It is likely that you will attempt to do a great thing for God in a wrong way during your lifetime. When you reap the bitter fruit of that experience, you will face the temptation of becoming angry with God. You were convinced that you were doing the right thing for the right reasons, but you were contrary to the will of God. This contrary nature to God’s will may be born of ignorance, sloth, or oversight. Yet it leads out to the same discouraging place of disillusionment. Left unchecked, it drives us to despondency and despair.
The Scripture tells us about David’s attempt at doing a great thing for God in the wrong way. He gathered Israel under one banner for the first time and attempted to convey the ark of God from the place where it had been resting for several decades up to Jerusalem where David reigned. The people constructed a new cart to convey the ark, and a man named Uzzah was appointed to drive the oxen which would pull the cart. When the ark was jostled during the journey, Uzzah reached out to protect and steady the ark. It was at this point that God’s righteous anger flared, and Uzzah was struck dead by God. Taken at face value, it seems that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. As a matter of fact, we don’t even see a crime!
What did Uzzah do wrong?
I’m sure the whole nation wondered why God struck Uzzah dead. I know that David was greatly bothered by it. He became angry over the action which the LORD had taken that day (2 Samuel 6.8). It’s not just that Uzzah did something wrong, but David and the whole nation did wrong. Uzzah paid the price. Earlier in the Law of Moses, only the priests were permitted to touch the ark. Only the Levites were permitted to transport the ark. Numbers 4.15 says that “the sons of Kohath (Levites) shall come to carry” the holy items of the tabernacle. But these men were not permitted to touch what they carried “lest they die.” They carried the ark of the covenant on their shoulders (Numbers 7.9), presumably through means of poles and rings attached to the ark. So, Uzzah touched the ark. That’s what he did, and it was wrong. But neglect of God’s Word rests squarely upon David and the people as well.
Why is there such a severe response from God?
God responded with severity because God is holy, majestic, and great. Mercy only means something once people understand God’s righteous, holy, and powerful presence. God chose to manifest His righteous character, and who are we to question such a demonstration? God showed His people that nothing done for Him is acceptable if it is contrary to His will. He had said, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified” (Leviticus 10.3). So Uzzah paid a great and awful price that day for being contrary to God’s revealed will. The whole nation would learn that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him” (Psalm 89.7).
How does David respond to this severity?
First, David is angry (2 Samuel 6.8). He was angry because of what the LORD had done to Uzzah. That anger led him to an outburst against God. The LORD’s outburst and righteous indignation toward Uzzah led to David’s outburst and sinful anger toward the LORD. Sound familiar? David believed that God had acted unfairly and that God was not good. David lost sight of the fact that God always does what is right and just and good. Even the slothful priest Eli when faced with a terrible prophecy concerning his family said, “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (2 Samuel 3.18). Should we not bear the indignation of the LORD because of our sin against Him (Micah 7.9)? Do we do well to be so angry? Doesn’t sin crouch at the door ready to pounce upon us? Shouldn’t we gain mastery over it and over our emotions?
Second, David is afraid (2 Samuel 6.9). He is afraid because He doesn’t know what God wants. This makes him unbelieving. He will not serve the LORD as a man after God’s own heart. Instead, he lives in a state of servile fear and unbelief. So he asks, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” He gives up and won’t move the ark. He should have worked to find out God’s heart and will regarding this situation. He should have humbled himself before the LORD. But he doesn’t, and this leads straight to discouragement and disillusionment.
What about your service for the LORD?
What will happen if you live contrary to the will of God? What will happen if your friendship with the world puts you at enmity with the Christ who redeemed you? Sometimes you rebelliously do what you want to do. Other times you do what you think is God’s will, but His favor is not upon you. He regards your activity as sin and not service. God still cares about holiness. He desires that you be holy even as He is holy. If we are to serve God, we had better do so in the beauty of holiness.
How do you deal with unexpected but discouraging circumstances?
Let it not be with unrighteous anger or unbelieving fear toward God. Search God’s Word prayerfully and find His will for your life. Don’t give into discouragement and disillusionment. Renew your mind in the Word of God, “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12.2). Whenever hope is missing from your life, God is not the cause of it (Romans 15.4-5). You are accepted in the Beloved One. Find out when it was that you strayed from the path of God’s will, and get back on it.