1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 1) – You Can Look But You Better Not Touch!

Posted: March 20, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 1 of 5)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

There was an old song by Bruce Springsteen called “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” that was released in 1980 as part of his landmark double album, The River. The title to that song seems appropriate as we begin a 5-part look at this one passage. There is so much in this passage. It is a complex passage that you must chew on for awhile before moving on to the next passage.

In the Springsteen song, the chorus goes like this:

You can look but you better not touch boy

You can look but you better not touch boy

Mess around and you’ll end up in dutch boy

You can look but you better not, no you better not, no you better not touch

It is a song about how we are subject to others’ rules in life and we often never have it explained why we are not qualified to be in the same area as some things in life. Sometimes, we are excluded from being places because we don’t earn enough money. We are excluded because we were born on the wrong side of the tracks and so on. Nobody explains to us why some can touch and some cannot. It’s just the way of the world. That unfairness of the world is the source of the song’s angst.

In today’s Bible passage, 1 Chronicles 13:1-14, we have to address this whole seemingly unfair thing of Uzzah being zapped by God. He died right there. He died doing what He thought was the right thing. He died because you can look but you better not touch. That just seems so capricious of God. Let’s explore that aspect of this scene in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 after we read it now:

3 David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.[a] 2 Then he addressed the entire assembly of Israel as follows: “If you approve and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send messages to all the Israelites throughout the land, including the priests and Levites in their towns and pasturelands. Let us invite them to come and join us. 3 It is time to bring back the Ark of our God, for we neglected it during the reign of Saul.”

4 The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. 5 So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. 6 Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name[b] of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. 7 They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. 8 David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

9 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon,[c] the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned.

In this passage, we see that Uzzah was only trying to protect the Ark, so that brings up the question as to whether God’s anger was just. According to Numbers 4:5-15, the Ark was to be moved only be the Levites, who were to carry it using the carry poles prescribed by God. They were to never touch the Ark. The Ark is where the presence of God manifested itself, at that time, to the people of God. Therefore, the Ark represented the pure holiness of God. Since we are descended from Adam and inherited sin from him, we have an unholy nature. Then, add to that, because of our inherited propensity for sinning, we commit our first sins very early in life and compound that unholiness with each and every sin that follows. We are so dark in our unholiness, on our own merits, when compared to a God who is pure holiness. Uzzah, then, brought his unholy nature in contact with the perfect holiness of God. Something had to give. Each one of us, because of our sin nature and our compounded amounts of a lifetime of sins, cannot exist in the presence of God, on our own. We would be consumed and die if we came into the presence of God while living on this side of eternity. In other words, if God chose to reveal himself to us in a theophany on this side of heaven, we would be unable to be in His physical presence without out being consumed. Our unholiness would kill us in the presence of His holiness. The only way that Moses survived is because he followed God’s directions for being in the presence of the Lord.

Further, since heaven is a place of perfect holiness because it is the place where God dwells, we are not qualified to be participants in the splendors and wonders and perfection of heaven. We are thus condemned to eternity in the imperfect place of pain and eternal anguish in hell along with other imperfect sinners who also in their own merit did not qualify to spend eternity in the perfect and holy presence of God.

As you may note, I have kept saying in these previous few paragraphs, “own our own” or “in their own merit”. As you can see the perfection and holiness of God is a pretty high standard and none of us, on our own, is able to match that because of our sin nature and our accumulated lifetime of sins. The natural thing is to say, “we’re screwed!” And we are, on our own merits. That’s what makes Jesus so vitally important to us as imperfect, sinful, and unholy humans. Jesus’ death on the cross pays the penalty for our accumulated sins and our basic sin nature. He already paid the eternal consequence for our being unholy and having sinned. Through his own holiness, Jesus, being God in the flesh, is the only one in history of man to be qualified as a totally sinless and perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. As a result of his paying our penalty on the cross, he clothes us in his perfection, holiness, and righteousness. It is only through Jesus’ perfection that we can be in the presence of God on this side of eternity if God so chose to reveal Himself to us in a theophany or on that side of eternity in heaven where we wish to reside in our eternal state. Without Jesus’ imputing His perfect holiness to us, when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord, then we are not holy enough to be in heaven. Through Him, we are. It’s all on Jesus and not us. He is our set of carrying poles for us to be in the presence of God.

So, what sounds like a capricious act of God has everything to do with holiness. And it reminds us of our need for Jesus Christ. For we, even when we are trying to act all perfect and churchified, are nothing but tainted sinners destined for hell in the absence of the imputed holiness and righteous that we receive from Jesus Christ. On our own, we just don’t have it in us. We are unholy. God is holy. Jesus is the bridge from our unholiness to God’s holiness. Jesus is more than just some nice guy that we should emulate. He is more than a radical rabbi railing against the established order of the world and of religion. He is more than one of many options. He is more all that. He is the necessity for us to be able to be in the presence of God for all eternity.

Amen and Amen.

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