But is this what God wants?

Keep a marker here in your Bible, and turn with me to Numbers 4:15.

15. And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they may not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.

Note the fact that the ark of God, which is one of the holy objects, is not to be touched by anyone but the sons of Aaron, and that it is to be carried only by the sons of Kohath and, even then, on long poles.

Furthermore, the special coverings were to protect them from touching the holy objects, which would bring about their death; for even the Kohathites were not holy, as God is holy.

And what about the cart to carry the ark? Turn over a few pages to Numbers 7:6-9.

6. So Moses took the carts and the oxen, and gave them to the Levites.

7. Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service,

8. and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

9. But he did not give any to the sons of Kohath because theirs was the service of the holy objects, which they carried on the shoulder.

God has a purpose for everything He does, and here is one of those times when we have to trust His judgment.

If the holy objects were placed in an oxen-drawn cart, and the oxen stumbled, or were spooked by something, they might upset the cart. Thus, these objects were carried on long poles upon the shoulders of the sons of Kohath.

But as we saw back in 2 Samuel 6, they were taking some shortcuts in the method of transporting the ark of God.

God doesn't need us to take shortcuts. He just wants us to be obedient to His will. If it takes longer by His method, it's okay with Him, for He’s the one who established the method.

So what happened next?

Let's continue our study at 2 Samuel 6:4.

4. So they brought it [the new cart] with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.

5. Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.

Now, in order to visualize this situation, as God does, we must understand what is happening and who is participating.

Instead of the Levites carrying the ark and playing the musical instruments in accordance with God's command to Moses, that everything they did would honor God, the people in mass make a common celebration of the moving of the ark.

What they are doing is much as we have done in this country with the celebration of Christmas and Easter; it's been commercialized.

It is also what we have done with the creation and heavenly intent of God; we don't follow it, but rather the vast majority of people would rather live in the concession God permitted because of their hardness of heart.

Or even worse, most people want to do things their way and not God's way.

They are not really treating God as being holy.

And as we make God common, or trivialize His holiness, we place ourselves in harm’s way.

God wants our respect and obedience before our celebrations.

God has a way of protecting us when we do things according to His will.

When we do things according to our will, God may not be with us, and we can get into trouble.

Note what happens next:

6. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it.

7. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

Most likely what Uzzah did, he did with every good intention; but he had allowed himself to be placed in a position where his every good intention was against the will of God.

And if God allowed Uzzah to touch the ark and live, then everyone else would come to think that they, too, could touch the holy things of God, and the whole service to the Lord would become a trivial thing.

Uzzah died because he was irreverent, not because he didn't believe or have faith.

The way he died doesn't mean that he didn't go to heaven. As his heart was, so he will be with the Lord.

Uzzah died so that the others would realize their mistake, repent, and treat God with the holiness and respect He deserves.

So how does David react to all of this? Note verse 8:

8. And David became angry because of the Lord's outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.

David is the one who planned this celebration.

David is the one who decided that the ark of God should be moved to Jerusalem.

And David is the one who didn't consult the Lord his God before he began this venture.

In his heart, David knows that he is responsible for the death of his nephew.

And David, reacting in typical human fashion, tries to cover his guilt with anger – even anger against God.

But what God has done has its proper effect, as we see in verse 9:

9. So David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" [emphasis added]

David has a reason to be afraid; as we should be when we do things in our own pride, but say that they are for the Lord.

We do things without first consulting the Lord through prayer, and then waiting for an answer.

Then, after we do our own thing, we ask the Lord to bless it.

Many people do this very same thing when they ask God to bless a meal containing the tortured remains of animals, when God's intent was that we eat only plant foods.

And if we get into trouble, through our own efforts, we then ask God to solve our problem.

And people do the same thing today, when they ask God to heal them and their loved ones from the diseases they contracted as a direct result of our society's practice of farming and eating animals.

But note here that David is still acting in his own pride of life.

He's not seeking to bring the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem so that all Israel can come to one spot and worship God. To the contrary, David asks, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" [emphasis added]

I'm the one putting the emphasis on “me,” but I believe that's the way the Lord heard it, too.

How does He see and hear what we do and say, and where do we put our emphasis?

But no matter where David's pride was, or how strong it was, the fear of the Lord was greater; and, hopefully, these events had the same effect on the whole assembly.

Why did Uzzah die?

Because the people were disobeying God; and Uzzah’s death was a way of attracting their attention to their own irreverence.

It is doubtful whether anything less than this would have really attracted their attention, for they all must have considered that they could be the next ones to die.

Don't you think that if someone in the midst of the congregation were to die for their irreverence, that the rest of us would be more respectful, and perhaps not sin as much as we do?

So what did David do?

10. And David was unwilling to move the ark of the Lord into the city of David with him; but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.

11. Thus the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.

This time, instead of having the ark residing in the home of a relative, David takes it to the house of a Kohathite, Obed-edom from Gath-rimmon, one of those entrusted with carrying the holy objects.

And to show everyone that this was now pleasing to the Lord, Obed-edom was blessed.

We find out about this blessing in 1 Chronicles 26:4-5, where we read that he had eight sons, and as the writer puts it, "God had indeed blessed him."

4. And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the first-born, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sacar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth,

5. Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, and Peullethai the eighth; God had indeed blessed him.

Furthermore, sixty-two of his descendants served as gatekeepers in the house of the Lord (verse 8).

8. All these were of the sons of Obed-edom; they and their sons and their relatives were able men with strength for the service, 62 from Obed-edom.

Did Uzzah die for his own unrighteousness, and was Obed-edom blessed for his righteousness?

Not at all!

Their punishment and blessing was as a signpost to the Israelites, and to us today; that they, and we, would serve the Lord our God and be obedient to His commands.

Self-serving ideas and deeds have no place before God.

We don't need to do something spectacular to please God and receive His blessings, or to lead others to Him.

All we need to do is to be obedient, and live a life as near to that of Christ's as we can; and in His pleasure, we will be blessed.

Others will see, and want the same.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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