The inclusion of this
episode in the Chronicles of Israel has evidently a very
definite purpose; it conveys a message which the
"Israel of God" - the Church - has been, and
still is, all too slow to take account of.
Precisely, it is this.
A right thing done in a wrong way can be as disastrous as
either not doing it at all or even doing a wrong thing.
It says beyond question that God is as jealous and
particular about how a thing is done as He is
about having it done at all. Let us look carefully at
On the credit and good
side we have
1. The right object.
There was no question whatever that the matter in hand
was something right and that God wanted to be done.
Eventually, when it was done in the right way, He greatly
blessed it. That the homeless Ark of the Testimony should
be brought a real stage nearer to its final resting-place
was all in accord with the mind of God. It was really
destined to have its full and final place as the
focal-point of the life of the redeemed nation in
Jerusalem, and so reach the end of that disorder
resultant, so largely, from the man-made regime of Saul
2. It was contemplated,
discussed, and decided upon with reference and deference
to the will of God (verse 2). That will was desired and
3. Although the
initiative and inspiration came from one man, it was a
corporate decision, taken in conference and fellowship.
There was no independent act of an individual (verses 2,
4. There was no lack of
zeal, enthusiasm, and energy. It says that they did it
"with all their might" (verse 8).
5. The motive, good
intention, sincerity, and devotion were unquestionable.
This makes a fairly
good total on the credit side: right object; the will of
God desired; unity and fellowship in decision;
whole-hearted zeal in committal; rightness of motive and
intention. What more could be required? Are these not the
things which characterize most enterprises for God? There
is certainly nothing wrong with them in
themselves, and no condemnation attaches to any one of
those points. What more could be called for?
And in the case under
consideration, all seemed to be going well and prospering
for a time. They were 'making merry before the
Lord with all their might, with songs, and lyres, and
harps, and tambourines, and cymbals, and trumpets' (verse
8). The seeming success up to a certain point led
them to assume that the Lord was with them and that His
acceptance was assured. But - Oh, woeful But! - something
happened. In itself it was a simple thing and not an
extraordinary happening. It was only that "the oxen
stumbled". Upon that stumble in the threshing-floor
of Chidon the entire scene changed. An apparently simple
incident uncovered a whole lot of wrong in principle. It
was well-intentioned on the part of Uzza, prompted by
real concern for the Ark and its safety; a real interest
in the success of the whole undertaking and enterprise.
All that he did was to "put forth his hand to hold
the Ark" (verse 9). It was all so natural, so
spontaneous, so well-meant, so free from vice and evil
desire. But "the anger of the Lord was kindled
against Uzza, and he smote him... and he died
there... before God" (verse 10).
Well, we may not like
it, and we may feel bad about it. That is how David felt.
He was angry (verse 11). He was afraid of God (verse 12),
and he said, "How can I bring up the Ark of God to
me?" Looked at naturally there appears to be very
good reason for being offended with the Lord; for saying,
'evidently the Lord does not want us, or our service; He
does not care for all our well-meaning efforts to do what
we were convinced was His will and would please Him. We
had better give it up!' So David felt and acted
accordingly, and the whole project came to a standstill.
So it remained long
enough to permit the resentment to die down and exercise
of heart to take place. There was deep enquiry before the
Lord as to His meaning in all this. David was a big
enough man in character to rise above mere pique,
resentment, and offendedness. God has to be justified and
His ways vindicated. So, in heart-enquiry, the debit side
comes to light.
What was a cart, even
though it be a nice new and handsome one, doing in this
business? What was it and where did the idea come from?
Familiar and well-worn as it all is, let us frankly face
it. This cart idea was born among the Philistines,
persistent and incorrigible enemies of Israel (See 1
Samuel 6:7, etc.). David had spent a not very commendable
period of his life among the Philistines. It was a time
governed by that abomination to God - compromise.
Compromise - like appeasement - only puts off the evil
day for a while, but it is an uneasy interim and the end
is shame and reproach. It is at heart but a temporary
So it was with David.
During his time with the Philistines he had become
familiar with the cart-device, and no doubt the idea had
returned with him. When the Ark had been captured by the
Philistines in the days of Saul, they had placed it on a
new cart. They had suffered the severe judgments of God
for having touched it and, although superstitiously, had
sent it back in awe.
In the interval of
tragedy David - through enquiring into the Word of
God - came to see that worldly methods,
organizations, inventions, and the productions of the
"uncircumcized" (uncrucified) in heart and
mind, are not the ways and means of the Spirit of
holiness. Nothing imported by the natural man, or that
emanates from him, will pass with the Lord when it is the
essential and full testimony of Jesus which is in view.
The cart may represent many things and may be linked up
with many well-intentioned objects, but it is an
invention of man.
In the oxen we may see
symbolized the strength and energy of nature. Strength of
mind, will, emotion, were all there in that enterprise.
The Lord's word is "Not by might, nor by power, but
by my Spirit" (Zech. 4:6).
So much then for the
Philistine cart. But what of Uzza? What was he, and what
was he doing there? There is something here which calls
for a very close and careful attention. Uzza was the son
of Abinadab. It was in the house of Abinadab that the Ark
was lodged when the Philistines sent it back on their new
cart. Uzza had become very familiar with the Ark, perhaps
too familiar, and most likely a kind of proprietorship
had come into him. The sacred testimony had been in his
house for a very long time. His father was a Levite; he
was the son of a Levite. He should have known, indeed, he
must have known the history, the nature, and the vocation
of the Levites. All the provisions and the instructions
for carrying the Ark were a part of his very inheritance.
