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The Holiness of God

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"But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God," (II Samuel 6:6,7).



What seems on the surface to be a capricious outburst of unjust anger on God's part is actually justified wrath in the face of disobedience to His plainly-stated requirements for acceptable worship.


* The Requirements.


In Numbers 3:30, 31; 4:15; and 7:9, the Old Testament law specified that the ark of God was to be carried by the sons of Kohath. Additionally, Exodus 25:12-15 clearly recorded the LORD's instructions through Moses for the means of transporting the sacred ark: "You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it."

Thus are given the living God's specific and crystal clear commands concerning moving the ark which represented His ineffable Name.


* The Requirements Unknown.


Having captured the ark of God, the Philistines decided after seven months (I Samuel 6:1) that they had had enough. Throughout the land mice had brought plague, and tumors had broken out on the entire populace, producing an outcry for relief. Their pagan priests and diviners advised returning the ark with a guilt offering of their own concoction (6:5). Moreover, the means they counseled for its transportation was a new cart (vv. 7,8), hitched to two milch cows on which there had never been a yoke. The people heeded this advice (vv. 10, 11), and the ark was led back to Beth-shemesh, where the people there rejoiced at the sight of its return.


* The Requirements Ignored.


Having become established as king over Israel (II Samuel 5:12), David determined that it was time for the ark of God to be returned to Jerusalem, the City of David. He gathered thirty thousand of Israel's chosen men together, to transport the sacred ark. "They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark," (6:3,4).


Did King David not know the passages in Numbers and Exodus related to moving the ark? Of all things, he is adopting the same mode as the enemies of the Lord: a new cart(!) Where is the spiritual leadership from the "man after God's own heart"?


* Consequences of Man-Made Worship


In this situation, David's failure to conscientiously follow God's worship mandate cost a man his life. David's anger (6:8) was likely directed at himself for carelessly underestimating the holiness of the living God. In his zeal to get the ark back in its proper location, he failed to take into account the supreme holiness of God's Name.


This account is a needed reminder and warning for our man-centered society and lackadaisical churches. Any attempts to worship the sovereign God of heaven and earth apart from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ are rejected. God must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24), acceptable only through access granted by the Lord Jesus (John 14:6). Any and all attempts to approach Him by humanly-devised methods and means are idolatry, and an abomination.

May He grant grace for the acceptance of this truth.


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Thanks Doc,


Excellently written. A reoccurring theme of the OT and justification for the Regulative Principal of Worship. Clearly, violating protocol was to jeopardize one's life. 1 Chronicles 13:10 - "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."


The recurrence from which I remember is also found in Leviticus 10:1 - "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them." These first halting steps of the Levites foreshadow their subsequent history and lead to Malachi's prophecy of a purified Priesthood - Mal 3:1-5. Obviously, this isn't the first time God had struck dead a person for not following the Regulative Principal.


I bring up the Levite priesthood, because, and correct me if wrong, but Uzzah was a descendant of Kohath, second son of Levi, Aaron and Moses who were Kohathites? The son of Levi, Genesis 46:11, and father of the Kohathites, who were appointed to carry the ark and sacred utensils of the tabernacle during the journeyings of the Israelites in the desert, Exodus 6:16 24; Numbers 4:4-15.


From a source I came across while reading, it casts some doubts as to whether Uzzah was a Kohathite, but merely offering a steady hand in order to keep the Ark from toppling over. If Uzzah was a Kohathite it would be even more understandable as they were not even supposed to look on the uncovered Ark. Perhaps, to God, when Uzza reached out and touched the Ark as it seemed about to topple off the cart, it was the act of desecration, arrogance, and presumption. The last thing presumed was that Uzza's hand was less defiling than the earth that he feared would contaminate the Ark.


As to the Regulative Principal:

  • It should be seen as appropriate at that house of God be ordered by God’s rules.
  • It should be seen as appropriate that God’s people are to be ordered by God’s rules.
  • It should be seen as appropriate that worship, that which shows reverence, piety, love, desire, and joy in God, be structured and ordered according to God’s word and His biblical principles lying therein.

The Regulative Principle was given its classical and definitive statement in the reformed Confessions formulated in the 17th century. It is stated in Chapter 21 paragraph 1 in the Westminster Confession:


The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[1] But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.[2]


1. Rom. 1:20 ; Psa. 19:1-4a ; 50:6 ; 86:8-10 ; 89:5-7 ; 95:1-6 ; 97:6 ; 104:1-35 ; 145:9-12 ; Acts 14:17 ; Deut. 6:4-5

2. Deut. 4:15-20 ; 12:32 ; Matt. 4:9-10 ; 15:9 ; Acts 17:23-25 ; Exod. 20:4-6 , John 4:23-24 ; Col. 2:18-23


In like manner, carefully note the answer given to question 109 of the Larger Catechism ("What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?"):


The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counselling, commanding, using and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever . . . corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever . . . all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.


Simply the Regulative Principle States this: True worship is only commanded by God; false worship is anything not commanded.


Thank you for bringing this subject into discussion.


God bless,


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