Uzzah & the Ark

Text: 2 Samuel 6
Date: Sunday August 27, 2023


A OPENING ILLUSTRATION: I was reading a book by Murray Capill recently that was describing a very common Sunday morning for many people in the Church. He described a family hectic on a Sunday morning. It had been a busy at work, and early in the morning while his kids are waking up, he his helping them get ready while simultaneously shooting a few emails off to colleagues. He and his wife wanted to have the kids ready on time, but the bottle of syrup spilled while making pancakes, and they’re running ten minutes to late to Church. When they finally arrive, they sit down in the back row, and one of the children immediately kicks his thermos of coffee over and it spills on the floor around the other people. The worship is playing, but he sneaks out the back to grab paper towels nad clean up the mess. By the time the worship is done, the pastor finally dismisses the children to their classrooms. That man sits down, takes a big sigh of relief, and prepares for the most relaxing hour of his entire week, the Pastor’s sermon. And thus, the entire act of worship on Sunday, an act that is supposed to be a powerful work of the Spirit pressing the Word of God into the heart of man, and drawing out sin and leadingto prayer and worship, has become the warmup to his Sunday afternoon nap.

B PERSONAL: What are your expecations when you come to Church, on the Lord’s Day? Do you come prepared to engage with the living God? Have you prepared your heart for this important moment of the week? Have you prayed that God would multiply the effectiveness of the ministries of this Church before you have arrived? Do you have any expectation at all, that hopefully, God is going to wreck you, and root out sin, and form holiness in you, through the singing and the preaching of God’s Word?

C LARGER CONTEXT: We are going to address these questions by looking at a strange story from the Old Testament, Uzzah and the Ark. It is a fascinating short passage during the early reign of King David in the Old Testament. The story takes place during what was supposed to be a gloriously celebratory day, a day of communal worship. David is a young King of Israel, and he’s moving the Ark of the Covenant to the new capital of Israel, Jerusalem. What is the Ark of the Covenant? The Ark of the Covenant was a vital part of the religion of the people of God under the Old Testament. It was a golden chest, that contained the original ten commandments that God gave to Moses. On top of the Ark of the covenant were two beautifully ornate cherubim, with wings folded out, and in between them was what is called ‘The Mercy Seat.’ This was the place where God would descend and speak to Moses. After the temple was eventually built—years after this story today—the Ark was placed in the Most Holy Place inside the temple, the place which only the High Priest could go once a year. The Ark of the Covenat was a central piece of the worship of the Old Testament saints. From this passage, we will discover two truths about God Exalting Worship.

Meaning & Application


A Define Reverent: The first element of proper Biblical worship, is that it must be reverently obedient. Let me define thiss. Worship is to be filled with a proper sense of the majesty and infinite worth and beauty of God. In no way are we to lose sight of the overwhelming nature of the one whom we worship.

2 Samuel 6:1-11  “David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah…”

B Summarize: In order to properly apply this passage into our own lives, we first really have to understand what is happening. Then we can take the principle that is being taught, and determine how to apply it to us as we live under the grace of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant.

To summarize the story in its simplest terms, David had a massive military parade with 30,000 men transporting the ark of the covenant on this day. We see in verse three that in order to transport the ark, they put it on a new cart. They were not supposed to do this. This might sound like a trivial rule to you, but God instructed a very particular design for transporting the ark. There were rings on the side of it, that you could slide poles into so the priests could carry it by foot.

Exodus 25:14 ESV And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them.

Everybody there should have known this was going to cause trouble. The 10 mile distance they had to cover is incredibly rought terrain. And, sure enough, the oxen that was pulling the cart stumbled. Uzzah, in almost an instinctive move, to protect the ark reached out his hand to keep it from hitting the dirt. And in that moment, God struck Uzzah dead for daring to touch the Ark of the Covenant. What happened?

C Uzzah Was a Levite Who Knew the Law: To undestand this, you have to know a little about Uzzah’s family. Uzzah was the son of Abinidab who was a Levite. The Levites were the priests of Israel, they were responsible for the meticulous care of everything having to do with temple worship. They taught the law of God. They were the ones in charge of moving, caring for the tabernacle and all of its intricacies. They were in charge of making the sacrifices in the Old Testament. And they had specific instructions on how to care for the Ark of the Covenant. Uzzah was well trained in the law. There was one rule, above every other rule, that every Levite would have known. Under no circumstances, are you to touch the Ark of the Covenant.

Numbers 4:15 ESV And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

In fact, the group of Levites who was assigned to specifically take care of the Ark of the Covenant, was a group called the Kohathites. There is debate whether Uzzah was a Kohathite, there is good reason to believe he was. The Ark was so holy that the Kohathites were not even allowed to look at the Ark of the Covenant per the instructions of God.

​Numbers 4:20 ESV but they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die.”

D Why Did Uzzah Do It?: And so, we must ask the question, why did Uzzah reach out and touch the ark when he knew the law of God? He knew the consequences of breaking the law of God. He had been trained on it from his youth. Let me suggest two reasons.

