Sixty years ago people often dressed for church in their “Sunday best.” Men wore a jacket and tie or a suit. Women wore a dress and sometimes gloves and a hat. Today in most churches casual dress is the norm. Does this say anything about our view of what it means to come into the presence of God?
David learned a hard lesson about God’s holiness when he determined to move the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem. David’s initial attempt to move the ark ended in tragedy when Uzzah was struck down for touching it. The judgment may seem harsh, but those who transported the ark failed to obey the regulations outlined in Scripture (Ex. 25:12–15; Num. 4:5–15). Because the ark represented God’s presence, it had to be treated as a sacred object.
“The fate of Uzzah is a fearful warning against over-familiarity with God,” commentator Michael Wilcock says. “His attitude toward the thing should have been as reverent as his attitude toward the person.” Reverence for God is important—it is the focus of the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9). God can be our friend, but He is not a buddy.
Uzzah’s tragic death was intended to make an important point. God’s holiness is not to be trifled with. Similar to other instances of divine judgment, like the destruction of Achan’s household or the death of Ananias and Sapphira, it drove home a forceful truth to the whole community (see Joshua 7; Acts 5:1–11). God’s aim was not to drive His people away. This is evident from the subsequent blessing that came upon Obed-Edom the Gittite when the ark remained with him for the next three months. If Uzzah’s death was a warning, Obed-Edom’s blessing was an invitation.