A correspondent asks, “Can you give me some thoughts on the fate of Uzzah, whom God struck dead when he touched the Ark of the Covenant? Could I not receive the same fate as Uzzah if I make a mistake while serving God?”
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Uzzah did not die as a humble man who made a well-meaning mistake, but as a man with a serious attitude problem. Second Samuel 6:7 makes that very plain: “God struck him down there for his irreverence, and he died there by the Ark of the Lord.” There is good reason to think, in Uzzah’s case, that familiarity bred contempt. The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant in the days of Eli (1 Sam. 4), but after a series of calamities wherever it went (1 Sam. 5-6), they returned it to Israel. For the next 20 years, the Ark was stored in the house of “Abinadab on the hill” near the village of Kiriath-jearim (1 Sam. 7:1-2). Uzzah was one of Abinadab’s sons and, since he is not named in 1 Samuel 7:1-2, he seemingly grew up from infancy to adulthood with this strange piece of holy furniture sitting in his family’s shed or back room.
Uzzah’s story, and that of Nadab and Abihu, clearly illustrate the hazard involved in irreverence, which manifests itself in many forms of disobedience. What they do not illustrate, however, is a God who sits in heaven waiting for his humble-hearted children to make a mistake so he can strike them dead. That notion is completely foreign to the Bible, to the Gospel, to the example of the Son of God in the flesh, and — when we look at them closely — to these specific Old Testament texts.
The problem with those who claim otherwise is not that they take the Bible too seriously, but that they do not take it seriously enough. They do not take it seriously enough to read it in context, to let it speak for itself, or to notice what it actually says. Let the irreverent be warned — indeed! But let every woman and man of pure and humble heart take courage. Because of Jesus’ atonement, once made, they will see God. And he will be pleased with them when they do.