We are grateful that God doesn’t give us what we “deserve” as we go through life. What did Ezra say, and this was at the end of the Captivity?
Ezra 9:13 13After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve,
But life gives us plenty if we are alert to learn from it. Most of us can probably recall without too much difficulty a time we didn’t follow instructions. It had consequences.
Then it happened again. And again. And again. We began to wonder if we would EVER learn.
That is how David must have felt after God gave him a great victory over the pagan Philistines. He did a lot of things RIGHT. And God gave the victory.
It was soon after David became king over Israel. The Philistines heard about him and came to “visit.” It is told in 2 Samuel 5.
2 Samuel 5:17 17Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold [a place of strong defense, for safety]. 18The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim.
What was the first thing David did?
2 Samuel 5:19 19So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”
David went, and God was with him and the Philistines were defeated. Then something unusual happened:
2 Samuel 5:21 21…they [the Philistines] left their images …, and David and his men carried them away.
What were David and his men doing, carrying away idols the enemy had left behind?
It is thought that the images were their “lares” or household deities that the Philistines had taken into battle to assure their victory. When it didn’t happen, they interpreted Israel’s victory as a defeat of their gods by the God of Israel, and so left them behind. Useless.
But why did David’s men pick them up?
This is by far the most common translation: they picked them up, carried them away, took them, etc.
It almost sounds like David and his men wanted the images. But perhaps not. And surely not David. His heart was for the God of heaven, who was giving him the victory. He would not have been after pagan images. The KJV may be nearer right with its translation:
2 Samuel 5:21 21And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.
The word translated “carry” can also mean burn with fire, or carry away in the sense of remove, destroy. David knew the law, and would have commanded that the images be destroyed. The account in Chronicles says it was David’s command:
1 Chronicles 14:12 12And when they had left their gods there, David gave a commandment, and they were burned with fire.
What said the law?
Deuteronomy 7:5 5But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.
Deuteronomy 7:25 25You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the Lord your God.
David was intent on carrying out the law. Exactly.
But the defeated Philistines came back quickly. What did David do this time?
2 Samuel 5:23–25 23Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up;
This victory was to be even easier! God gave exact instructions:
23…[God] said, “You shall not go up. Circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. 24And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.”
What a battle plan! God’s battle plan!
24…when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, … advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.”
It was a great victory. Time to stop and honor the God who had delivered them.
David felt strongly that it was time to get the ark back to Jerusalem. It had been many years since the sons of Eli had taken it onto the battlefield when it had been captured by the Philistines. It was the rightful property of Israel and Israel’s God.
2 Samuel 6:2 2David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the Lord of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim.
How would they do it?
2 Samuel 6:3 3So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 4And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark.
Abinadab was a priest, and their house had been “home” for the ark ever since the time of the prophet Samuel, something like 40 years. Plenty of time to forget that it was sacred property of God.
It was a joyful time for David and all the house of Israel. They celebrated.
2 Samuel 6:5 5Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.
Then—disaster. Let us read it from the ESV.
2 Samuel 6:6–7 (ESV) 6And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.
He died right there on the spot “because of his error.” What error? What was wrong with putting out his hand to steady the ark when the oxen stumbled?
Unintentional violation, but it was disobedience to a law of God.
God had warned His people that not even the Levites could touch the holy objects of the tabernacle without consequences.
The law was very definite about how tabernacle furnishings and implements should be handled. The death penalty had been specified for violators.
Numbers 4:15 15And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.
Lest they DIE.
Harsh? Stern? These people were being trained in respect and holy regard for a holy God. They were learning that God means what He says.
Uzzah was a severe lesson for David and all of us.
Many people today would criticize. God isn’t giving His people a chance. He just cuts them off. But how else can He draw the line between obedience and disobedience? What is a partial obedience? There is none.
How should we regard it? REMEMBER Uzzah.
What happens today when someone disobeys God’s law?
Nothing. As a result:
Ecclesiastes 8:11 11Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
It is a lesson on record for us: Remember Uzzah. Struck down because he disobeyed.
David took it to heart. Seriously. Lesson learned.
But what to do with a half-moved ark?
2 Samuel 6:10–11 10So David would not move the ark of the Lord with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.
But it was temporary. Three months. And during that time we can be sure David studied the law. Carefully. Letter for letter.
When they moved the ark next time, they did it right. Exactly. They didn’t start by putting it on an ox cart, not even a new one. And we can be sure they followed all the rules of proper handling. Precisely.
2 Samuel 6:12 12…So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness.
Caution? When they had gone just 6 steps, it was time to stop and praise God.
2 Samuel 6:13 13When the bearers of the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps he sacrificed an ox and a buffalo.
David wasn’t taking any liberties. NONE. He wanted to be SURE God approved. No unthinking confidence this time!
The joy was even greater because it was the joy of obedience. Exact obedience.
Who needs these lessons more than we, living as we are during a time when God is SILENT. We have never seen God’s law executed on evil. We have never seen someone disobey God and drop dead. Authority today is freely flaunted at every level, from parent to President.
How can we take our own obedience as seriously as we should?