"No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?"
BIBLE READING: Psalm 2 Samuel 5. 11-25, 6. 1-23/ 1 Chronicles 13-16
There is an old saying that says “no good deed goes unpunished”. The meaning of this ancient proverb is that under many circumstances a good deed often goes under appreciated or is met with a degree of hostility. Many people may feel that the proverb fits the story within the text today. In 2 Samuel 6, Uzzah reaches out his hand to stabilize the ark and keep it from falling and being damaged and then is struck down dead by God for an act of disobedience. On the surface it looks as though Uzzah is only trying to do a good deed but gets punished for seeking to help. Before one can make a statement like that they have to make sure they hear the other sides of the story. The Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God's presence with the Israelites (Leviticus 16.2). It was also the place where God met Moses and gave him commands (Exodus 25:22). If someone approached the ark, they would effectively be in God's presence - a sinner standing before a holy God who does not tolerate evil (Ps 5:4-6) - and would die as a result of their sins. For this reason, God had given the Israelites many rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple, hidden from view by a curtain (Ex 26:33). Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and then only after he had undergone ceremonial cleansing, made sacrifices to atone for his sins and the nation's sins, and burned incense to conceal the atonement cover (Lev 16). When the ark was moved, it was covered with at least 3 layers of cloth by the priests to protect others from seeing it (Numbers 4:5-6, 15, 18-20); the priests/Levites carried it and everyone else had to stay about a thousand yards away (Josh 3:4). These laws enforced the concept of God's holiness; sinful people couldn't be in his presence, not even the high priest. There was also a strict rule about how the ark was to be transported by the Levities, using poles placed through rings on the sides of the ark (Exodus 24.14-15 & Numbers 4.15;7.9). As we read within the text, the Israelites are giving no attention to these rules. They are carrying the ark on a cart, the same way the Philistines had returned the ark after they had seized it. Also, there is no mention of it being covered or having the poles used at all. Their actions reveal that there was a lack of respect for the laws of God on the part of the Israelites, and especially on the part of Uzzah. Make no mistake, this is not a case of Uzzah committing a good deed at all. In fact, it is just the opposite. Uzzah is breaking a commandment of the Lord and deserves to be punished for it. If anything, this should teach us today that God’s commands are there for a reason, even when we are not able to see the reason. In our efforts to obey these commands, we reveal a heart of compliance and submission to respect His authority. In our disobedience, we reveal rebellion, which will result in punishment. Just allow that to sink in for a moment!