That day David feared the LORD and asked, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?"
Numbers 3:29-32; Numbers 4:4-15; Numbers 7:6-9.
I. ITS NATURE.
1. It is to be distinguished from that "fear of the Lord" which is so often inculcated in the Word of God, and which is especially characteristic of the piety of the Old Testament. This is reverence of God, of his nature, authority, and laws. It includes, indeed, a dread of offending him, because of the certainty and terribleness of punishment; but it includes also veneration, esteem, and love. The feeling which is described in the text is simply alarm, terror.
2. It may be awakened by various causes.
(1) Terrible acts of God: sudden deaths, as that of Uzzah, those of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 10, 11); violent tempests; earthquakes; deadly pestilence.
(2) Terrible aspects of his nature. Holiness and hatred of sin; justice, displeasure against sinners; together with his perfect knowledge and unbounded power.
(3) His threatenings.
(4) The consciousness of sin. This is the secret of the dread which springs from the thought of God. A solemn awe is compatible with innocence, but the holy would not be "afraid of God," or if for a moment, at some startling and threatening event, only for a moment.
II. ITS VALUE. In itself and standing alone, it is of no religious worth at all. It is compatible with enmity to God, which is the opposite of true religion. When it springs into the heart of a good man it may be associated with very wrong feeling. David was "displeased" with God, while "afraid" of him (ver. 8). It tends to drive them from him while seeming to draw them to him; for it is apt to generate a religion without love, without even reverence - an obedience which is slavish and destitute of true virtue. It is favourable to superstition, indeed, and may stimulate to great liberality; but, while acting alone, it cannot produce genuine godliness and true holiness. It is the feeling on which priestcraft in all lands flourishes. Yet it is good as a first step in those that need it, and a preparation for what is better; and some measure of it, blended with other emotions, is always of value to many, if not all. In Psalm 119., where every feeling of a pious soul finds expression, this is included (ver. 120). And our Lord enjoins it as a safeguard against the fear of man (Luke 12:4, 5). This fear is of great value:
1. To arouse the conscience and prepare for better things. Many are so hardened that they are incapable of being, in the first instance, drawn by love; their fears must be excited.
2. To make the gospel welcome; which, revealing the love of God and the redemption which is by Jesus Christ, is fitted and intended to allay the dread of God and awaken confidence and affection.
3. To stimulate in obedience to God and deter from sin. It is true that love is the noblest stimulus, and that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18); but love is not perfect in this world, and fear is needed when temptation is strong and the better feelings are for the time dormant. - G.W.
Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God.
1. Uzzah was a Levite, and he knew or ought to have known the commands of God with respect to the ark. In Numbers 4:15, it is written that those who had to bear the ark were "not to touch any holy thing, lest they die," Not only so, but the ark was to be covered, and so kept from the gaze of the irreverent. This had been neglected. Again, that which was to be borne only on men's shoulders was put on a cart. This was a gross piece of neglect.
2. Then it is probable that the offence of Uzzah was aggravated by the fact that he had not sufficient reverence for the Divine command. The ark had been for seventy years under the care of his father and family. Eleazar, who had been set apart to take care of it, was probably dead. It may be that neither Uzzah nor Ahio his brother had ever thought that it was important that they should be consecrated to the work. They, presuming on their Levitical descent, may have taken upon themselves informally the position of attendants. Constant familiarity with it may have led them to think of it with even somewhat of contempt. It was like a piece of useless furniture. They may have forgotten how interwoven that ark was with religious and national life. To them it may have seemed a sort of Nehushtan. Others regarded it with expectancy and reverence, but to them it was only so much wood and gold. And thus many regarded Christ's cross as so much wood, and His death as a martyrdom, forgetting that they are of infinite value as the sign and seal of the expiation of sin and salvation of the world. There was no virtue in the ark, any more than in the cross itself, apart from God's appointment. God's revealed will makes all the difference in respect to any act or observance. Doubtless Uzzah had touched the ark in an over-familiar way before, and it may have been passed over; now he does it publicly, and as evil would result from his example, judgment follows.(1) Some would say, "But how trifling the sin, compared with the severity of the punishment." Sin is never a trifle. Disobedience to God is not a trifle. Peter's few words of denial were easily spoken, but they were no trifle in their consequences. A few drops of prussic acid taken into the system are trifling, so far as size and substance are concerned, but not as to results. To touch the ark irreverently was no trifle; it indicated a state of heart not in accord with the office filled.(2) Besides, the attention of the people had to be arrested, and the need for reverence emphasized. Hence the sin was not passed by. Great benefit arose. As in the case of the men of Beth-shemesh, the exclamation was raised, "Who is able to stand before the Lord?" so here we find David saying, "How shall the ark of God come to me?" A deep impression of the need for purity on their part and of unswerving justice on God's part was made.
