Lou: People are asking about Uzzah, the one who was so anxious to support the ark when it was starting to fall off the cart. And he dies at that point. So God wasn’t doing it to get his attention! His life was and is over.
Graham: That’s right, Uzzah’s dead. And where Uzzah will be in the hereafter is between him and God. Some like to think perhaps he repented at that moment. We don’t know and we don’t need to know. But it’s quite a story when you put it in its total setting. Why was the ark on the cart in the first place? Because the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, had been such poor representatives of the truth. They were even assaulting women who came to worship in the temple (1 Sam 2:22-25). They were that wicked. So then when Israel was drawn into battle, they thought, “Let’s take that magic box with us” (1 Sam 4:3-4). They had no reverence for God whatsoever, but they thought the magic box might help. So they took it into battle and they lost it. And in due course of time the ark wound up in front of Dagon the fish god.
So God started working with these heathen Philistines the same way he worked with the Egyptians. In the morning, when the priests went in to conduct their worship of Dagon the fish god, they found him toppled off his pedestal in front of the ark. Well, they didn’t dare tell anybody, so they propped him up and then said their prayers, “Oh almighty one, bless us this day.” The next day when they came in, Dagon had not only fallen off the pedestal, but he had broken into several pieces. So they hastily glued him together, put him back on the pedestal, and prayed, “Almighty one, look after us this day.”
I can imagine some small child saying, “How come we’re praying to the almighty one whom we’ve just glued together?” And so they consulted the theologians of the day. It’s all detailed in 1 Samuel 5. And the theologians said, “We advise that you send that box back, and we suggest you put some gifts in it. Remember what the God of this box did to the Egyptians and remember how Pharaoh hardened his own heart?” (1 Sam 6:1-6). They’ve got it right there, “Pharaoh hardened his own heart.” These heathen theologians did better than some of us today.
Well, as the story proceeded, it was on the cart coming home, and Uzzah lived in a family that knew better than to treat the ark with such disrespect (2 Sam 6:2-7). It was an act of irreverence, like how they lost the ark in the first place. Where there is no reverence, there is no listening to God. Where there is no listening, there is no help and all is lost. So when we’re our most irreverent, God runs the risk of being the most dramatic, to see if He can inspire a little respect. And the devil, I’m sure, mocked Him for doing it.
Now David was very angry when Uzzah died. He was so angry that he left the ark right next door in the house of Obed-Edom (2 Sam 6:8-10). Three months later he got reports that the presence of the ark was blessing the household of Obed-Edom (2 Sam 6:11-12). And David said, “We need that blessing up here at headquarters.” So they brought the ark up with much carefulness, sacrificing a great many offerings along the way (2 Sam 6:13-14). No doubt they understood those sacrifices as a bit like fire insurance. David didn’t know God as well as he did later on. So you see in the Bible ongoing growth in the knowledge of God, and behind that growth is a very patient God who sometimes used dramatic means to win us all the way back to trust. That’s the reason to utilize all sixty-six books of the Bible, by the way, so we can get the full picture of how God dealt with His people.