When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 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. [2 Samuel 6:6-7 – NIV]
Here’s a little contextual background about this passage. Before the reign of King Saul, the Philistines captured the ark and after a circuitous journey though their county (due to the fact that tumors afflicted the Philistine people wherever the ark went), it ended up in the temple of Dagon (their god). The next morning, the statue of Dagon was found prostrate in front of the ark. After restoring it to an upright position, it was again found prostrate the next morning, but this time its head and hands were broken off. After seven months of this, the Philistines couldn’t wait to get rid of the ark so they sent it back to Israel posthaste. But the ark was not taken to the temple; instead it remained for twenty years at the house of Abinadab and God blessed Abinadab and his family. When David became king, he noticed how God had blessed Abinadab and decided it was time to return the ark to Jerusalem so that all of Israel could be blessed.
King David had the right motive, but everything else about moving the ark was a disaster. God had given the Israelites very specific and detailed instructions about who could transport the ark and how they were to go about it. Nobody was to touch the ark. This was a capital offense. Keep in mind that the ark was the dwelling place of the Lord God Almighty and it was holy. David disobeyed or ignored all of God’s instructions for transporting the ark. It was transported on a cart instead of using the poles, as God had commanded, and the men who moved it were not Levites.
So when Uzzah reached out and touched the ark to steady it, God struck him dead. King David was angry with God, but God did this to teach him a lesson. God had gone to great lengths to prepare the Israelites to be His people. They needed to understand what it meant to be holy because God was holy. He could dwell with them only if they learned how to approach a Holy God. So Uzzah suffered for his sin when he touched the ark—the tabernacle of God.
Let’s fast forward to the present day. As Believers, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of God in our bodies. The ark is no longer His dwelling place; we are. So, what don’t we understand about God being holy? How do we treat His tabernacle? On the one hand, our physical bodies have nothing to do with our eternal life with God, but they are the repositories for His Spirit. So, how should we treat them? Should we eat, drink, and be merry? Aside from the fact that as Christians such behavior is unacceptable, it also fails to take account of the fact that we are ignoring the holiness of His tabernacle. Bottom line, we all need to focus on what it means to be holy and act accordingly. Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty!