In 1 Chronicles 13 there is an account that disturbs many people. King David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been neglected during the reign of Saul. While they were transporting it, we read: “And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. (v. 9-10)
Most think that God dealt way too harshly with Uzza. After all, he was trying to do the right thing and save the Ark from getting damaged. But God had stated very plainly in the law that nobody was to touch the Ark. In fact, just having it on the cart was not in accordance with his law. He made it very clear that poles were to be slide through rings on the side of the Ark and carried with them.
Even with that background, many still charge God with over-reacting. Putting a man to death for trying to keep the Ark from falling – really?
A much better reaction is to pause and take to heart God’s message. It is a message he wants us to hear seeing that he saw fit to have it recorded in Scripture for all time. And his message is simple. It is an extremely serious thing not to follow his commands to the letter! He’s God and his word is not up for debate. Ignoring it, downplaying it, treating it casually is not something that he ignores or treats casually. Not obeying his commands – sinning – is serious.
That is something we all need to hear – and to hear often. God isn’t laughing about those sins that we might think are funny. He doesn’t regard any lies as little while ones. He doesn’t view as optional our loving one another or our taking everything to him in prayer. No, those and many other things are what he has commanded us to do. And, as this story illustrates, there are consequences, terrible consequences, for all forms of disobedience. Sin, all sin, makes God’s blood boil. He sees it as spitting in his face.
That is something we all need to hear – and to hear often. Because only then will we realize how desperately we need mercy – and help. And thank God that, in spite of how much sin angers him, he had mercy on us. Jesus stood in the breach for us. Not only did he suffer God’s awesome wrath over our sins, but he also rendered his Father perfect obedience for us. Jesus is the answer – the only answer to our sinfulness.
Sin is deadly serious. God’s striking Uzza dead shows that. But if the Israelite’s not carrying the Ark angered God, think of how much more angry he is when people feel that they can, in any way, contribute to their having eternal life. That is an affront to God. That is telling him his gift of eternal life wasn’t good enough. That’s saying Jesus didn’t do it all. And that, my friends, is the most deadly sin of all.
“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)