And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.

And David was angry because the Lord had burst forth against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:6-9)

Times May Have Changed–God Has Certainly Not

We will certainly find difficulty reconciling the above text with our “laid back” approach (read: worldly and irreverent) to the subject of proper worship and adoration of the LORD God Almighty within an alarming number of churches here in our pagan postmodern world today. No doubt our foolish reaction to what God did above would likely be the same as David who “was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah.” And this is because as we have moved further and further into our attempting to curry favor with the world, rather than pleasing God, we have now turned love backward.

Remember, God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8), and so what we just read about was an act of love by the LORD God. Whatever Uzzah’s place was before Yahweh Elohim, he dared to disobey His Creator and the Lord struck him down. In our soft and lazy (read: compromised and carnal) centered on the self spirituality today typified by the Emerging Church rock star pastor Rob Bell we would say God was being overtly harsh. Some would opine: “Oh no, I think the Lord should have taken into account Uzzah’s honorable intention to keep the Ark from falling and getting dirty.”

No doubt many a woman pastrix is already holding this position in violation of Scripture; and they would tell us that “he was only trying to be good.” By the way, when you carefully study this issue you will see how denominations that ordain women to the pastorate very quickly abandon the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. However, in this case, we are clearly instructed in Numbers chapter 4 that no one was to touch the holy things—including the Ark—or they will die (cf. v.15). In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, a classic evangelical commentary set, well respected Bible scholar of the Old Testament Dr. Ron Youngblood points out:

Sensing that the oxen pulling the cart were stumbling (v.6) and might therefore cause the ark to fall to the ground, Uzzah “reached out” (elliptical for “reached out his hand,” as in 1 Chronicles 13:9, 4QSama, and several ancient versions; cf. Ulrich, The Qumran Text, p. 195, and BHS) to steady the ark. In so doing he “took hold of” it, and thus his doom was sealed despite whatever good intentions he may have had. The wrath of divine judgment fell on Uzzah “because of his irreverent act” (v.7)[1]

What we also see here is that Uzzah obviously took it upon himself to decide what is a good intention, and what is not—thereby usurping the Lord’s authority—when instead he should obeyed God’s command not to touch the Ark. Also Matthew Henry’s superior godly insight is very valuable here as he adds:

Uzzah’s offence seems very small. He and his brother Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, in whose house the ark had long been lodged, having been used to attend it, to show their willingness to prefer the public benefit to their own private honour and advantage, undertook to drive the cart in which the ark was carried, this being perhaps the last service they were likely to do it; for others would be employed about it when it came to the city of David.…

By some accident or other the ark was in danger of being overthrown. Uzzah thereupon laid hold of it, to save it from falling, we have reason to think with a very good intention, to preserve the reputation of the ark and to prevent a bad omen. Yet this was his crime. Uzzah was a Levite, but priests only might touch the ark… Uzzah’s long familiarity with the ark, and the constant attendance he had given to it, might occasion his presumption, but would not excuse it.[2]

Ah, But What Of Honorable Human Intentions?

Let’s stop here for a moment and apply this text to our times of lowering standards in Christ Name in favor of our quite irreverent Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven and the “worship” so common today in the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church. I offer that, in what might have begun as good human intentions, we are now making the exact same mistake that Uzzah made. Evangelical leaders and pastors have decided for themselves that our Lord understands how our arrogant and capricious culture just doesn’t like nore “formal” [read: Biblical] worship, so we took it upon ourselves to make a few li’l changes.

Perhaps it was due to “long familiarity” with the indwelling Spirit of God that so many evangelicals made these “adjustments” in the Biblical standards of the New Testament church with the “good intentions” of getting more people through the doors. O this, but of course, would have nothing to do with a desire to be able to talk favorably with other pastors about the size of your own local church and/or to increase the revenue therein, now would it? Indubitably this whole Church Growth Movement (CGM) “touching the Ark” of our Lord’s visible church, and the encouragement of such gross displays of irreverence within His houses is strictly motivated by a holy and reverent desire to “reach more people for Christ.”

Well, don’t you look now Pinocchio but that nose of yours grows ever larger. And without a doubt the bleeding hearts among us in these rather libertine times will cry that it was a bit extreme for the Lord to simply strike Uzzah dead on the spot for such a minor offense; as we stated previously, he was only trying to keep the Ark from falling to the ground. However the humble reverence of a true man of God, from a healthier spiritual time, brings out something else as Matthew Henry further observes:

His punishment for this offence seems very great (v. 7): The anger of the Lord was kindled against him (for in sacred things he is a jealous God) and he smote him there for his rashness, as the word is, and struck him dead upon the spot. There he sinned, and there he died, by the ark of God; even the mercy-seat would not save him. Why was God thus severe with him?

1. The touching of the ark was forbidden to the Levites expressly under pain of death—lest they die; and God, by this instance of severity, would show how he might justly have dealt with our first parents, when they had eaten that which was forbidden under the same penalty—lest you die. 2. God saw the presumption and irreverence of Uzzah’s heart. Perhaps he affected to show, before this great assembly, how bold he could make with the ark, having been so long acquainted with it. Familiarity, even with that which is most awful, is apt to breed contempt.[3]

In closing this out, for now, let’s contemplate what Henry has just said about God seeing “the presumption and irreverence,” and his correct observation that familiarity “is apt to breed contempt.” But this can’t really happen to Christians today can it; I mean there couldn’t be any way for something like this to have occurred among us sophisticates of society here in postmodern America, could there? Why we would never become so “familiar” with the way things have become as we “do Church” in this narcissistic nation that we could actually have been slowly conditioned into irreverent acts like removing the Cross of Christ from His Own Gospel.

And yet this is precisely what has happened as people such as the late Peter Drucker would continually espouse worldly business philosophies that his devoted disciple Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren would then decide should be incorporated among the “traditions” of the new evangelical essentially cross-less Christianity Lite. Tragically we have arrived at a time where the timid interpretations of clear Biblical passages from many of our tepid evangelical leaders have grown so foggy that we now find the visible Christian church world-wide has itself become a “religious” people to whom our Lord is saying:

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:6-8).


[1] Frank E. Gæbelein, Gen. Ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003], CD Rom., 2 Samuel.

[2] http://tiny.cc/val7z, accessed 5/13/11.

[3] Ibid.

See also: