2 Sam. 6:1-11
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but one of my favorite movies of all time is My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, Pesci plays Vinny Gambini, a brand-new lawyer from Brooklyn who has to defend two young boys who are accused of murder in the deep south. The judge is very strict about procedure and propriety, and thus he angrily rebukes Vinny for coming into his courtroom dressed in a leather jacket, not in a suit and tie. The next day, the judge has him stand up and asks him “Didn’t I tell you to dress appropriately in my courtroom?!” Vinny stares at him for a split-second and disbelievingly asks “You were serious about that?” The very next scene immediately cuts to showing him on a jail bus heading to lockup for contempt of court. If you haven't watched it, please be advised that it's got quite a bit of "salty" language. If you can ever catch the edited version of it on TV, I'd highly recommend it.
I think about that scene every time I read the story in today’s passage. The scene started out as pure celebration: David was officially recognized as king over all Israel, he had captured Jerusalem, the Philistines were subdued, and now they were to officially inaugurate Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by bringing the Ark of the Covenant into it. David and thousands of people were singing, dancing, and praising the Lord with all their might.
Then tragedy struck. They were transporting the Ark on a cart drawn by oxen, and one of the animals stumbled in the mud. One well-meaning man, namely Uzzah, reached out his hand to steady the Ark so that it wouldn’t fall into the mud. Apparently God was not impressed with his sincerity, since he struck the poor guy DEAD ON THE SPOT.
We might read this story and think that God is a horrible monster for killing a man just for touching a box. If we think that way, then we need to look a little deeper. First off, they were not supposed to be transporting the Ark on a cart with oxen. This is why God told them to attach poles to it. In doing this, David was following the example of the Philistines, not usually a good idea. Second, God warned them specifically not to touch the Ark. Aaron’s own sons had died because they didn’t follow God’s instructions, so he had NO excuse. Just like Vinnie in the movie, their attitude towards God's instructions was "You were serious about that?" Yes. He was. And he is.
There are quite a few things we can learn from this, but I’ll limit it to two. First, I think Uzzah is a great object lesson on the importance of reading your Bible and taking it seriously. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they'd acted as if God is impressed enough with our sincerity that he’ll overlook disobedience, and a man died because of this mistake. Second, we must approach God in the way he’s revealed to us, not making it up as we go along. The way to approach God is humble, repentant trust in his Son Jesus Christ. I have trouble understanding why even some Christians have trouble accepting this, but I guess it’s only natural. The problem is that we’re in danger of following David’s example, and people suffer as a result. You might have heard that "ignorance is bliss," but don't buy it.It might start out as blissful, but it never ends that way.
Lord Jesus, you're my only hope of being accepted by God, but you're my SURE hope. Your word is a lamp to my feet and light for my path. Without it, I’m just stumbling around in the darkness.Help me pay attention to it.