2 Samuel 6
I remember the first time I read the story of Uzzah being struck dead when he reached up to steady the ark I thought it seemed so harsh. What was he supposed to do? Let the ark fall to the ground when the oxen stumbled? It was years later when I studied the ark in a Beth Moore Bible study that I realized there was so much more to the story. God had prescribed a specific way for the ark to be transported. He had assigned all the duties regarding the ark to specific families.
Loading it up on a wagon was in direct contradiction to God’s guidance that the ark was to be carried by the gold-covered poles on the shoulders of Levites. There seems to be some question about whether Uzzah and his brother were Levites; but if they were, that makes the sin more egregious because they knew better!
In our modern times, such a consequence for something that seems minor in our eyes is hard to understand. It reminds me of an octogenarian fussing over children who ran down the church aisle at one of the churches where my husband served on staff. Their exuberance failed to show proper respect for the house of the Lord. One can easily take these verses and come up with that sort of notion, but that is not at all what these verses warn us against!
After all, David’s exuberance a few verses later in celebrating before the Lord caused his own wife to rebuke him. Yet, he defended his behavior, and rightly so! God never disciplines His children for being overwhelmed by praise for Him! God sees our heart. We can’t judge someone’s worship because we don’t know their heart. Whether their worship is throwing their hands in the air or silently bowing their head, these outward signs could reflect many different heart-attitudes! The person with their hands in the air may be totally focused on the Lord and led by the Spirit — or they may be focused on the responses of those around them, either mimicking what they see or trying to impress others. The bowed head could be checking their facebook account, looking at their watch and wondering how much longer, or could be deep in prayer, repenting before the Lord, and coming to know Christ for the first time.