Whenever we exchange recognition of God’s holiness, surrender to his will and the sheer delight of his presence for a more controlled, convenient and cool experience of worship, we risk the loss of the kind of passionate praise that truly pleases him. Surrender and wonder are the heart of authentic worship, so offer that to your magnificent God the next time you’re in a worship experience—then offer it again the next time, and the time after that, too.
Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 6:5-8, 14-16
David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals. But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God. David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah… [Sometime later, when the Ark was finally brought to Jerusalem] David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.
If you were to outline this unusual text, it neatly falls into a three-act play on passionate worship based on the three main characters of the story.
- Act One, Uzzah Died. 2 Samuel 6:6 says, “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”
- Act Two, David Danced. 2 Samuel 6:14: “David danced before the Lord with all his might.”
- Act Three, Michal Despised. 2 Samuel 6:16, “When Michal saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.”
For sake of time and space, let’s focus on the least known of these characters, Uzzah. As you read this story, if you are like me, the question you have is, why did God kill this seemingly well-intentioned man for his momentary mistake? Here is what we need to consider:
It is always fatal to take charge of God. Uzzah was a priest, consecrated to oversee the care of the Ark, which he’d done for thirty years. You could say, he had hung out with the holy for three decades. That meant he was very much aware of the law of God and the Levitical regulations about moving the Ark.
So Uzzah’s reflexive act wasn’t a mistake of the moment, it was a lifelong obsession with managing the Ark. During those thirty years, it is highly likely he began to cut corners in his worship and to be selective in his obedience to God. Slowly, perhaps imperceptibly, he learned to control the presence of God. So to him, the cart was a more efficient way to worship. Eugene Peterson, who wrote a brilliant book on David called, Leap Over A Wall, says of this incident,
A well-designed ox-cart is undeniably more efficient for moving the Ark about than plodding Levites. But it’s also impersonal—the replacement of consecrated persons by an efficient machine… Uzzah is the patron saint of those who uncritically embrace technology without regard to the nature of God.
Do you think we tend to do that in our day, that we tend to manage God into more convenient and cool forms of worship? Do we ever approach worship in terms of what’s preferable to us or trendy to our culture rather than what is pleasing to God? Whenever we move from obedience to God and recognition of his holiness to a more controlled, convenient and cool worship, we risk the loss of the kind of passionate praise that pleases him. As Peterson writes,
Uzzah should forever be posted around the church as a warning sign: Danger! Beware of the God
There is certainly a danger in our day of getting too casual and too convenient in our worship and forgetting that God is still holy. We need to remember: God will not be controlled. When we fall into a pattern of control, deliberately or not, sooner or later, like Uzzah, we will become spiritually dead in our worship. Now since we were created to worship God, this is a grave danger.
Thomas Carlyle rightly stated, “Wonder is the basis of worship.” Let Uzzah be a perpetual watchman who cries out from the walls of our church, “Don’t ever lose your wonder of God!”