"But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God," (II Samuel 6:6,7).
What seems on the surface to be a capricious outburst of unjust anger on God's part is actually justified wrath in the face of disobedience to His plainly-stated requirements for acceptable worship.
* The Requirements.
In Numbers 3:30, 31; 4:15; and 7:9, the Old Testament law specified that the ark of God was to be carried by the sons of Kohath. Additionally, Exodus 25:12-15 clearly recorded the LORD's instructions through Moses for the means of transporting the sacred ark: "You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it."
Thus are given the living God's specific and crystal clear commands concerning moving the ark which represented His ineffable Name.
* The Requirements Unknown.
Having captured the ark of God, the Philistines decided after seven months (I Samuel 6:1) that they had had enough. Throughout the land mice had brought plague, and tumors had broken out on the entire populace, producing an outcry for relief. Their pagan priests and diviners advised returning the ark with a guilt offering of their own concoction (6:5). Moreover, the means they counseled for its transportation was a new cart (vv. 7,8), hitched to two milch cows on which there had never been a yoke. The people heeded this advice (vv. 10, 11), and the ark was led back to Beth-shemesh, where the people there rejoiced at the sight of its return.
* The Requirements Ignored.
Having become established as king over Israel (II Samuel 5:12), David determined that it was time for the ark of God to be returned to Jerusalem, the City of David. He gathered thirty thousand of Israel's chosen men together, to transport the sacred ark. "They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark," (6:3,4).
Did King David not know the passages in Numbers and Exodus related to moving the ark? Of all things, he is adopting the same mode as the enemies of the Lord: a new cart(!) Where is the spiritual leadership from the "man after God's own heart"?
* Consequences of Man-Made Worship
In this situation, David's failure to conscientiously follow God's worship mandate cost a man his life. David's anger (6:8) was likely directed at himself for carelessly underestimating the holiness of the living God. In his zeal to get the ark back in its proper location, he failed to take into account the supreme holiness of God's Name.
This account is a needed reminder and warning for our man-centered society and lackadaisical churches. Any attempts to worship the sovereign God of heaven and earth apart from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ are rejected. God must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24), acceptable only through access granted by the Lord Jesus (John 14:6). Any and all attempts to approach Him by humanly-devised methods and means are idolatry, and an abomination.
May He grant grace for the acceptance of this truth.