Uzzah, What Happened?
What happened on the day when Uzzah died after stretching out his hand to steady the Ark of the Lord as it was toppling off the cart? This seems like such an extreme reaction towards someone who was just trying to prevent the Holy Ark from falling. I’d even say it would have been a natural reaction for most of us. I know when I see something falling, I instinctively reach out to steady it, not to mention if that something is precious. So what did we witness through this event? Helpfulness over holiness.
It was a celebratory day when David attempted to bring the Ark of the Presence back to Jerusalem on a brand new cart. He used an expedient method rather than the poles on the backs of Levites, which God had required. But this was not just any box; this was the Ark of God to be placed in the Most Holy Place. It was THE box, the Ark of the Covenant between God and His people. Holy!
So David, the authority, presumed helpfulness over holiness through an act of reverence and honoring. He assumed rather than inquired. And Uzzah paid for this with his life. But beyond David’s costly lesson, I want to look at Uzzah for a second. What lesson does Uzzah’s error have for us? Helpfulness over Holiness! Uzzah forgot who he was and who God is. In his act of service, he made God less than absolutely holy. Rather than fearing to touch God’s holiness, he extended his reach.
As a servant and a pastor, it is easy to roll into expedience. Get the job done and more, in the most efficient way. The workers are few but the fields are ripe for harvest – let’s get out there and do it! And I’m an American; we’ve been the most industrious people on earth. We streamline and industrialize everything for maximum output. Ooh rah!
Uzzah’s helpfulness was stronger than his reverence for God’s holiness, even in an act of utmost respect. Uzzah, like me, allowed his natural reaction to exceed his awareness of God’s holiness. This is a deadly combination. We serve a Holy God and when our natural productivity overshadows our awareness of His holiness, we’re struck with death.
I wish this wasn’t as easy as it is, but it’s natural. Uzzah’s natural response superseded his fear of God. Holiness took a backseat to helpfulness. I don’t cast any stones at Uzzah. I’m saying I am Uzzah. I’m so capable of allowing the job to become the focus and forget the Holiness of the One for whom the job is being done.
As we enter into a season of conference preparation, where tasks and to do’s will run at their heights, I must be reminded of God’s holiness. I don’t want to extend my hand to steady. Helpfulness over holiness is death producing. Expedience is sometimes counterproductive rather than efficient. It is not just during special events that this is important. No, my life is intended to always walk in awareness of God’s holiness as I live my life in the spirit. To walk in the spirit daily and always will keep me in the sensitivity of the Holy. Flesh is incapable of such a task.
In closing, I’m reminded of this statement David made:
“How can I bring the ark of God home to me?”
Yes, Uzzah had died, and David responded in anger, but then he inquired of God with this heart-felt plea. A man truly after God’s own heart. “How do You, God, wish to be brought back to me, personally?” God had a home in David’s heart and instead of being helpful by serving God, he asked for the holiness God required. David gained a new reverence for the God he adored. Holiness was elevated over expedience. Completing the job was not the goal, but pleasing the One for whom it was done. David came to the place of knowing that His Holy God was coming home. God, first and foremost, is Holy.
Holiness is the will of God. When we’re tempted to focus on getting the job done, we must be reminded that holiness must rule over expedience. Helpfulness over holiness leads to the death of our destiny, but walking in the spirit will keep us in His holy will.
a good and timely word John!
Wow, John…this is the BEST commentary that I’ve ever read on “Uzzah’s Error”! The perspective you shared is so powerfully challenging. God isn’t looking for our helpfulness. He doesn’t care about our diligence in wanting to get a job done. His holiness must ever be preeminent or the cost will be the death of our destiny! This one is a keeper. Thank you so much for this message! Blessings always!
And who is not an Uzzah? It is amazing the whole picture of holiness that God Himself draws for us throughout the Scriptures.
We are always in strait need of God’s holiness. Holiness not only refers to “purity”, but it points straight to the will of God (as you so well point out). God is ever asking for this: “Who is looking for my Refined Gold“?
I think that’s ever the question that rises from God’s throne in every crisis.
Bless you John.