The lectionary passage for this Sunday skips a very important section. It is 2 Samuel 6:1-5 and then it skips down to verse 12b and continues. I think we really ought to focus on this part that is missing.
6 David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. 2 He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.5 David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before theLord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.
8 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of theLord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lordblessed him and his entire household.
This is exactly the type of passage that people wonder about. “Why was God so harsh?” peoople wonder. “Is this the same God as the God of the New Testament? ” “Why can’t God be more understanding?” “What did these people do that was so wrong that made God so angry that he reached out and murdered this man Uzzah in cold blood?”
This is not how I feel about this passage, but it is the way many people look at God in America. God can be love but he cannot be holy or just -not if these things cannot be put into ‘Hallmark’ cards.
The Scripture says that what Uzzah did was an irreverant act. Let’s think more about this.
What is the background to this passage? In Exodus 25:10-16, we are told this about ark of the Lord:
10 “Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 11 Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. 12 Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. 15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. 16 Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law,which I will give you.
Numbers 4:5-6, 15 says,
5 When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law.6 Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.
15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.
The ark of the Lord was to be carried using the poles through the rings on the ark. God had been very specific on this. In addition, only Kohathites were to carry the ark.
Now some folks will look at this and say, “How petty of God. How could he kill someone because they didn’t follow some simple instructions.” But is this really that petty? Yesterday on the radio news, I heard about two children who were electrocuted while swimming. It seems that some simple wiring had gone wrong.
We are all familiar with situations that seem small, but result in death. And many times we rebel against God’s laws. But cry as much as we want, God’s laws are still there.
Uzzah made the mistake of thinking that the ark of the Lord would be defiled by touching the dirt. But this is a fundamental flaw in understanding the nature of the world. It is not the world that is in rebellion against God. Dirt does not defile the holy things of God – people who are in rebellion against God defile the holy things of God.
Matthew 15 tells the story of Jesus and his disciples eating wheat straight from the field. The pharisees complain that Jesus didn’t wash his hands first (this was not a health issue but a tradition of the elders). Verses 18-20, Jesus explains:
18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
- God in the lectionary gaps (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)