Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Breaking out

Today I want to look at what is often thought of as a difficult passage. In 2 Samuel 6 the LORD God breaks out against Uzzah and strikes him dead. Why does this happen? Poor Uzzah seems to have done nothing very wrong - why does he have to die?

To understand this we need to study the Ark of the Covenant and see its importance in the life of Israel. This is what we know about the Ark:

  • It was a chest, much like those people used to store clothes in (and still do in some parts of the world)
  • It contained the tablets of the ten commandments, mark 2. God gave Moses these tablets on Mount Sinaii. Only Moses was allowed to approach the LORD, and the mountain was surrounded by clouds. Anyone who touched the mountain would die (Exodus 19).
  • It was supposed to be carried on poles by members of the clan of Kohath (Num. 3:27), who were part of the tribe of Levi. When the Israelites moved around the ark would be carried in front:  And whenever the Ark set out, Moses would shout, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” And when the Ark was set down, he would say, “Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel!” (Num. 10:35).
  • It was kept in the most holy place, inside the tabernacle. Only the High Priest (Aaron originally) was allowed in the most holy place, and only once a year. He brought a sacrifice of blood, which he applied to the horns of the altar. He was warned not to go in the most holy place whenever he chose or he would die (Leviticus 16:2).
  • When the Philistines captured the Ark they tried to harness its power, as they thought of it, but the LORD God made tumours break out on them, and in the end they had to send it back to Israel (1 Sam. 5).
From this story we can learn that God is Holy, and we can only approach him through the sacrifice of the more perfect High Priest, Jesus the Messiah. He is also self-sufficient. We cannot add anything to God. He doesn't need us in any way. We need him. He is the source of all blessing. When we 'bless' God we are simply praising Him for what He has done.

We can also learn a lesson about leadership. David was wrong to let his men bring the Ark towards Jerusalem on an ox cart. He also gave way to fear after Uzzah died (2Sam 6:9-11). But he learnt from his mistakes, and in the end brought the ark (properly this time, v13) into Jerusalem with great rejoicing, and with David dancing before the Lord (v14). What a day that must have been!