When We Know Better

The Ark of the Covenant

2 Samuel 6:1-15
1 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 from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.
3 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart,
4 with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.
5 And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
6 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.
7 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.
8 And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.
9 And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”
10 So David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.
11 And 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.
12 And it was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing.
13 And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal.
14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.
15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

One of the things we often ask our children when they do something that is outside of the perimeters we set for them is, “Why did you do that?” (It’s not a very good question, because the answer will always be, “I don’t know.”) But the question rises to our lips because we know that they know better. The rules have been established.

One of David’s first moves as he sets up his household in Jerusalem is to rescue the Ark of the Lord from where is has been residing for at least 40 years (some believe it was outside of Israel for about 100 years) inside of Philistine territory. He is God’s man and he wants that symbol of God’s presence with him in Jerusalem. This is a good and natural desire. But instead of moving the Ark the way the Lord had instructed (see Exodus 37:1-29), it was instead place upon a new cart that was pulled by a team of oxen. This was not what the Lord had told the Levites to do. The Ark was to be carried by four Levites on poles that were suspended through four hoops on the corners of the box. That way, a person need never actually touch that which was holy unto God. As the cart jostles the Ark around over the rough path, of course it is in danger of tipping off and falling to the ground. When the inevitable happens, Uzzah puts out his hand and attempts to keep the Ark from falling. A natural reaction, right? Why was he punished by death for this infraction? Because he knew better. As a priest, he already knew how the Ark was supposed to have been transported. His mistake wasn’t in touching the Ark, but in disregarding God’s instructions for transport in the first place. Uzzah died because he arrogantly thought he could do things his way instead of God’s.

Fortunately, when we reach out our hand to do something that we know we are not supposed to be doing, God doesn’t strike us dead, or I certainly would not still be here! And I’ll go out on a limb and say that many of you might not be here either. But it certainly must grieve the Spirit when we know better and do it (and you can define that “it” however you want) anyway. Because we live after the suffering and death of Christ, we know that God will not strike us with His punishing hand, for He has already done that to Jesus. Perhaps when the Spirit convicts us of our sins, instead of saying we don’t know why we did it, we can say with the tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (See Luke 18:9-14)