Everybody Was Doing It: First, everybody was sinning that day. It wasn’t just Uzzah. The ark of the covenant should never have been placed on a cart led by oxen. But no one seemed to mind. David was minding. Uzzah’s Dad, Abinidab wasn’t minding. Besides everyone was so joyous, we could relax the rules a little bit.

Overfamiliarity: Secondly, if you read backwards a few chapters, you learn that the Ark of the Covenant for the last twenty years had been held in his father’s house. Which means that Uzzah had been around this precious object for twenty years, every day, seeing it, walking by it. It seems to me that Uzzah had grown overly familiar and casual with the Ark.

E Cruel & Unusual: Still though, reading this passage still feels like an over reaction by God. To kill Uzza for touching the Ark. In the Old Testament there are over thirty crimes that are punishable by death. Murder, rape, adultery, homosexual activity, human traffiking, visiting a fortune teller, over thirty offenses. Why touching the ark? I think the answer is in verse 3

2 Samuel 6:2 ESV And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.

This ark, under the Old Covenant, was the seat where the infinite God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would descend and meet with Moses, and then the High Priest. It was the throne of God. Uzzah had somehow gotten the mistaken that his hands were cleaner than the dirt. His hands, touch the throne of God. His sinful hands. To claim that this is cruel and unusual is to deeply misunderstand the nature of God, and the sinfulness of man.

E Return to the Principle: Return with me to the principle we are developing. God exalting worship is to be reverently obedient. It is reverent in that there is a sense of the majesty of God among us. And it is obedient in that we are not free to do anything we please. Even in the small things we must comply with God’s law.

F New Covenant/No Ark: Today, under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, we know longer worship in a temple made with hands. We no longer have an ark of the covenant that sits in the most holy place in the center of the temple. In fact when Christ was crucified the curtain that separated that most holy place from the general public was physically ripped in two by God from top to bottom. This was a symbol of the reality that in Christ, every person, no matter your background, has access to complete intimacy with God. We don’t need a Levitical priest to make sacrifices for us anymore. Jesus has made the final sacrifice, and through faith in Christ we have direct access to God wherever we are, whoever we are.

G The Principle of Overfamiliarity Still Applies: And yet, the principle that we learn from Uzzah still applies and can guide us. God is holy! We cannot grow so casual with the precious things of God that we begin to treat them as ordinary. And in our modern culture that is busy deconstructing their faith, the thing that many Christians treat as ordinary is the Church, the gathered body of believers. Like Uzzah, we are not free to redefine what God has given specific instructions on. And we certainly are not free to take this casually. Jeremiah Burroughs once wrote about weakness of much worship, and he wrote,

‌“The reason that we worship God in a slight way is because we do not see God in his glory.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

I want to give you five very practical ways that you can assess if you are taking the precious gathering of God’s holy Church too casually.

Recognize the Holiness of It All: First, ask yourself, do you have a proper regard and reverence for the Church. Jesus considers the Church his bride, and yet so many Christians treat the Church with a similar level of casualness that Uzzah treated the ark. Christ died for His Church. The Holy Spirit works through His Church. Do you recognize the Holiness of what we’re doing right now as the gathered Church? Do you have a sense of the wonder of it all, that you get to be a part of it? Worship with the gathered Church is among the “greatest things that concern you here on this Earth.” (Burroughs)

Prepare Beforehand: Second, in order to prepare the heart and the mind to be changed by God, prepare beforehand. In the scriptures we read that any time the people of God came together they first consecrated themselves. This means prepared themselves. If they prepared themselves under the Old Covenant, how much more should we prepare ourselves under the glories of the New Covenant? The great Jeremiah Burroughs once said

‌“So, when thou goest to worship God, thou expectest or shouldest expect that God will come to thee, and that thy heart shall be drawn to God, and therefore thou shouldest make some preparation… the duties of God’s worship are great duties. They are the greatest things that doth concern us in this world, and it is a sign of a very carnal heart to slight the duties of God’s worship, to make account of them as little matter.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

Arrive on Time: Third, arrive on time, early in fact. The start of a Sunday morning worship service is the Call to Worship. Typically, about ten percent of the people who will ultimately be there for the sermon, are ready to go at 10am. This is an over-casualness with the holy things of God. Imagine for a moment if the President of the United States called you to a meeting at 10:00am, you would not dare be late. Being late would signal that you didn’t find the meeting that important. How much more so for the Lord of your soul, ought we be on time. (I know things happen, but I’m describing the regular patterns of life).

Learn to Sing Exuberantly: Fourth, learn to sing exuberantly. There are many who come and mouth the words to the songs, as if communal praise and singing of God was not a necessary part of their worship. Do you know that we have an entire book in the Bible of songs that the people of God used to sing together? On the night when Jesus betrayed we are told that he got together with his twelve disciples and led them in a hymn of praise. I don’t have a great singing voice (those who sit in this area know that well). But praise God our worship is received by God not by how great our voice is, but by the heart behind the voice. Learn to sing.

