Obedience Perfects Worship

And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah … 1 Chronicles xiii.10
And David was angry … v 11
And David was afraid … v 12

Will God’s wrath break out against a worshiper in the midst of a lively praise and worship session?

That’s exactly what happened during a procession led by King David and his men. David and “all Israel” were transporting Yahweh’s ark on a new cart built for that purpose. The entire nation rejoiced in God’s presence. They sang with “all their might,” accompanied by skilled musicians.

And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah [one of the cart drivers] put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 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.

David was angry! That was his initial reaction when he saw that God had struck one of his men dead.

Why did God “break out” against Uzzah just because he touched the holy ark? After all, Uzzah’s intentions were good. If he had not reached out to steady the ark, it would have fallen over to the ground from the cart. But there lies the problem. They were not supposed to carry the ark of the LORD on a cart!

There was a clear instruction in the Book of the Law that prohibited all contact with the holy ark (Exodus xxv.14). Men appointed to carry the ark were to use special poles to lift the ark. They were to carry the ark on their shoulders — not any cart, old or new! David and his men had not consulted the Book of the Law before setting out to honor God. It is noteworthy that these rules did not apply to the Philistines who mishandled the ark. They were never given instructions regarding the ark. Israel, on the other hand, had received clear instructions.

To David’s credit, he quickly understood that he had violated God’s laws. But he went to the other extreme. He then was afraid of bringing the ark to his city. “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” That’s why David let the ark be kept in the house of Obed-edom. “And the ark of God remained with the household of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that he had.” (v 14)

A grand display of one’s adoration towards God is no substitute for obedience. God will not overlook disobedience just because the people who disobey Him are worshiping Him “with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.” (v 8) If God has revealed his will to us through His Word, it is our responsibility to find out His requirements and to obey Him. Surely, Yahweh will bless everyone who worships Him in obedience.