The Hard Truth About Good Intentions – Part I

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Hell is full of good intentions …”
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091-1153

In this lesson, and the following two, I will ask you to reflect on how our intentions are to be contemplated in the life of the moral Christian. To this end, I’ve picked three texts to study.
  1. Part 1: Uzzah dies by the hand of God (2 Sam 6:6-7)
  2. Part II Aaron’s sons are burned alive when trying to honor God (Lev 10:1-7)
  3. Part III: The Parable of the Two Sons (Matt 21:28-32)
Let’s get started.
Uzzah dies by the Hand of God (2Sam 6:6-7)
 6But 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. 7And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his disdain; and he died there by the ark of God.
What do we learn from this text?

Even though Uzzah’s intention was to protect the Ark from defilement, he was punished because he failed to live up to his priestly obligations (He was a Levite after his father, Abinadab in whose house God had commanded the Ark to rest). More specifically, Uzzah could have prevented his own death by reminding David of God’s very specific protocol for moving the Ark. He failed to do so. In other words, Uzzah could have prevented all of this had he been faithful to God’s instructions.

He allowed King David to commit two transgressions: First, David had the Ark moved on his own authority. Second, he had theArk moved using an ox-cart in direct violation of God’s command that only Levites may move the Ark and then only on their shoulders. David later admits his errors. As a member of the priestly tribe (a Levite) and as a caretaker of the Ark for twenty or so years, Uzzah should have reminded David of the correct protocols. Under no circumstances should Uzzah have complied with David’s wishes. Uzzah’s core error was elevating his respect for David’s wishes above that of God’s.

Let’s look at the specifics that support this.

First, David initiates the cascade of transgressions by moving the Ark to Jerusalem under his own authority. However, instead of following the prescribed way of moving the Ark (Ex 25:12-14; Num 4:5-6, 15), David follows the example of the Philistines by using an ox-cart[1]
Uzzah, whose family had been sanctified (1 Sam 7:1) to take care of the Ark decades earlier, should have been (and almost certainly was) familiar with rules concerning the ark and its movement. But when David ordered him to commit a clear transgression of God’s commands, rather than correct them by pointing out proper protocols, he acquiesces to their wishes. Uzzah’s elevation of David’s wishes over scriptural was Uzzah’s fatal error.
One obvious truth to be learned from this unhappy story is that the best of intentions did not mitigate God’s wrath.
Now, go and study
  1. [1]In 1 Chronicles 13 (and 15) David is recorded as admitting his error. Further, when he decides a second time to move the Ark, he is careful to follow the prescribed formula. (So, by the way, did Solomon when he moves the ark even later in 1 Kings 8).
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