Summary: Sins committed with good intentions were also punished by God. Wrong actions cannot be sanctified by good intentions. If we are careful to obey the Lord, we will have the peace and joy of the Lord in our hearts and the Lord will be with us amidst all our difficulties.
Again David gathered all the choice 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, whose name is called by the Name, the Lord of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. So they set 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, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.
And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God. And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.
When Saul was the king over Israel, the ark of the covenant, the holiest object in Israel symbolizing the very presence of God (which God commanded Moses to make more than 400 years before David’s time), resided at the temple in Shiloh where Eli and his sons ministered as priests. The ark of God was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. In it were the tablets of the law that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that miraculously budded. During the battle against the Philistines, Phinehas, the son of Eli, took the ark into the battle, to ensure victory. However, Israelites, including Eli’s sons were corrupt and the Lord was not with them in the battle. Naturally, the Philistines won the battle and also captured the ark (1 Samuel 4). The Lord struck the Philistines because of the ark and so they returned the ark to Israel (1 Samuel 6). The ark remained at Kiriath-jearim in the house of Abindadab for twenty years.
1 Samuel 7:1-2 - Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
Following the tragic death of Saul and his three sons in the battle against the Philistines, David began the king over Judah and then Israel. After his kingship, David intended to bring the ark to the city of David. He wanted to enjoy the presence of God and his blessings.
David made all the preparation to bring the ark from Kirjath Jearim to the capital city Jerusalem. Kiriath-jearim was located 9 miles (15 km) west northwest of Jerusalem. He gathered 30000 men of Israel to bring up the ark to Jerusalem. They set the ark of God on a new cart. The two sons of Abinadab, Uzza and Ahio were driving the cart. David and all Israel played music before God on all kinds of instruments – harp, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets.
And when they came to the threshing floor of Nachon, the oxen stumbled. So, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God to take of hold of it and prevent it from falling. At that time, the anger of the Lord arose against Uzzah and he struck him there. Uzzah died.
Imagine how the entire situation would have changed in a second. In verse 5, everyone were rejoicing, dancing and playing music before the Lord. Now, suddenly, death took place. A sudden terror took over the rejoicing crowd. The joy turned into occasion of grief and mourning. So much so that even David questioned the justice of God. David was more upset at God for striking Uzzah, instead of Uzzah for touching the ark. David even named the place of the death as Perez-Uzzah because he was angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah.
It is a troublesome paragraph for many. Uzzah appeared to have done something good - reaching out his hand to steady the ark, which was in danger of falling—but the Lord became angry and struck Uzzah so that he died. On reading this passage, we get the impression of an unpredictable God imposing a punishment out of proportion.