3. Uzzah sinned with his eyes open. He knew the commands. He sinned with the warning of Beth-shemesh before him. He sinned publicly, and has perished suddenly and miserably. It was a sudden and severe judgment, but that was a stern age, and the people could only be influenced by such means. David saw the reason for the visitation, and so when he summoned courage to move on instead of going up to Jerusalem he turned aside to Obed-edom the Gittite, one who was not only a Levite but probably a Kohathite, to whom it rightly pertained to bear the ark. It may be objected that the punishment was needlessly severe, in that Uzzah's intentions were good. This is very plausible; but good intentions do not always justify wrong-doing. Many have been led astray by this sophistry. We may not do evil that good may come. God will not have His laws broken under pretence of serving Him. We may not bend to a course of expediency under the pretext of glorifying God. Whatever is really wrong must not be permitted, and it was wrong for Uzzah to break the Divine command and thereby perhaps lead others to similar irreverence. Uzzah died by the side of the ark of God. How terrible! Yet what a warning for the ages! Being engaged in religious services or connected with sacred things cannot ensure salvation. We should, therefore, watch any tendency to levity or lightness in Divine worship, or in treatment of sacred subjects. To use Scripture to point a witticism or to regard the Divine book as an ordinary book is not a good sign. There should be no listlessness in worship or in listening to God's truth. Is not Such carelessness an indication of indifference to the presence of that Divine Spirit in which we believe? Can we be bold and heartless in the presence of the King of Heaven?
2. There are laws of worship, the first of which is given us by our Saviour Himself. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. And the second law of worship, if not exactly given us by our Saviour, at any rate comes to us bearing the stamp of His approval. It is the law of a consistent worship, not a worship of the lips only while the heart is far off, but a worship in which heart and voice unite " to make one music." Is it so with us? If not, would it not be well to think of the lesson taught us by the fate of Uzzah? To come into God's house without reverence for the owner of the house; to come joining (or professing to join) with our lips in the confession of sin, while yet we feel no sorrow for sin; to come with the prayer for forgiveness on our lips, while yet we desire none in our hearts; to sing the psalms on the beauty of holiness, and hymns about the joys of heaven, when holiness is distasteful to us, and heaven a home where in heart and mind we never go; what is that but a profanation, and what other penalty can it bring than the penalty of spiritual death? For a cold, heartless, and indifferent service — what is it like but an unhealthy diseased life, a life without either energy or enthusiasm, a life which is really only a living death? What then shall we do?(1) Two things; first we must amend our lives, and learn to obey that command of St. Paul's, "I beseech you, brethren," and(2) we must remember the lesson contained in the fact that while no blood might be sprinkled on the ark, the figure of this world where law and order reign, yet on the mercy seat, the figure of heaven, where God in mercy is enthroned, the blood of the sacrifice was to be offered. And that sacrifice we must offer according as Christ has commanded.
(G. Bladon, B. A.)
1. Man may forget, but not God. If God has made a thing clear at one time, we must not think (like Balaam) that He will change His mind about it.
2. Altered circumstances don't affect truth.
I. DEATH WAS UNDER THE LAW THE PUNISHMENT OR TRANSGRESSION. Executed in single cases. (Numbers 15:32-36; Joshua 7:15-25; 1 Kings 13:21-25.) The principle of such punishment is doubtless brought out in 1 Corinthians 11:30-32.
II. REVERENCE BECOMES FINITE BEINGS IN APPROACHING THE INFINITE, Love and zeal are not enough; there is danger of carelessness or lightness. We are to work out our salvation "with fear and trembling," to speak "with meekness and fear," to serve "with reverence and godly fear."
III. GOD DOES NOT NEED MAN'S HELP, THOUGH HE CONDESCENDS TO USE IT. We put our hand to the ark when we defend God's cause with carnal weapons.
(R. E. Faulkner.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
PeopleAbinadab, Ahio, David, Israelites, Michal, Obed, Obededom, Perez, Saul, Uzzah
PlacesBaale-judah, Geba, Jerusalem, Perez-uzzah
TopicsAfraid, Ark, David, David's, Fear, Feareth
Outline1. David fetches the ark from Kirjath Jearim on a new cart,
6. Uzzah is smitten at Perez Uzzah
9. God blesses Obed-Edom for the ark
12. David brings the ark into Zion with sacrifices, and dances before it;
16. for which Michal despises him
17. He places it in a tabernacle with great joy and feasting
20. Michal, reproving David for his joy, is childless to her death
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 6:1-12
"From Beth-horon to Emmaus it was hilly."--It was sixty furlongs distant from Jerusalem.--"To eight hundred only, dismissed the army, (Vespasian) gave a place, called Ammaus, for them to inhabit: it is sixty furlongs distant from Jerusalem." I inquire, whether this word hath the same etymology with Emmaus near Tiberias, which, from the 'warm baths,' was called Chammath. The Jews certainly do write this otherwise... "The family (say they) of Beth-Pegarim, and Beth Zipperia was out of Emmaus."--The …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
The King --Continued.
The Danger of Deviating from Divine Institutions.
Excursus on the Present Teaching of the Latin and Greek Churches on the Subject.
Letter xxiv (Circa A. D. 1126) to Oger, Regular Canon
Reprobation Asserted: Or, the Doctrine of Eternal Election and Reprobation Promiscuously Handled, in Eleven Chapters.
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