Engage with the Sermon: Fifth, engage with the sermon as one who is ready to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, applying the preached Word of God, particularly into your heart to change you.

1 Peter 2:2 ESV Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation

God has ordained the preaching of the Word to be a primary tool, if not the primary tool, of the sharpening of God’s people, and of the spreading of the Gospel to the nations. Do you engage as one eager to be changed by God? Do you mull it over in your head, and ask the Lord to develop certain areas in you?

I ask these questions, because I want to make sure that none in this room make thes eame mistake as Uzzah, who took the worship of God lightly, casually even, and was destroyed as a result.

Uzzah’s Hands & The Gospel: But Church, there is one more thing. Uzzah was killed for his unclean hands. But Christ was killed for yours. Uzzah paid a fateful consequence for his sin. But Christ paid a fateful consequence for your sin. Uzzah tried to secure the throne of God with sin-stain hands. Christ, is now seated on the true throne of God, with hands pierced by nails that we deserved. You and I are no more morally clean than Uzzah on our own. But in Christ, God deems you forgiven, and you now have access where Uzzah never did, the throne room of God.


A Move The Story Along: After the death of Uzzah, David is horrified, and he pushes pause on bringing the ark into Jerusalem. He leaves it at the house of a man named Obed-Edom. But after a few months, David sees that Obed-Edom’s is flourishing in overwhleming blessings, and decides it is time to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. This time he follows the law. We read in verse 13 that people were “bearing the ark,” carrying it the proper way. They worshiped and sacrificed before God excitement.

2 Samuel 6:16 “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.”

Michal was David’s wife. Rather than celebrating joyfully she is in her house looking out the window despising David’s exuberance before the Lord. Pick up in verse 20.

2 Samuel 6:20-23 “And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

B Michal’s Conversation with David: What is happening here? Some people mistakenly think that David was dancing in the complete nude. That was not the case. We are told in verse 14 that David had changed into a linen ephod, which was the correct clothing for those who were leading the procession to wear, per the guidelines given in Exodus. So what made Michal so mad? One commentator summarizes it well when he says,

‌“She despised him for the very qualities that made him great, namely devotion to the Lord and spontaneity in worship.”

C What Made David so Joyful?: David exemplifies a worship that is authentic and inhindered. The goodness of God has ravished his soul, and he can’t help but dance. The glory of God and the kindness of God have so overwhelmed his soul that he’s unashamed to let everyone else around him know he’s rejoicing in God. David’s response to Michal is full of humility. “(21) That God would choose me… Me of all people.” This is why he was so overwhelmed. God had chosen him for a special purpose. Assigned him a role in the Kingdom of God. David rightly recognized that this was the greatest thing in his life.

D The New Testament Believer: Church, what Jesus has accomplished is so far more full of glory than even this moment in the Old Testament, that the simplest believer in all of Christendom has even greater reason to sing and dance their heart off in praise to God. In fact, this entire story, of the procession of the Ark of the Covenant being marched into Jerusalem, is a type that points us forward to the true moment, after having been killed for our sins, rose from the grave, ascended on high and was escorted with a heavenly procession to the true throne where he now sits, ruling and reigning over His Church. You, are part of something far superior, far more glorious. God has chosen you, to participate in the glory of the Kingdom of God. This ought to make us unbelievably humble, like David. And unbelievably joyful, like David. And unbelievably unashamed of the gospel. Jesus says,

Luke 9:26 ESV For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

‌If you are in Christ, your salvation is secure. You have been grafted into a family of saints. Heaven is yours. Christ is yours. The presence of God at all times is yours. Yes, this ought to make you unashamed and bold in your worship.

E Examination: And so, honest assessment. Search your heart on this one. Which worshiper more represents your personal average worship of God. Michal who was there but not involved, or David who leapt for joy? Are you ashamed of the Gospel? Ashamed of Christ? What causes us to be ashamed of Christ? It’s the Michal’s of the world. It’s the people all around us that will judge our enthusiasm for the things of God. But Church, is there anything greater in this life to have an enthusiasm for than Jesus? Is there anything quite as good as the Gospel? Is there anything so savory as friendship with God? Is there anything so satisfying as the assurance of knowing your eternity is secure, that heaven awaits you? Is there anything as lovely as bride of Christ, the Church, being the Church? Is there anything as compelling as Christ exalting worship, and unashamed Christ honoring heralding of God’s Word? Is there anything as simultaneously terrifying and overwhelming as Christ crucified for you? Is there anything as empowering as the Holy Spirit abiding in you, leading you, changing you, preparing you for life in heaven? Is there anything as secure as your salvation in the hands of your Heavenly Father? Is there any book as rewarding to the soul as the Bible, God’s Word?

Why did David dance before the Lord? Because he understood the goodness of God, and the hope of the Gospel. And he was living before Christ. You have the Gospel. You have the Holy Spirit.


From Uzzah, we learn that God exalting worship is reverently obedient. From David we learn that God exalting worship is joyfully unashamed.


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