Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Judy Lentz   Death and Dancing

David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore, God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.  Scripture: II Samuel 6:5-7

In January, the Dr. Rev. Chris Leonard of Rock Presbyterian Church in Greenwood, S.C. preached a sermon titled “Death and Dancing”. The scripture lesson for this sermon was the story of Uzzah as written in the scripture lesson above. At face value, to me, it seemed confusing.

Why would God kill Uzzah? After all, wasn’t he a Priest and didn’t he take care of the Ark of the Covenant for years? Why, then, did God get so upset with him for trying to prevent the ark from falling to the ground resulting in God striking Uzzah down due to this irreverent act?

Historians tell us the Covenant scrolls were intended to be carried on the shoulders of two men who could then assure the Covenant itself was never touched by human hands or could be desecrated by falling on the ground. When Uzzah was commanded to bring the Covenant to God, Uzzah in his controlling way, chose to bring it on a cart pulled by oxen rather than be carried by men on their shoulders.

 When the oxen stumbled, the Covenant shifted. Uzzah feared it was going to fall on the ground so he reached out to grab it. Seems like he was doing the right thing, right? After all, he was seeking to prevent it from falling on the ground.

What was expected of him by God? Uzzah’s irreverent act was ignoring God’s expectations of how to carry the arc and taking control of that decision himself. Then when it almost fell to the ground, Uzzah reached out to prevent that thereby touching the sacred Covenant. Uzzah’s independence in taking control over the way to carry the arc was inconsistent with God’s wishes and therefore irreverent.

 Uzzah’s controlling nature was not new to God. Due to this incident, Uzzah was struck down. After Uzzah’s death, we read further in II Samuel and see that David danced and Michal, daughter of Saul, despised him for doing so. David chose to dance in celebration of God and His Covenant.
 There are two diametrically opposing behaviors here – control versus celebrate and death versus dance. God is in charge: then, now and in the future. We are expected to celebrate and dance not to control and thereby risk being struck down.

Sharon is celebrating in 2017 – dancing in gratitude to God for 200 years of worship and service to the glory of our Lord. We celebrate this year but have we always been celebratory? Will we continue celebrating even after this anniversary year has ended? God has a plan for us – all we need to do is listen and respond.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we often forget who is in charge. We try to control how we live our lives, the decisions we make, the places we go, the things we do instead of turning to you for guidance before making these decisions. Forgive us for our selfish ways. We know you have a plan for us. Teach us to trust in that plan, and to follow you every day as we dance and celebrate your faithfulness in us. Eradicate any desires to control and guide us to celebrate and dance always in gratitude to you and for your glory. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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