The Levites were especially near to God because of that
radical repudiation of all that related to foreign gods
in the day of the golden calf. The very principle of
foreign worship was expunged from their constitution as
the tribe of Levi. The Ark embodied what was utterly
separate and holy. On long poles alone could they carry
it, not touching it with their own hands,
Uzza was supposed to
know all this. He was, however, held responsible for
knowing it. The eyes of glory and of flame saw in Uzza a
fatal familiarity with holy things. Moreover, those eyes
saw beyond the Ark to what it represented. The Ark was no
less a type than of the Son of God Himself: Divine in the
gold; incarnate in the wood; containing the mind of God
in perfection; the rod of living priesthood in
resurrection; the heavenly manna of life for the people
of God. To God the Father, the Son is infinitely holy and
sacred; "separate from sinners", and to touch
Him with familiar hands is to meet the jealousy of God.
Uzza had insinuated
himself into a false position. Was there some secret
pride which led to presumption? God had not put Uzza
where he was at that time. Being in a false position, he
could - as it seemed - of necessity put out his own hand
when things became difficult.
There was a
movement of God stirring. God had repudiated and brought
to an end that false regime under Saul. That also had
been man's choice. It was human glory that governed; it
was natural strength. God had exposed it. There is one
thing that God will not tolerate in what is truly of
Himself; it is that any "flesh" shall glory in
His presence. God was moving toward that which, in the
history of Israel, would - as fully as type could do so -
represent His mind about government, foreshadowing the
Kingdom of His Son. If that was to be through 'a man
after His own heart', then everything of a contrary
nature thereto had to be judged.
It is to be noted that
this dramatic incident had a very wide audience:
"all Israel, from Shihor of Egypt to the entrance of
Hamath". So that all the people of God were to know
the solemn lesson being taught. The kingdom is coming in,
and it is to be established according to Heaven. It
cannot stand if its foundation is other than heavenly. It
is - in principle - the Kingdom of God, not of man,
even with the best intentions. The great lesson,
then, and the lesson which David learned, is that for
spiritual things only spiritual people have a place. Let
us put that into large print, it is so important.
SPIRITUAL THINGS - ONLY SPIRITUAL PEOPLE
The basis upon which
the tribe of Levi was set apart for the holy ministry to
the Tabernacle defines the nature of spiritual men, and
it should be carefully studied again. They were men who
in their very constituting knew the difference between
the natural and the spiritual. They had been tested very
drastically and had shown themselves true at great cost.
Their office or public service was not their testing.
They were not put into spiritual responsibility in order
to give them an opportunity to show their fitness for it.
They were not selected by men, much less were they there
of their own volition or ambition. They were there
because God approved of them as men. They were men
of God, not firstly officials or parts of a machine.
They were men with a history with God which came to light
at a time of spiritual emergency. All the Lord's people
knew this. They were an Israel within Israel and showed
what every Israelite ought to be.
God had been watching
the development which had been initiated by David and the
new cart, and He saw the contradiction and falsehood at
its very heart. It is not just a matter of correct
technique or right form; nor is it just correspondence
with an orthodox system of teaching or practice. It is
essentially and indispensably the spirituality of those
in active association with the Testimony. We can be
passionately evangelical or 'fundamentalist'; we can be
fastidiously jealous for correct doctrine and order, and
yet - with all this - still not be spiritual men. There
can be as wide a gap between a rabid fundamentalist and a
spiritual man as there is between a conservative and a
liberal theologian. Failure to understand this difference
results in a very great deal of confusion.
Uzza would have passed
for a very zealous evangelical, but his lack of
spirituality led to the tragedy recorded. It amounted to
interfering with or overlooking God's spiritual order.
So we end where we
began. This whole episode, so full of powerful
instruction shows that God is just as particular as to
how a thing is done in relation to Himself as He is that
it should be done at all. Spiritual principles are very
serious things with Him; even to the point of life or
death. Whether it be in Old Testament foreshadowing or in
New Testament reality, it is all a matter of God's
jealousy for His Son. No man may put his hand on
God's Son to control or take charge. The custodianship of
the "Testimony of Jesus" is not in man's hands.
Good motive and
intention may be quite right, but with that there must be
spiritual understanding. Zeal, yes, indeed; but not zeal
that is not according to knowledge. Let there be a desire
to do God's will, but let the doing and the way of doing
be governed by the Spirit of God, and not just by human
judgment. God's way is as important as God's end.
If, through a mistake,
tragedy, confusion, and even heartbreak ensues, natural
questions would be - 'What is to be done?' 'How can the
fault - if not the damage - be corrected?' 'Now that the
damage is done and cannot be undone, should we not just
leave it and trust to the sovereignty of God to over-rule
it for good?'
If we are to take the
particular incident before us as a guide and answer,
there is quite clear guidance. If a situation exists
concerning which we have in all honesty to say that the way
was wrong, we must do what David did. We must go back to
the point where we were wrong, that is, to the Word of
God and its provision, and in humble, contrite
confession, start again from that point. God
will have no glossing over of the violation of basic
principles with talk about 'sovereignty'. That would be
to use God against His own word. If it is possible to do
so we must correct the wrong. Let it be understood that
we are not here referring to errors, mistakes, or even
sins in human life; we are referring to the work of God
and the Lord's Testimony in building according to Christ.
It is the law that
God's end must be reached in God's way.
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1963, Vol 41-1