Monday, November 27, 2006

I constantly struggle with the story of Uzzah. The Israelites are transporting the Ark of the Covenant, and an oxen stumbles. The Ark is jostled and nearly falls over. Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark, touching it. "The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God." 1 Chronicles 13: 10.

How should I feel about and act upon the knowledge that God is so holy?


-Dave said...

"The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah..." That's what always gets me. If it were a simple "he touched the Ark and died," I don't know that the story would seem so different.

I always take a sympathetic eye towards Uzzah - he just wanted to keep the Ark from falling, almost like a show of respect.

That the LORD's anger would burn at this - it doesn't trouble me, but it highlights that God is not me.

Jeff said...

There are a couple of readings of this story. Here's a stab:

1) God wanted us to understand that following God's rules was important, no matter what the circumstances. God told people not to touch the Ark. Uzzah broke the rule. However well-intentioned Uzzah's actions were, he still gets the judgment of the Lord for breaking the law. The point? In order to be fair, we must judge sin by the action that is taken, not by its intention.

2) As the Ark fell, Uzzah had a choice - obey God's law and allow the Ark to fall and presumably break, or ignore God's commandment and protect the Ark from falling. God thinks Uzzah made the wrong choice. Why? He placed the material representation of God on earth above true reverence for God. As such, Uzzah is treated as an idolator and struck dead.

I trend towards the second. While I think the punishment meted out was a mite harsh, the point is well-taken: keeping God's commandments is far more important than maintaining the earthly institutions meant for God's sanctification.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

I know I am quite a simpleton, but what if the ark just had the physical properties of a dangerous object, and the Lord just warned people not to touch it, because they'd get electrocuted or something. You know, like on the machines my company makes, there's a sticker that says something like, "No user-serviceable parts inside. Potentially fatal voltage. DANGER! Keep OUT!"

I've heard that the reason the Ethiopian Orthodox church shrouds the ark in thick coverings when they take it outside the church of Saint Mary of Zion once a year on Epiphany for a procession, is "to protect the people from it."

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

But, go to the root of the problem. The ark was not to be transported on an ark but rather by poles, carried by men.

And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. EXO 25:14

Anonymous said...

should read "not transported on a cart"

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

"How should I feel about and act upon the knowledge that God is so holy?"

It's a Greek "folk etymology", but we say "holy", that is, "agios", comes from "a-" (not) and "-gios" (of earth), in other words, "unearthly" or "not of this world". Sort of like, "close encounters of the…"

Any time you meet up with the "Unearthly Triad", there's bound to be surprises, some of them unpleasant. Sometimes we just don't realise how "different" we are from Him/Them. See? We can't even know for sure what pronoun to use! "Ouch!" "Junior, put that thing down this minute before you get hurt!" (Momma mia!)