Have you ever felt that the Lord was leading you to do something, but when you tried to do it, everything went wrong? I just learned a little something about this very thing from Uzzah and Obed-Edom. What, you don't remember these two biblical names? Let me share their stories - I'll break this up into two blogs to keep it short (I can hear you laughing!) First the story of Uzzah:
(2 Samuel 6:1-5) 1 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 [f] to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, [g] 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, [h] and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs [i] and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
Sounds great, right? David is bringing the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem. They were celebrating and praising God 'with all their might'. But then something unexpected happens:
(2 Samuel 6:6-8) 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.
Now, this is one of those passages of scripture that has always puzzled me. It seems a little...well...harsh, doesn't it? Should Uzzah have just let the ark fall off the cart and land in the mud? Why did God strike him dead right then and there? What did he do that was so wrong? As usual, I'm asking all the wrong questions!
Let's back this cart up a moment and look at this a little more closely - starting with God's instructions regarding the ark. In Exodus 25:10-15, we learn that the ark was cast with rings along the base through which poles were inserted to be carried on the shoulders of the Levite priests. The poles were not to be removed. So clearly, moving the ark on a cart was in direct conflict with God's expressed instructions for how to transport this treasure that represented God's presence among His people.
The ark had been transported by cart previously - by the Philistines! They had captured the ark and had it in their possession for seven months, during which time God struck them with plagues. So to rid themselves of God's wrath, they placed the ark on a new cart led by two cows which had never been yoked and were separated from their calves. They let the cows go and they miraculously led the cart straight back to Israel. Through this the Philistines understood that it had been God's judgment on them that caused the plague. The Philistines had not received God's instructions regarding the transport of the ark - so their efforts to do the 'right thing' were honored by God and they were healed.
But there is more to this story - and those dreaded genealogies come into play once again!
Who was Abinadab? Well there are two Abinadab's that appear in scripture - one was a son of Saul, who was killed in the same battle where Saul, Jonathan and several of Saul's other sons were killed. The context of 1 Chronicles 6 certainly suggests that Abinadab was still alive at this time, so it seems likely this is the other Abinadab, who was David's older brother. David, and therefore Abinadab and his two sons, were of the tribe of Judah - not Levi! So not only was David transporting the ark in an inappropriate manner - but he was allowing someone other than the Levites to do so. And it cost his nephews life!
At first glance, we might be tempted to think, "How unfair!" It wasn't Uzzah's fault that David wasn't following directions! When we fail to follow God's plan, there are consequences - and sometimes others feel the pain of our disobedience.
David believed that the Lord wanted him to bring the ark to Jerusalem - but instead of seeking God in the details of how to do that, he took a shortcut. He did what seemed to be the right thing to him. It wasn't that he didn't care about what God thought - after all, they were praising God 'with all their might'! He summoned thirty thousand 'chosen men' to accompany the ark!
How often do I have a leading from the Lord and say, in effect, "Great, now I'll take it from here!" Then I'm angry when my methods result in failure. Perez Uzzah - it means God broke out against Uzzah - that is not the place I want to be!