One of the reasons I love looking at a book like 2 Samuel is that it forces us not to look for easy answers. That is, we often read about things that make us feel uncomfortable, and sometimes even the actions of God himself make us squirm with discomfort. In these circumstances we are sometimes tempted to ‘explain things away’ or apologise for God. However, when we look deeper and really grapple with the Bible we often find that the hard answer is what we need to hear.
We came across one such incident in our Gospel Teams this week in 2 Samuel 6. Here David is seeking to move the ark of the Covenant up and into Jerusalem. It all seems to be going well, as they transport it on a brand new cart, but then the oxen stumbled and one of the priests puts out his hand to steady the ark and suddenly things go bad!
Then the LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:7)
Our immediate reaction is to think, “How unfair”, “How harsh”, “What sort of a God is this?” However, those reactions say more about us than they do about God. God had given strict instructions about how his ark should be moved and handled (or not handled). He had forbidden people moving it and touching it in this way. The ark was holy – “the ark of the Lord” and not to be touched other than in very specific circumstances. How on earth could a sinner ever presume to treat the holy ark of God so lightly?
And this is the point of this story for us today. God is not some harmless old grandpa who likes to shower gifts on his grandchildren. He is the holy and sinless God of the universe, who cannot allow sin in his presence. He is the God who deserves total worship from every human being created in his image. Yet amazingly, that same God, even though we do not deserve it, shows boundless grace and mercy in loving and forgiving us.
However, we must not presume on that mercy. We can only come before God with humility, confessing our sin and trusting in Jesus our mediator. Fear is not the total of our response to God – we also love and trust him – but it is the fool who does not fear the righteous and holy God.