God’s overreaction?

I saw a great sermon from Larry Brey, campus pastor at the University City campus of Elevation Church. His title was “It’s a cover-up” and he discussed Mark 11:12-25, which describes Jesus’ curse of the fig tree with no fruit. It is excellent teaching and it made me think.

Pastor Brey asked the question: did Jesus overreact when he cursed the fig tree? You should watch the sermon to get his answer. His question made me ask another, similar, question. In 2 Samuel 6, David is moving the Ark, or Chest, of God (which contained the 10 commandments) to Jerusalem, where the Israelites worshiped. Here’s the story.

David mustered the pick of the troops of Israel—thirty divisions of them. Together with his soldiers, David headed for Baalah to recover the Chest of God, which was called by the Name God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who was enthroned over the pair of angels on the Chest.

They placed the Chest of God on a brand-new oxcart and removed it from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were driving the new cart loaded with the Chest of God, Ahio in the lead and Uzzah alongside the Chest. David and the whole company of Israel were in the parade, singing at the top of their lungs and playing mandolins, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals. When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, so Uzzah reached out and grabbed the Chest of God. God blazed in anger against Uzzah and struck him hard because he had profaned the Chest. Uzzah died on the spot, right alongside the Chest. (2 Samuel 6:1-7 MSG)

I’ve read this story many times and I always felt like God overreacted. Uzzah only touched the Chest because it had become unsteady. So God killed him. If that’s the God I serve, then it is a modern miracle that I am still alive. Seriously.

However, if I feel that God overreacted, it means that I don’t understand the scripture. God does not overreact. He is not irrational. God is love (1 John 4:8).

Let’s take another look and try to understand what happened. To begin, it’s important that we don’t miss a very important statement at the beginning of this passage: “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who was enthroned”. When the people were carrying the Chest, they were carrying God! God was seated on His throne on the Chest. Here’s why God had to react when Uzzah touched the Chest. He touched God.

God is holy – that means set apart. The Greek translation is hagios (different or other). Because of sin, Uzzah and all mankind are immeasurably separated from God. That does not mean that God did not love Uzzah and every man, woman, and child; however, the combination of law (encased in the Chest that carried God) and sin places an insurmountable barrier between God and man… because God is holy.

So where’s the hope in that?

My experience in studying the scripture is that it all points to Jesus. This entire story we are living, our existence, is not about us. It is about Jesus. Let’s see how this scripture relates to our Savior.

After the Chest, when was the next time that man had an opportunity to physically touch God? It was when Jesus walked among His people (now we’ve moved from the Old Testament to the New Testament). Here’s an example of the outcome of reaching out to touch Jesus. It’s quite different than the Chest.

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. (Luke 8: 43-44)

Unlike the Chest that carried the law and God, touching Jesus heals! Jesus did what the law was not able to do (Romans 8:3). He took our sin on Himself and, by paying the debt that we could not, removed the barrier between God and man. Tremendous news!

All you need to do is believe. Admit your sin, accept Jesus’ grace to cover it, and follow Him. Just reach out and touch Him. Reach out your hand right now, right where you are. Jesus will take hold of you. I promise.

I guess God didn’t overreact.




About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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