And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:5-7)
Last night at my small group meeting we talked about the Old Testament. One of our pastors had recently spoken about the importance of this often neglected portion of the Bible in the life of the believer. He called it the “root of the bible” out of which the New Testament grows. He asserted that one can’t truly understand the New Testament (NT), or the gospel for that matter without the Old Testament (OT). Proof of this is how much of the OT is quoted in the NT. The OT was in actuality the bible of the early believers. Jesus relied on their knowledge of the bible in His teachings, often quoting from it and pointing to prophesy and fulfillment concerning Himself. Peter, Paul and the other disciples and apostles followed his example as well. They didn’t use their own words as application points in their sermons or letters, they used what the people regarded as the word of God – what we now call the Old Testament.
During this discussion, we spoke about the challenges and benefits to reading the OT on a regular basis, the difference in culture, and how knowing the whole word of God might benefit our daily life and our overall spiritual growth. We spent sometime on the culture differences, which is where the quoted passage from 2 Samuel 6 comes in.
In OT times there was a regard for and a proper fear of God that we just do not even come close to grasping. They didn’t have a local Hebrew bookstore to go to and buy the latest translation of the torah, no, they had to memorize it. Look at the OT testament – there is a lot there. Certainly, all of it was written down at some point, but that transcription was taken from dictation, and for generations prior to this effort fathers and mothers told these truths and stories to their families, who memorized them and passed them on to their families…and so on…and so on.
I don’t know about you, but it is a challenge for me to memorize a verse or two at a time…I couldn’t even imagine memorizing chapters, books, major portions of the Old Testament! But that is what people did, because they had to, otherwise they would not have the word of God written on their hearts or impacting their daily lives, which would lead to sin and greatly dishonoring God.
Our culture isn’t that way. We look for the path of least resistance…the easy way. We don’t want to read, we want to listen to audio books or, better, see the movie. Fast food isn’t fast enough for us. Even childbirth can be virtually pain and hassle free. We are the same way with our walks…we want change to just happen. We want to accept Christ and POOF we are perfect. That is not the way it is. The walk of obedience is just that, a walk…it requires movement, action, and exertion. And the truth of the matter is, cultural differences or not, we are not made to walk the walk all the time as we should.
Just look at the example in the passage quoted WAY up at the top of this post.
At first reading, we might think “What’s the big deal? He was just trying to keep the ark from falling. Surely his motives were pure. Why would God strike him down that way?” But the fact of the matter is, God had spoken and commanded that no one touch the ark. In that moment, Uzzah put a condition on God's commands. He is not alone. I think we can all agree that we always want to put conditions on God's commands.
As we were discussing this, someone said “The ark was where God lived! GOD! Did he think God was going to fall out?” She also followed that comment with the acknowledgement that she would have done the same thing…and does that with situations on her life far too often.
I know I try to “steady the ark” a lot. My hand is out there, ready to keep things going the way I think they should, to keep calamity from striking, to keep my stuff from falling down into the mud or going off course. But what I forget, what Uzzah forgot was that the course of my life, the calamities that come, how much goes according to “plan” isn’t my call to make, it’s God’s. He is the one with the plan, preparing the way, and working all things according to His good pleasure and for my good. When I stick my hand out to steady the ark, I am saying “I control my destiny – I have faith in me!”
But God says: “I have made, and I will bear… But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”—“Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you… Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
He never forgets…but we do. We forget far too much, far too often.
Lord, help us remember who you are and who we are. Help us to have a right estimation of ourselves and humbly submit to your ways. Help us also to make your word, the totality of your word, the centerpiece of our lives that we might walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have placed up on us…for your glory!