What Did Uzzah Do Wrong?

Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 13-15


Under the leadership of David and with the unanimous support of Israel, the ark of the covenant was to be moved from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem. This was a time of celebration! With the ark of God in tow, a parade of musicians joyfully marched ever closer to the city of David. Yet, this ceremonious occasion was brought to an abrupt halt when tragedy befell the scene.

Uzzah, one of the two men given charge to safely transport the ark, had died! What had happened? Eyewitnesses began to compare their testimonies. The last thing that anyone ever saw Uzzah do was to try to stabilize the ark. The ark was resting within a brand new cart which had been constructed for this journey. When the oxen which pulled the ark stumbled, the cart and the precious cargo within it was jostled. Uzzah sprang to action, put his hand to the ark of the covenant, and God struck him dead!

Why? David did not understand it, and he became angry with God. Though the more David thought about it the more his anger turned into fear. He said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” and decided to leave the ark there. It was brought to a nearby residence, the house of Obed-edom, and returned back to Jerusalem.

Three months passed, and David had some time to reflect upon what had transpired that day. Had David failed Uzzah in some way? Had Israel been disobedient to God? If so, how so? What did Israel do wrong? As the days passed, David realized that he wanted to give it another shot. The ark of the covenant was far too important to just leave in a living room. So David began to again make preparations to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem, and he did two things to prepare for the ark’s arrival.

The first was to construct a tent to shelter the ark of God. This would be the ark of the covenant’s home until the temple was later built. Still, there was something even more important than this which still needed to be done. The second thing he did was to look to the Scriptures. Had God already given instructions regarding the transportation of ark? What David found in God’s word helped to provide a much needed clarity. The Law of Moses instructed Israel that the ark of the covenant was to be carried by the poles ran through the ark’s golden rings (Exo. 25:14-15). Additionally, only the Levites were tasked with this responsibility (Num. 1:50; Deut. 10:8). Specifically, only the Levitical family of the Kohathites were given this responsibility, but none should ever touch the ark lest they die (Num. 4:15-20). What an enlightening experience is the study of God’s word is (Psa. 19:8)!

David was convicted of exercising an imperfect obedience to God. So David gathered called Israel together. Since the Lord had chosen the Levites to carry the ark of God, that is what they would do! He told the them,

“Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule” (1 Chron. 15:12).

Israel had learned the painful lesson. God must be sought according to His rule. They would not make the same mistake again.

“So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 15:13-15).

This lesson is a valuable reminder that God must be sought according to the “rule” or in accordance to his revealed word. If God has given his people instructions regarding how something must be done, then it is a dangerous thing to disregard those instructions in favor of something else. If God tells us to carry something, then we do not need to haul it in a U-Haul. If God tells us not to touch something, then we better not touch it. Let us remember that our God is a holy and righteous God, a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28). His instructions cannot be ignored, disregarded, or forgotten in our lives. Let us always seek out His word before we do anything (Mt. 28:18; Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rev. 22:18-19).

About Barry Gilreath

Barry is the pulpit minister of the Macland Road Church of Christ.

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