Thursday, September 05, 2019

A Just God?

Have you ever been angry at God? Confused over what you thought was an unjust punishment?
“Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 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.” (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
Have you ever wondered why God struck down Uzzah? The oxen carrying the ark stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to touch the ark to “help” it from falling. What was the sin in that?

There is a lot of backstory leading up to this point that you need to read to understand why they were transporting the ark in the first place. The ark represented God’s presence, and David is wanting to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. Go read the chapters leading up to this point and the chapter that we are discussing. I’ll wait here. :)
  • The capture of the ark in 1 Samuel 4 and 5
  • Return of the ark in 2 Samuel 6

To answer the question of Uzzah’s sin, let’s look to portions of the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary. First of all, there were specific instructions that were to be followed when carrying the ark.
The priests were supposed to use poles that slipped through four rings on the ark so that their hands would never touch the ark itself. But here they were carrying it around just like the Philistines did— on an oxcart. This story alone should tell us how God feels about the attitude that says, “I will worship God in my own way. It doesn’t matter how one worships God or what you do, as long as it’s sincere.” God does not take kindly to worship that disregards His standards.
Regarding Uzzah's specific actions: 
Uzzah’s touch represents a failure to understand his own sinfulness. Uzzah saw the ark headed toward the dirt, and he reached out because he assumed his hand was less dirty than the ground. Most of us would have done the same. But think of this: the earth has never committed the blasphemy of rejecting God’s authority. The earth has always obeyed the commands of God. Dirt could never pollute the ark. But the touch of a sinful man could. 
Uzzah did not understand this so he tried to do God a favor. David did not understand this so he got upset with God. But the reason we do not understand the judgment of God is that we do not understand the wickedness of our sinfulness. 
Our sin was apparently so heinous that Jesus, the Son of God, had to come to earth and be torn to shreds. Crucifixion was an unspeakable brutal process, meant to inflict maximum pain and to showcase a person’s shame. 
This was the punishment God Himself took for our sins. It was brutal. It was unbearable. It was disgusting. And that is precisely the point. The cross should remind us that our sin is unspeakably wicked.
God is so holy that He cannot tolerate impurity. The difference between Uzzah and us is that God gives us time to repent of our callous attitude. Do we realize the magnanimity of His grace toward us, that we can come into God’s presence, day after day, year after year, and not be struck down?
God would be within His rights as a just God to allow our story to end in verse 10, with Uzzah’s funeral. Yet the love of God breaks through once more, not as a result of any Israelite obedience but by the sheer mercy of God. Obed-edom, the newest landlord of the ark, has seen a change of fortune…his household has seen the blessing of God.
We risk missing the sweetness of God if we rush too quickly past this point. David’s last interaction with God led him to a crisis of faith, one that caused David to be angry and afraid. David had seen God in action and had pushed Him away. We might expect God to confront David for his disobedience. What we see instead is a slow process in which God woos David back to Himself. David has said to God, “Please leave me alone.” And God has gently responded, “I love you too much to do that.”
David hears the news of Obed-edom as a sort of promise for himself. God’s intention is not to be wrathful forever. So David ends the radio silence between him and God, determined to bring God’s presence back to his city with him.
These three months have been instructive for David, too. He must have done some reading because now, instead of using an oxcart to pull the ark, David has ensured that people are “carrying” it. The poles are back in place, and David is attempting to worship God the way God has revealed. 
The poles, however, are just the start. The caravan has not even taken a dozen steps before David calls a halt and offers up the chief picture of worship in all Scripture— sacrifice. The Israelite people were familiar with animal sacrifice, harkening back to the great sign of Passover. In the Passover, God had provided a way of salvation for His people: through the death of a spotless lamb, God’s wrath would “pass over” the household of Israel. And Israel’s worship centered on rehearsing this scene, reminding them that God’s presence with His people could only come at the cost of substitutionary death. 
Sin requires death. There is no getting around this. And there are only two options: either we reject God and pay the steep price ourselves, or we accept the sacrifice Jesus dearly made on our behalf. His grace is a gift, but it is a gift that must be received. David knew this, and he responded the only way people ever respond in light of God’s gracious love— with overwhelming praise.
There really is no way that I could have said it better. I learned so much from this book, and I highly recommend it for studying the book of 1 and 2 Samuel. The text I've included is just a portion of the depth the commentary covers. This insight was humbling and incredibly valuable in seeing how dirty and disgusting my sin is but also in seeing that God doesn't leave me in the mire. What a blessing it is to be forgiven and offered grace and mercy. And what a responsibility it is to pursue holiness and God's design. But it's a responsibility we don't do alone-- God leads and gives us the Bible to know His desires.

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