Uzzah Dies Trying to Help God

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Image of Uzzah dying trying to help God by steading the Ark of the Covenant
Image source: Sweet Publishing

Earlier this month, we read about Saul’s sin of trying to help God. In today’s Bible reading* we read that Uzzah tried to help God and was struck dead on the spot. 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13 tell the story of the Israelites’ bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel in an improper way.

Originally, God told the people of Israel to carry the Ark of the Covenant on poles which ran through rings on the Ark. (Exodus 25:14–16) The poles for the Ark were to be carried by the Kohathites (Numbers 3:29–31). However, on this fateful day, the Ark was transported on a ox-driven cart a short distance from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem. At some point along the way, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached up to steady the Ark. Evidently, he was afraid the Ark would fall off the cart and he wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. He was simply trying to help God. But God didn’t want Uzzah’s help. God didn’t need Uzzah’s help.

So who was Uzzah? According to the First Century Jewish historian Josephus[1], Uzzah was a descendant of Kohath. In other words, his ancestors were assigned the duty of carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Uzzah would have known how to properly transport the Ark. But for whatever reason, Uzzah and his brother Ahio (Kohathites) didn’t insist on using the prescribed way. Perhaps, they felt that using the ox-cart would allow them to carry the Ark faster and more conveniently.

Presumably, they hadn’t touched the Ark when they placed it on the cart. Perhaps the Ark had been placed on the cart using poles. For that matter, the poles may have still been in the rings. But when the oxen stumbled, Uzzah tried to help God. And God struck him dead on the spot.

[1] Josephus, Ant. 6:1, section 4, http://www.bible-history.com/faussets/P/Perez-uzza/ accessed 7/21/16. Also, Classic Teachings on the Nature of God, p. 79.

Application

God doesn’t want or need your help either! God is sovereign. In other words, God is the authority. God is in control. God is powerful. God is self-sufficient. God operates completely independently of people.

In what ways have you tried to help God? I remember hearing the story of a woman who sent her husband on a men’s retreat, but told him it was a normal fishing trip. Man, was he upset when he learned of her scheme! I think her motivation was good. But she made a poor choice in the way she handled the situation. Perhaps you have tried to entice friends or family to go to church in less than honest ways. The ends do not justify the means.

Yes, we should pray. Yes, we should encourage family members to follow Jesus. We can invite our loved ones to go to church. But let God be God. God doesn’t need your help.

You don’t need to help God.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
2 Samuel 5:11-25
2 Samuel 6
1 Chronicles 13
1 Chronicles 14
1 Chronicles 15
1 Chronicles 16

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