I CHRONICLES 13:9-14: “And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” So David would not move the ark with him into the City of David, but took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that he had.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: How do I approach God? This is the question that rushes to my heart as I read this account of the death of Uzza. David and Israel’s celebration of bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem was shockingly interrupted. Uzza died as he reached out to steady the Ark as the cart moved because the oxen that were pulling it stumbled.
David was both angry and afraid to go on with his endeavor. He said, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” What had gone wrong? Why was the Lord so angry? David simply could not understand it. So the entire procession stopped at the house of Obed-Edom. David returned to Jerusalem with a lot of questions. The text does not reveal it but I do not doubt that David began to pour over the Scriptures seeking God’s wisdom and understanding. (See I Chronicles 15:1-13)
I think this event is not only a historical account of a worship service gone bad, but it is also a reminder to the New Testament church. We cannot simply approach God in any way we want to. We must approach God in spirit and in truth. Worship is a matter of both the heart and obedience to the Word of God. When our worship is not based on the Word of God then it is not acceptable to the Lord. We merely become sounding brass and clanging cymbals.
This is evident in Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians. They had reveled in the gifts of the spirit and their worship celebrations had become a mixture of spiritual and emotional imbalance and excess. Their celebration of the Lord’s Supper had become a time of sectarianism and drunkenness. Paul rebukes them strongly when he writes,
- “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” I Corinthians 11:29-30 NKJV
God is holy and we must approach Him as such. The Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of God’s very presence among the children of Israel. It was kept in the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and was not to be handled by anyone other than the Levites. David had erroneously placed it on a cart. This was not in accordance with the instructions God gave to Moses. The Ark was to be carried by poles upon the shoulders of the Levites.
The celebration of Communion, the Lord’s Supper, is the symbol of the holiest event in the life of a Christian. It is a remembrance and a proclamation of the victory over sin and death through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is not something to be neglected, nor is it something to be treated lightly. The Corinthians had turned it into a drunken party. They had not discerned the holiness of the moment. And, like Uzza, many of them bore the result of their actions.
What application does this have to the modern church? Is God just waiting to punish us if we do not follow some strict code of practice? If we are tempted to think this we miss the whole point of these two examples. It was not God who was at fault in both instances, it was Israel and the church. When the Ark was left at the home of Obed-Edom for three months, God blessed Obed-Edom and his entire household. God is always desiring to bless His children but we must never forget that He is Holy!
Much of today’s worship is man-centric. It focuses on the blessings that God has given us and neglects to worship His nature and holiness. Jesus becomes our friend, our buddy, and we forget that He is our Sovereign and Holy Lord. We picture Him walking barefoot on the beach and forget to see Him as He revealed Himself to John in the book of Revelation.
- “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Revelation 1:14-18 NKJV
The wonder of John’s revelation is that it combines both the holiness of God and the love and mercy of God. When we forget these two balancing truths our worship becomes imbalanced and man-centered. Jesus is no longer walking on the beach. Jesus is the risen Lord, the Holy One, the all-powerful victor over sin and death. And, the wonder of this is that when John fell to His feet in humility and worship, Jesus laid His hand upon John and said – “Do not be afraid!”
When we learn to approach God in spirit and truth we encounter both the holiness of God and the love of God. We are laid before Him in humble adoration and we are lifted by Him in grace and mercy. Our eyes are turned from earth toward heaven. Our desires are transformed from self to others. We see the Kingdom of God and we begin to live in its provision. We cannot simply sing – “I am a friend of God…”, we must also sing Holy, Holy, Holy!
As we begin to approach the Lord in spirit and in truth we will enter into the blessings that He so freely wants to give us as His children. When God corrected Uzza it was not to punish Israel. It was to keep Israel from a pathway that would ultimately lead them away from true worship. When God corrected the Corinthians it was to keep them from leaving the only source of true life – the cross of Jesus Christ. And, when God corrects us it is so we can enter into the blessings of life that He desires to give us in Jesus Christ.
Lord, help me to approach You in spirit and in truth. Keep me from legalism where I try to control my worship and from excesses of emotional and imbalanced expressions where I miss Your holiness. Give me a heart that desires to worship You in the spirit of holiness and truth. May I come boldly to Your throne of Grace – but never forget that the only reason I can do so is because of the holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ my Lord.
In Jesus’ Name!