And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah 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. And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah.—1 Chronicles 13:9-11
It’s interesting to read biblical accounts of David—the fearless boy who slew lions and bears with his bare hands, who killed and beheaded a terrifying giant, who led a kingdom in righteousness and victory, who was called a man after God’s own heart. Yet even David struggled to put God’s agenda above his own.
David wanted the ark of the covenant back in Jerusalem where it belonged. This was not a bad thing. But he pursued this good thing with little regard for God’s plan—always the best thing—and his impetuousness came at a high cost.
Was his behavior the result of his selfish zeal to be the one to restore the treasured symbol of God’s holiness to Jerusalem or of his genuine zeal for the Lord? We can’t say. We only know that in his zeal, David cast aside God’s instructions for transporting the ark as spelled out in Numbers 4:1-15. Not only had the king not appointed the Levites to carry it but he also hadn’t instructed anyone on how to carry it properly. This was an affront to God’s holy nature.
Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight.—Psalm 51:4
Most of the time when we mess up, people don’t die. But in David’s case, someone did: his friend Uzzah. And David was mad. He wasn’t mad at himself for doing things his own way instead of God’s, thus offending Him and putting others at risk. He was mad at the Lord Himself.
This, my friends, is classic deflection. How often do we pass off the responsibility for our own sins today? It’s my husband’s fault. It’s my father’s fault. It’s in my genes. But when we begin to own our problems, we begin to take hold of the solution.
Looking at our sins in the light of God’s truth brings conviction—the godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). Once we take ownership of our own mess, we confess our sin to God in our brokenness. And then, by the application of God’s word to our hearts, we surrender our way to His.
Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister to Him forever . . . So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.—1 Chronicles 16:2, 14-15
David could have remained frozen in fear, immersed in grief and immobilized by shame. But he didn’t. He moved forward, this time with God’s plan and surrounded by the people of God’s choosing. And this time he experienced God’s favor.
His repentance didn’t wipe away the consequences of his sin. It didn’t erase the painful memory of watching his friend die. No doubt he, like us, wished he could rewind the clock and get it all right the first time.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13-14
David understood he couldn’t go back. But he could move forward in faith and faithfulness. We don’t need a time machine. We need unending grace, which God supplies. Draw upon it today, my friends. It’s not too late.