There are passages in Scripture that give us pause, passages that we might not even like. This is one. It’s difficult for us to understand, let alone appreciate, what happened to Uzzah. As the ark of God was being wheeled across Nacon’s threshing floor, the oxen pulling it stumbled, so Uzzah took hold of the ark in order to steady it. That seems like an honorable thing for Uzzah to do. It is what we may have done had we been standing next to Uzzah that day. But instead of God blessing Uzzah, He was angry with him and struck him dead on the spot for irreverence (v. 7).
If you read this and are at least uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Look at how David responded: he was angry (v. 8). Now, we are not sure if David’s anger was toward God for doing something that seemed to be unfair or if it was against Uzzah for doing what was irreverent to God, but either way, we see that David struggled with this encounter.
So what do we do with this passage? How do we begin to understand it? The key is to consider what God found to be irreverent. It was not Uzzah’s desire to keep the ark from falling. Uzzah did that because of an act of reverence. But Uzzah was reverent toward the wrong thing: the ark instead of God. Would it have looked disgraceful for the ark of God to fall onto the ground? Yes. Without a doubt. But how much more disgraceful was it for Uzzah to reach out and touch the ark after God had expressly forbidden it (Num. 4:15)? Uzzah’s act of reverence toward the ark was simultaneously an act of irreverence toward a holy God. Like Uzzah, there are times when we act with what seems to be the right intentions, but we must always consider the greater question: What will bring glory to God the most?
In what ways might your good intentions clash with God’s glory and His revealed will for you?