During the previous three posts on this blog, I have been answering comments from blogger ClubSchadenFreude. She left those comments on a previous post of mine. ClubSchadenFreude is an atheist, and you can read her blog posts on WordPress. In her comments on my post, she said (among other things) this:
No reason to think you or anyone else knows what this god is “like” since Christians cannot agree on that nor show that their version is the right one. What do you think about a god that kills a child for the actions of its parents, a god taht [sic] requires a man to make a choice between freedom and his family, a god that kills a people who are ruled by a king and who can’t do anything about him, a god who kills a man who simply tried to keep this god’s magic box upright, if not vicious? If a human tried to make people do these things, killed children, etc, would you think that human vicious?
Your bible betrays your claims of a good and benevolent god.
I’d like to address her final point in this last blog.
The last charge
… a god who kills a man who simply tried to keep this god’s magic box upright….
I’ve been addressing ClubSchadenFreude’s points in order, and this is the last one that leads her to conclude that Your bible betrays your claims of a good and benevolent god.
In many ways, I think her earlier points were better ones than this one, as I think the answer here is pretty obvious, and I’m surprised she didn’t see it.
What’s she talking about?
So, when ClubSchadenFreude refers to “god’s magic box,” what’s she talking about?
She’s derisively referring to the Ark of the Covenant. Of course, calling the Ark of the Covenant “god’s magic box” is insulting to Jewish people and Christians alike — and possibly to Muslims, too. I’m going to refer to to the Ark of the Covenant as the Ark when I don’t use it’s full name.
The incident to which ClubSchadenFreude refers is recorded in two places: 2 Samuel 6: 1 – 12 and in 1 Chronicles 13: 1 – 14 and 1 Chronicles 15: 11 – 26. The passages in Chronicles have, I feel, a more complete account, but I’m using both as references. Here’s a Reader’s Digest version of the event.
David decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Previously, it resided in Kiriath-jearim, where it had been since it was stolen by the Philistines. (1 Samuel 6: 1 – 1 Samuel 7:2)
Actually, I’m a little surprised ClubSchadenFreude didn’t mention this incident, too. When the Ark was first made, there were restrictions on it. It was supposed to be carried, and no one — not even a priest from the line of Levi — was supposed to look at the things in the Ark except the sons of Aaron. (Numbers 4:17 – 20). When the Philistines return the Ark because God struck the Philistines (again 1 Samuel 6: 1 – 1 Samuel 7:2), some of the men of Beth-shemesh decide to take a peek inside it. God strikes fifty-thousand seventy men (50,070) to death because they satisfied their curiosity.
To the believer, this makes perfect sense. It wasn’t like God hadn’t warned them! But to the unbeliever, this seems like overkill. It’s certainly very different from the grace and mercy we receive through Jesus Christ, isn’t it? But then, that’s why God send his Son — so we could receive mercy.
But back to David
David had the Ark put on a cart, and if you were paying attention to what I said earlier, you can see he’s already got a problem: the ark was supposed to be carried. Uzza was walking beside the Ark while the oxen pulled the cart. The Ark was nearly upset. Uzza reaches out his hand to balance the Ark, and God strikes him dead. In 2 Samuel 6:7, it says it was because of “his irreverence.”
David becomes frightened and decides to leave the Ark of the Covenant where it is, only bringing it to Jerusalem later when he realizes that he had ignored God’s commands that the Ark should be carried. (2 Chronicles 15: 13)
The point here is that, for the unbeliever, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. All Uzza did was try to keep the Ark from falling! This isn’t a crime punishable by death.
But to the believer, we realize more was happening. God sees the hearts of man. If Uzza’s actions had truly been actions of faith and reverence, he would have survived. Instead, because there was a fundamental lack of reverence in him for the holy things of God, he died — not for touching the Ark — but for his irreverence.
IS that a problem?
If you aren’t a believer, this story (and my defense of it) might give you pause. You might worry about Christians establishing some kind of theocracy in which irreverent behavior is given the death penalty, but in the Judaeo-Christian west — and because of that Judaeo-Christian understanding — this is recognized as wrong. Christians are under a new covenant, in which grace, mercy, and forgiveness is offered to everyone freely and without conditions through faith in Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus died for everyone, and we know that under the New Covenant, each man and woman has a choice.
Uzza did not receive mercy for his irreverence. He disdained a holy God and paid the ultimate price for it.
But that doesn’t have to be your end or mine. Forgiveness is offered. The choice is ours.