What an Ox-cart Teaches about Ignorance and Assumptions in Religion

“So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were rejoicing before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. 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.” (1 Chronicles 13:5-10, ESV)

People in the religious world today often promote the idea that it isn’t so much what you do that matters in religion, it is what your intent is behind it that matters. In other words, as long as you are doing it to glorify God, it will be okay.

In this passage, David learned a very valuable lesson in that department. David assumed that the use of a new cart (built especially for this task) would be sufficient to bring the ark the few miles it was to journey to Jerusalem. David had not ignored God’s Word, he simply did not know that God had commanded the ark to be moved a certain way. He was violating God’s Word out of ignorance. In spite of David’s good intentions, and their celebrations before God as they begin to bring the ark on the journey, David’s mistake in judgment is going to cost a man his life. Uzzah and David were only seeking to glorify God, but both unwittingly violated the commands of God in the process and the results were dire.

It is not enough for us to think that something is fun, enjoyable, or a good idea and therefore God will accept it. We must first look to God’s Word to see what he has commanded and what he will find acceptable. Failing to do so sets us up for the same jolt of reality that David and Uzzah received: it’s not just the intent behind the action that matters, but whether the action itself is what God wants that counts. Let us learn from David and Uzzah and not repeat their mistakes.

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