One of the amazing characteristics of the Bible is that its revelation is presented to us in transparency when it comes to the faults of the people on its pages. When the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to inscribe the truths of Scripture, He did not allow those human authors to pretty anything up. Adam blamed his wife when he was busted in the backwash of original sin. Eve blamed the devil. Noah got drunk and naked after the ark found dry ground. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all seen to freely engage in lies at various points. Rebekah coached her favorite son in how to deceive his blind father into releasing the paternal blessing upon him. Jeremiah wanted to quit ministry. Peter denied Jesus three times. James and John wanted to call nuclear rain down on a village of people who had rejected Jesus. Discouraged yet?
The list could go on and on because God is very committed to ensuring that we humans do not cultivate any false illusions about the level of our personal depravity. Our weaknesses make His strength all the more glorious. God gives His best to those of us who are adept at acting our worst. One person whom I intentionally left out of the list above was David. We all know about the glory of David’s life. There was Goliath whom he slew. He outlasted King Saul. He operated in valor and integrity for almost all of his days. There was, of course, his momentary moral implosion with Bathsheba and the subsequent orchestration to have her husband killed – yeah…that little nugget kind of sours the room. Yet, there is one aspect of David’s life that doesn’t get a lot of press. While we might not identify with David’s adultery and murder, I will go out on a limb and guess that most of you reading this have struggled with what I am about to share. In one particular life-moment, David found himself both angry with God and afraid of God.
“And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” – 1 Chronicles 13:11-12
When David was seeking to return the stolen ark of the covenant back to Israel, it was supposed to be a grand celebration and victory. It was a scene of joy, music, dancing, worship, national pride and breakthrough. Much planning went into the process and the entire nation was engaged in the act of transporting the ark back to the place where it belonged as they placed it in a cart which was being pulled by oxen. A man named Uzza was walking beside the cart and, as the oxen began to stumble on some rough terrain, Uzzah placed his hand on the ark to keep it from shifting or potentially falling out. As Uzzah did so, God struck him dead. Yes, you read that correctly. God killed Uzzah on the spot for putting his human hands on the holy ark of God. I don’t have space here to explain why Uzzah was judged this way, but let it be known that David, Uzzah and all the men who officiated the ark’s return home had done so in a way that violated God’s written word. Whether through ignorance or indifference, they disobeyed God. This was a holy moment and the ark was not to be touched by human hands. While his motives were likely pure, Uzzah’s actions violated the Law of Moses and the wages of his sin was instant death. Talk about ruining the party. Right in the middle of the music, the singing, the dancing and the worship there comes the announcement, “Hold the show, everyone. We have a dead body on aisle two.”
It was after this that the bible declares that David got angry with God. Right after that we are told that David became fearful of God. He was not the first, nor was he the last to battle these two emotions toward the Almighty.
When God does not “behave” the way we think He should, we become potential vessels of harboring negative emotions toward Him. What makes it all the more challenging is that we know that we are not allowed to feel that way toward Him. We are Christians, after all. We testify to God’s goodness, love, holiness and wisdom – that’s what good Christians do. We are not permitted to think or feel like He has done something inappropriate. Yet, when an Uzzah-like moment happens in our own lives, we, like David, can also sense intense negative emotions toward God.
Why did my company lay me off?
Why did my parents divorce?
Why did my teenager get pregnant?
I’m too young to bury my wife – why God?
My child has leukemia – where are You, Lord?
Feel free to insert your own Uzzah-moment here.
It doesn’t take long for David’s anger with God for killing Uzzah to turn to being afraid of God. God was not safe. God was not predictable. God did not mind ruining a celebration that was being held in His own honor. David, like so many of us, began to see that this God of his was not exactly who he thought Him to be. God was holy in a measure David could never fathom. God cared in a radically deep way about His people honoring His words. God did not gloss over the ignorance of His people but actually held them accountable both to know what was right and to actually do it. God actually valued them walking in uprightness more than He valued them walking in celebration. David was wrestling through the deep emotions that come when God allows a curveball in life to strike us out swinging. He went from anger to fear.
And this was from the guy who is said to be a man after God’s own heart.
If we continue to go deep with God through a growing faith-walk with His Son, Jesus, we will find many moments wherein we are humbled, broken and disillusioned. At the foundation of all that God does, He is inherently and comprehensively good. He is always good to us. Always. The rub comes when we take our own definition of goodness and seek to somehow force God to fit into its mold. We typically equate God being good with God being accommodating to what we would have Him do. When He operates differently from what we presumed, we too can find anger in our hearts toward Him. When the anger toward Him stops its boil, we can often find ourselves withdrawing from Him in fear. Our emotions stride to the pulpit of our hearts and commence to preaching a call for us to be careful with God because He is scary and mean. I have no space here to write about the added element of Satan’s voice coming in at these moments to accuse God to us. The Liar does not miss any opportunity to insert some distance between you and the Father. Anger can turn to fear. Fear can turn to bitterness. Bitterness can turn to a growing sense of distance between you and your Maker. Before we realize what has happened, our unreliable motions have taken the reins of our relationship with God and we are listening to them instead of God’s Spirit.
My next post will seek to help those who are struggling in these areas. For now, my only counsel is for all of us to be honest with ourselves and our God, especially if we identify with how David responded in anger or fear to the unexpected activity of God. When He bursts our balloons, throws water on our campfire, and interrupts our celebratory path, it is a pivotal moment with us that He is facilitating.
How do we trust, love and enjoy God when He did not stop the thing that hurt us? How do we dethrone our negative emotions and begin to enthrone truth again?
That question will be answered in my next post.