1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 6) – A Smiting God vs. A Loving God?

Posted: March 28, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 13:1-14 (Part 6 of 6)

David Attempts to Move the Ark

Today, in my blog for our church member’s consumption at our church’s Facebook page while we are in shutdown mode (due to the Coronavirus scare), I talked about my dad. One of the things that I wrote about was that Dad had his rules for behavior for us as his sons, his children. One of his famous sayings (and my dad had plenty of them seeing as how he grew up in the rural South on a farm) was “as long as you put your feet under my table, you will do as I say!” Translated for the non-Southerner, that means as long as you live in my house, wear the clothes I buy for you and eat your meals at my dinner table, you owe me your obedience. My dad was a loving dad. He was the kind of guy that expected a lot out of us but at the same time, he would play ball with us and just do stuff with us for fun. It was a well-rounded view that I got of my dad. He had expectations of behavior from us but yet at the same time he would show us love through his pride in us in a job well done, in achieving some milestone, and just a hug when we needed it.

That’s the thing that we get confused about sometimes with God. People often talk about they like the New Testament God better than the Old Testament God, as if He was two different Gods. When you press people on it, they see the New Testament God as a God of love whereas they see the Old Testament God as a spiteful, vengeful God. They see God in the New Testament as a cuddly kitten whereas they see the God of the Old Testament as this smiting pitbull of a God. They often point to this passage (and its similar passage at 2 Samuel 6:6-7) as evidence of a spiteful, mean-spirited God. They say that Uzzah was only trying to protect the Ark. That raises the question of … is there a difference between God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. Are they not different aspects of the same God just like my dad who was equal parts high expectations and love?

With that idea of the exploring why God would zap Uzzah but yet be the same God that loves us so much that He died on the cross for us, 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 died instantly for touching the Ark, but God blessed Obed-edom’s home while it was stored there. This passage demonstrates two of the attributes of God’s character. He is, at the same time, perfectly just and perfectly loving. Great blessings come to those who obey His commands, but punishment comes to those who disobey Him. This punishment may come swiftly and with immediacy, or it may come over time, but it will come. Sometimes, we focus only on God’s loving aspect of his attributes while forgetting that when we sin that God is a God of justice and cannot let disobedience go unnoticed. At other times, we concentrate on all of God’s “smiting” that we miss His blessings to those who obey Him. We cannot fall into a one-sided view of God based on a single aspect of His attributes. Along with God’s blessings comes the responsibility to continue to offer God our obedience to His commands. We must embrace His demands for fairness, honesty, and justice as much as we do His loving kindness and forgiveness.

In this passage, it is a difficult one if you simply look at it in isolation and not in the larger light of all of Scripture. Here, you see this earnest guy named Uzzah who was simply trying to keep the Ark from touching the ground and falling over on its side. For that, you would think Uzzah would get some props for extending himself beyond the call of duty by God. Right? However, we have to look at this passage in the context of the larger story of Scripture.

In Numbers 4:5-15, the Ark was to be only by the Levites, who were to carry it using special carrying poles – they were never to touch the Ark itself. To touch it would result in the death of whomever did it. God allowed His presence to be manifest in and around the Ark. Therefore, with His presence manifesting itself in and around the Ark, it was perfect and holy not because of the Ark itself but because of God. On this side of eternity, nothing imperfect and unholy can be in the presence of God without being consumed by His perfection and holiness. As people of a sinful nature inherited from generation to generation and then us being sinners in and of ourselves (we commit sins daily on our own not to mention we inherit unholiness all the way back to Adam and Eve), we cannot exist in the presence of God in and of our own merit. Therefore, God made specific provisions for the handling of the Ark so that His chosen people would be able to have the Ark near them. David placed the Ark on a cart and followed the Philistine pagan example of handling the Ark rather than God’s commands. Uzzah, though sincere in his desire to protect the Ark, had to face the consequences of the sin of directly touching the Ark – imperfection being consumed by the perfection of God.

How do we reconcile that with a forgiving God that we love to dwell on as we read the New Testament? God is the same God in both places. We must remember that and see that. Here are some examples of God being a God of justice in the New Testament:

The New Testament also has many examples of God as Judge:

  • The Jews for the rejection of Christ (Matthew 21:43-44, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)
  • Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10)
  • Herod (Acts 12:21-23)
  • The church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:29-32)

As well, Paul writes of God’s coming justice for each us in his letters to the churches. For example, Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). He also says, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Further, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). As well, Paul says, “This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:16). Additionally, other apostles said the same thing. Peter says, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).

How can we not see that there is a theme of God’s justice throughout the Old AND the New Testament. Without the justice of God, His love is meaningless. Without His high standard for our obedience to His commands, His love toward us means so much more. Without His justice, his forgiveness is unnecessary and can be seen as an entitlement rather than a gift. Therefore, let us see God like what our earthly fathers are defined as being like as ideal for us. Our earthly fathers, when they are doing their jobs as fathers in the way that benefits us the most is when they are equal parts:

  • tough guy who has defined and in-concrete boundaries for our behavior who exacts consequences from us for having crossed those boundaries – no negotiations, no whining, just accepting the known consequences of known crossings of the fixed boundaries.
  • fun guy who quietly demonstrates to us that he loves us through playing with us, celebrating with us, praising us, and just those looks of satisfaction and approval he can give us.

So, help us Lord not to focus on a single attribute of God at the expense of your multi-faceted attributes. You are a God of many attributes. You are a God of justice and a God of love.

Amen and Amen.

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