The passage about God striking Uzzah dead because he was trying to rescue the ark from falling to the ground, has always bothered me. And I realize now, that once again, it's because my perspective is skewed.
First of all, my opinion doesn't really matter. God's does. This was the ark of the covenant. This was where God chose to manifest His presence. This was holy ground.
In his sermon, When God Rained on David's Parade, Bob Deffinbaugh says...
David and those involved in transporting the ark erred in several ways. First, they had already lost the awe and reverence one should have for the holiness of God. Second, they had forgotten the clear instructions God set down in the law for the transporting of the ark. And third, they had forgotten a hard lesson Israel had learned in their not-too-distant past. When the ark was returned to the Israelites by the Philistines, carelessness on the part of some Israelites cost them their lives....
God chose to manifest His presence in the tabernacle, specifically from the ark. When God’s glory first filled the tabernacle, even Moses was not able to enter (Exodus 40:34-35). Sinful men cannot get too close to a holy God....
No wonder Uzzah was struck dead for having laid hands on the ark. The ark was holy. It could not be touched. Anyone who touched it would die.....God had given clear instructions - the ark was only to be carried by Kohathities on poles that were placed through the rings of the ark. It doesn't seem like they intentionally disregarded the instructions - they had likely simply forgotten them. After all, the ark had been absent for many years now. Besides, who would want to carry the heavy ark, when you could simply load it onto a cart? They were excited and went ahead with doing it the way they thought was best.
Forgetfulness is not an excuse for irreverance.
Convenience is not an excuse for irreverance.
Enthusiasm is not an excuse for irreverance.
Uzzah is a reminder to us that God's holiness is such that sinful men cannot draw near to Him, unless He provides the means to do so (emphasis mine)
God provided the tabernacle, the ark, the priests and the sacrifices as a way for the people to draw hear to Him reverently. But this was only a short term solution. God provided a long term solution by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ to provide the way to draw near to Him.
David's first reaction to Uzzah's death was anger. But after cooling down, David researched exactly how the ark was supposed to be treated, who was supposed to carry it and how they were supposed to carry it. And then they tried again. Man, those first few steps must've been tense! But then the procession became joyful and enthusiastic as they worshiped and praised God, while following His instructions to the letter.
Michal, however, was less than impressed. David was the king and yet he was dressed and acting like any other Israelite with nothing to distinguish himself as king! She was too proud to join in the worship.
This chapter has a great deal to say in relationship to the charismatic/non-charismatic controversy so prevalent in the church today. There are two extremes, two polarities, and we are prone to drift toward one or the other (and sometimes one and then the other). The first is that of reckless abandon. David and the rest were so caught up with their worship they seemed to forget who they were worshipping -- a holy God. We can get so carried away with the emotional element of our worship that we lose all self-control. In the excitement of the moment, things that God has clearly forbidden somehow seem permissible, even necessary (like grabbing the ark). Uzzah was “caught up” in the excitement of bringing the ark of God back, but he forgot to pay close enough attention to God and to His Word. Uzzah died for his irreverence. Let us never forget this. Enthusiasm is never an excuse for disobedience to the Word of God.
For many, the danger I have suggested is hardly a danger. We are in no danger of getting carried away with our worship. Our worship is so stiff or so structured that nothing unplanned could possibly happen. Listen well. I am not opposed to structure, and there is much to be said for an appreciation of God's majesty in our worship. But some of us don't raise our hands or our voices because we are too proud to do so. Like Michal, we are more concerned with our dignity than with God. Let us beware of avoiding enthusiasm in our worship because we think it beneath us.
Two extremes are exposed in our text, and both are wrong. Enthusiastic worship, which underestimates the holiness of God and violates the Word of God, is wrong, and no matter how much enthusiasm you may add, it is still wrong until it rightly views God and until it rightly approaches God. Stately worship that avoids emotion and enthusiasm, purely because we are too proud to humble ourselves before God, is just as wrong. The former produces barrenness; the latter produces death. Let us seek to worship God as David and Israel eventually did, in accordance with His Word, with humility, with hearts filled with joy and gratitude, and with enthusiasm. (emphasis mine)
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Samuel 8-9, Psalm 60, John 2