TODAY’S READING: 1 CHRONICLES 13-16
As Christians, are we to walk in strength or weakness? Do we serve in strength or weakness? Is it by strength or weakness that we participate in the ministry of reconciling the world to God? Do we usher in the presence of God by strength or weakness?
I believe the story of Uzzah and the ark is a story about these questions.
GOD DID NOT KILL UZZAH
This needs to be said right away. God did not kill Uzzah.
Oh, I know what the text says, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.” (1 Chronicles 13:10)
But, just because the Israelites and the writer of Chronicles believed that God killed Uzzah does not mean that God was guilty of the crime.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The thief, Satan, is the one that kills and destroys. Jesus came to destroy those works of Satan. He came to put an end to death. And, Jesus came to give life. Therefore, Jesus and the Father, since Jesus is the exact image of the Father, do not kill. Period.
For more on this, read my post “Who Says ‘I Destroy’ – God or Satan?”
Further, if we consider Uzzah as someone who worshipped God incorrectly, which many do, and therefore God struck him down, then do we ever see Jesus killing the Pharisees? Jesus was constantly telling the Pharisees and leaders of Israel that they worshipped incorrectly. But, he never killed a single one of them.
UZZAH’S PROBLEM WAS STRENGTH
“And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart.” – 1 Chronicles 13:7
The name Uzzah means strength, coming directly from the Hebrew word for strong.
In verse 7, the Hebrew word for “carried” is rakab. It literally means to ride; to mount or climb. Rakab means to ride or drive an animal or some vehicle, like a chariot. Therefore, the idea here is not that the ark of God, his presence, was being carried but that God’s presence was being driven, being pushed, being forced.
Also in verse 7, the Hebrew word for “driving” is nahag, which means to drive; to lead, to remove forcibly; to make the wind blow. The word generally refers to guiding people or livestock or driving livestock or captives away after battle.
The spiritual inspiration here is that Uzzah was using his strength to force God to go in the direction he wanted him to go. Uzzah was trying to make God do what he wanted God to do for him.
UNDER PRESSURE, UZZAH GRASPED GOD
“And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled.” – 1 Chronicles 13:9
The threshing floor is a place of trial or judgment. The name Chidon means dart. I believe the threshing floor of Chidon represents the place where we are under tribulation and trial from Satan, who throws flaming darts at us. In Ephesians 6:16, Paul said, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
In verse 9, the Hebrew word for “to take hold” is ahaz. It means to seize, to grasp, to hold on to, to take possession.
The idea here is not that Uzzah was trying to catch the ark of God and protect it from falling. Rather, when he was suffering under the flaming darts of Satan, Uzzah put out his hand to seize the presence of God, to grasp God, forcing God to what he wanted.
HOW CAN I BRING THE PRESENCE OF GOD TO ME?
“And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, ‘How can I bring the ark of God home to me?'” – 1 Chronicles 13:12
Do you understand the question David was asking?
David was a man of war. It was why he could not build the temple. So, if someone who was strong and driving, pushing, the presence of God failed to bring the presence of God into Jerusalem, the city of David, then how was David ever going to bring the ark of God home? If wasn’t by strength, then how was David to have God’s presence with him?
David’s question still rings out today, even amongst those that are followers of Christ. If the question still wasn’t ringing in the ears of Christians, then there would not be so much confusion on the use of force by Christians.
THE ANSWER IS WEAKNESS, NOT STRENGTH
Zechariah 4:6 says, “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
Jesus defeated Satan not by strength but by weakness. He died. This was how he delivered us from our slavery to the fear of death and brought us into the presence of God.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
And, Hebrews 10:19 says, “We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.”
See, it was by weakness, his dying, not by might or power, that Jesus defeated sin, Satan, and death. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Then in verse 27, “God chose what is weak in the world to the shame the strong.”
WE ARE TO BEAR WEAKNESS
Uzzah should have carried, that is lifted up or picked up, the ark on his shoulders. That was how he was to bear the burden of the presence of God. To bear the ark, the presence of God, would have been the sign of Uzzah’s weakness instead of his seeking to drive and grasp or seize the ark.
Therefore, Paul said in Philippians 2:5-8 that we should have the same mind as Christ, which was to not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Rather, we should humble ourselves, become weak like Christ, such that we are obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Therefore, Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus was continually bidding us to join him in weakness.
Uzzah in his time of need tried to grasp God in strength and power to get what he needed. But, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul heard from God, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
There are many, many other scriptures to show the weakness of Christ and that we serve God, reconcile the world to him, and usher in his presence through weakness.