I wonder how many times this question has been asked. More likely, it’s often cried as a statement. “God, this isn’t fair!”
I’ve been reading in 1 Chronicles 13 about David bringing the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. The Bible tells us David was a man after God’s own heart, and he wanted to please the Lord and put Israel on the right path back to God.
But while bringing the ark back, the unthinkable happened. One of the oxen pulling the cart holding the ark stumbled. Uzzah, one of the men walking beside it, put his hand on the ark to steady it, so it wouldn’t fall. God struck him dead.
I’ve read this story so many times, and each time I’m overwhelmed with how unfair Uzzah’s death seems. We’ve all been in a similar situation, where something is knocked and almost falls and our instincts kick in as we move to grab or steady it. If Uzzah was merely trying to save the ark, then why did God strike him dead?
To understand, we need to look at the whole story.
“David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, ‘If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our people throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us.’” 1 Chronicles 13:1 NIV
Notice the wording in this verse. First he conferred, or asked the opinions of, his officers and commanders. Then he said, “If this seems good to you and it’s the Lord’s will…” But when did he ask God? He didn’t. David asked the people around him, but he didn’t ask God about moving the ark.
“The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.” 1 Chronicles 13:4 NIV
Why did all the people agree? Because they thought it was right. Notice here, God isn’t even mentioned.
Next, we need to look at how the ark was brought back.
“They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it.” 1 Chronicles 13:7 NIV
If we look back to Numbers 4, we will find God’s specific instructions for moving the ark. It was supposed to be carried on poles and by Levites. When David decided to bring the ark back, he placed it on a cart, not poles. And there is no mention of the two men, Uzzah and Ahio, being from the Levitical tribe. Both of these things went against God’s very specific orders.
God insisted on this level of care with carrying the ark for one simple reason. It was holy. God dwelled on the ark’s seat between the two cherubim, and God is holy. To be holy is to be set apart, consecrated, sacred. Honestly, I have a hard time comprehending the holiness of God. I think we all do. It’s worth noting, that it’s the only characteristic of God repeated three times together by the angels.
“Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” Revelations 4:8 NIV
Uzzah died, because God was left out of the decision to move the ark from the beginning. David didn’t consult Him, he didn’t follow His instructions about how to move it or who should move it. And for that, God killed Uzzah for touching the ark. God is holy. He cannot compromise his holiness, or others would also disrespect Him.
So, let’s come back to that question: is God fair?
When we ask this, we are really asking, did you treat me in an equal way that I deserve to be treated?
We didn’t deserve God’s Son dying on a cross for us. We could never earn that level of sacrifice. The holy, omnipotent, all-powerful God allowed His Son to suffer and die in our place. So in answer to our question: God is better than fair. If He treated us fair, then we would die for our own sins. Instead, He allowed Jesus to die in our place.
So what do I take away from Uzzah’s sad tale? Go to God first and revere His holiness. Even when the thing I’m doing appears to be good, such as David bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, I must first humble myself before the Lord and ask for wisdom. And always remember He is holy, holy, holy.
God, thank you for using your Word to open my eyes to your holiness. You alone are worthy to be praised. May I always come to you for wisdom. Amen.