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“One Bad Decision” (2 Samuel 6:1-11)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Many of you have surely heard of the ark of the covenant. The ark was something that was prescribed by God and built by the priests during the time of Moses. The ark was sort of a chest, overlaid with gold, with two artistic renderings of angels on the top (called “cherubim”).

Hebrews 9:4 tells us what was in the ark. It says, “It had the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.”

So, we’re going to dive into a story about the ark of the covenant, and you may come to feel that’s even a bit weird.

Before we do, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.


Ok, so let’s read the passage, and then we’ll talk more about it.

Today’s sermon is entitled “One Bad Decision.” You’ll see why I chose that title in just a moment.

Look at 2 Samuel 6:1-11:

1 David again assembled all the fit young men in Israel: thirty thousand. 2 He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah. The ark bears the Name, the name of the Lord of Armies who is enthroned between the cherubim. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart 4 and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark. 5 David and the whole house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.

6 When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled. 7 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. 8 David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today. 9 David feared the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 So he was not willing to bring the ark of the Lord to the city of David; instead, he diverted it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in his house three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his whole family.

Ok, so let’s talk a little more about the ark.

First, let’s answer the question:

‌I. What’s going on with the ark?

I’ve already told you a little bit about what’s in the ark, how it came to be, and so forth.

However, the ark was not merely a relic with special artifacts inside. The ark actually represented the presence of God.

When God’s people carried the ark into battle, they were victorious. When the enemies of Israel stole the ark and kept it in their territory, they suffered.

At this point in the Bible (2 Samuel 6), David is king of Israel.

David wanted to set up a new capital for his kingdom and for worship in Israel, in a place called Jerusalem.

The ark was being held at someone’s house, and it was close to the borders of one of Israel’s greatest enemies, the Philistines.

So, David planned to bring the ark closer to his home, closer to the new capital of the kingdom, and further away from the Philistines.

So, David set off with 30,000 fit young men to bring the ark back. David probably brought this large army both as a sign of strength and prosperity, and as a genuine means of protecting the ark.

However, even though 30,000 men were brought to protect the ark, it only took one man to mess things up.

So, second, let’s see . . .

‌II. What’s going on with this guy’s death?

This is the weird part for many of us. We think, “Why in the world would God strike Uzzah dead for touching the ark?”

In fact, many of us may simply say that it is instinctual to reach out and grab something if it is falling.

However, that’s the problem. Uzzah’s instincts should have been to revere the holiness of God and the law of God, but those were not his instincts.

Uzzah’s instincts were more man-centered than God-centered.

You might be thinking, “What in the world are you talking about, Pastor Matt?”

You see, the ark of the covenant actually represented the very presence of God.

The ark was not like any other object. The ark carried with it the holiness of God.

In fact, God had already given specific instructions not to touch the ark.

Numbers 4:15 says, “Aaron and his sons are to finish covering the holy objects and all their equipment whenever the camp is to move on. The Kohathites will come and carry them, but they are not to touch the holy objects or they will die.”

Further, God had demonstrated time and again that the ark didn’t need protection from humans.

In 1 Samuel 5, we read of how the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant and put it in the temple of the false god, Dagon. When they came to check on the temple, the statue of Dagon had fallen to the ground and began to fall apart. Further, the people of Ashdod, where the Ark was taken after the Dagon incident, began to develop tumors. Then, they moved the ark to Gath and started having problems there also. Then, the same thing happened in Ekron.

God took care of the ark when the Philistines stole it, so much so that the enemies of Israel sent the ark back to the Israelites, along with a gold offering. God didn’t need humans to protect Him.

Furthermore, the people of Israel already had an example of what not to do when it came to trying to take care of the ark of God.

In 1 Samuel 6, when the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel, it arrived in Beth-shemesh. Some of the people of Israel, in Beth-shemesh, got curious and decided to look inside the ark. What happened was God struck down 70 persons for not revering the ark of God.

The people responded in 1 Samuel 6:20, “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord this holy God?”

So, the people of Israel should have known better when it came to messing around with the ark of God.

What’s even more, David allowed (or perhaps even commanded) that the ark be carried on a cart with an ox. However, this was not how God prescribed that the ark should be carried.

In Exodus, where God gave instructions to the people on how to make the ark, God said in Exodus 25:12-14, “Cast four gold rings for it and place them on its four feet, two rings on one side and two rings on the other side. Make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark in order to carry the ark with them.”

You can see from this artistic rendering what the ark may have looked like.

The ark was meant to be carried on poles by priests; not on a cart by an ox. Do you know who moved the ark on a cart with an ox? The Philistines did that!

Rather than treating the ark of God the way God prescribed, the Israelites are using the same methodology to move the ark that the godless Philistines used.

You see, church: sometimes we look at this story and think that Uzzah was just innocently reaching out to save the ark, and it appears at first glance that this is what he was doing. However, what we really see is a loss of reverence and honor for the holiness of God.

Even though the title of this sermon is “One Bad Decision,” there were actually several bad decisions that led to this moment (I should pick a better sermon title).

We see David getting sloppy with allowing the ark to be transported as it was, and we see Uzzah getting sloppy with reaching out to grab the ark.

The result of this irreverence and sloppiness was the death of Uzzah.

That brings us to our final point:

‌III. What’s going on with how serious God is?

Church, this is certainly not the only time someone died because they disrespected the holiness of God.

In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the priest, presented unauthorized offerings to the Lord and they were both consumed by the fire of God.

In Numbers 16, God swallowed up the entire clan of Korah for their rebellion against Moses.

In Joshua 7, Achan’s entire family was stoned to death because the Lord’s anger burned against Israel because Achan had stollen from the treasury of the Lord.

In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira are killed instantly by God for lying to the early Church about the value of the offering they presented.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says that some have gotten sick or even died for taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

Folks, I could go on, but here’s the point: God is serious about His holiness and about His ways. The Bible continually points us to the holiness of God.

In Malachi 1:14, God says, “. . . my name will be feared among the nations.”

In Revelation 4:8, as we have a picture of heaven, we hear that angels continually call out “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.”

Exodus 15:11 says, “Lord, who is like you among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders?”

1 Peter 1:15 says, “But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct.”

Psalm 96:9 says, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him.”

God is certainly full of grace, He is certainly full of love, He is certainly full of mercy, and He is certainly full of holiness. Further, He expects holiness from His people.

That brings us to our bottom line:

‌Bottom line: We serve a holy God.

God is holy, and His ways are holy.

If God says not to touch the ark, God’s people ought not to touch the ark.

Uzzah’s instinct may have been to catch something when it was falling. However, he should have had a greater instinct to revere the Lord God and to remember His holiness.

That brings up some questions for us:

In what ways are you not revering the holiness of God?

How are we as a church? Are we respecting the ways of God?

What do we do instinctively that actually goes against what God has commanded for us?

You see . . .

Our instincts may be to do something that grows our church quickly, rather than do something that develops disciples.

Our instincts may tell us to sleep in a few extra minutes, rather than get up early to pray and read God’s Word.

Our instincts may tell us to ignore the strange person, rather than tell them about how God loves them and wants a relationship with them through Jesus.

Our instincts may drive us to hold onto bitterness when someone hurts us, rather than to extend forgiveness as Jesus commands.

Our instincts may tell us that a little gossip is ok, rather than seeking to honor others and the church by forsaking gossip.

Our instincts may tell us to look out for ourselves first, rather than being like Jesus by looking out for the good of others.

Our instincts may lead us to honor leaders who pretend to be strong, brilliant, and powerful, rather than honor leaders who are humble, wise, and godly.

Our instincts may lead us to want to do church the way we want it, with our traditions, with our preferred music, with our air temperature settings, and with our favorite sermons; rather than be intentional in all that we do to worship and glorify God and reach multiple generations of people from our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, our instincts can lead us to be less like Jesus, and more like sin.

May we desire to develop holy instincts that are developed by a devotion to our holy God.

May we respond as Jesus did when He was tempted by the devil. Jesus said, “For it is written . . .” as He recalled the Word of God and the ways of God in the face of temptation. May we do the same when our instincts lead us astray.

Challenge yourself this week in the following one way:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Consider your reverence for God’s ways.

First of all, are you even concerned with what God has to say to you?

Second, how much value do you put in what God has to say to you?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

I’ve often heard Christians say, “If the Bible says it, it’s good enough for me.” Well, do we really believe that?

Not only do we believe the Word of God, but do we treasure the Word of God?

Do you revere and respect God’s ways?

Challenge yourself this week to answer that question.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

Response Song – How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

(Announcements – Richard)

(Giving emphasis)


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