What I Don’t Understand About God..

Ok..I’ll admit it..there’s a TON I don’t understand about God. There are times when reading His Word frustrates me. And as a pastor, well, I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to talk about how every encounter with the Bible is life-changing, with clouds parting and angelic beings whispering deeper insights into my ears..all for me to share with those who will listen.

But..well..some days God’s justice and His grace are both frustrating.

Yesterday we were reading 2 Samuel 6; the story is about David and the Israelite troops returning the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem (yeah, you remember it from Raiders of the Lost Ark).
Now, they began the journey all wrong by rolling it back on a cart which wasn’t the way God had instructed for it to be transported. Exodus 37:5 and Numbers 4:15 both describe that the Ark was to be carried with specific poles. So, strike one.. At some point as they were traveling, one of the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. This angered the Lord and He struck Uzzah dead on the spot.

Everyone is singing, dancing, playing instruments to the Lord..they are worshiping full force as they return the Ark.
It’s a mobile party filled with happy folks who are celebrating God’s goodness and provision.

but a stupid animal stumbles..
the holy Ark of God appears as if it may fall over..
a man with pure motives and good intentions reaches out, maybe even by instinct, to protect the Ark from falling..
and it ANGERS God?!?!?!
so much so that He kills the man on the spot!?!?!

  • Is Uzzah in heaven?
  • How does this display of God’s anger affect the others who witness this?
  • Will they forever be fearful of making a mistake?
  • Even making a mistake by doing what appears to be the right thing to do?
  • It certainly affects David..
  • And how do we interpret this today?

I want to follow after God..
I want to please Him..
I want to have a healthy fear of Him..
But I want to feel secure that God won’t smite me while I try to do what I THINK He’s called me to do..

It’s a crazy story..and I feel like I understand all of the Sunday School answers that accommodate this passage..like:

  • it’s more important to obey God than react to a situation..
  • and we can’t trust our own motives..
  • and ignorance of the Law is no excuse..

But I have to admit..it all feels cold after reading what happened to Uzzah.

(Wrestling with God on this one today, yall..but so thankful that He can handle the tough questions and doubt, and even frustration that I may hurl His way. He is a mysterious God..and I don’t have to understand Him completely to love Him entirely.)

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  • Evanposey

    Sorry, my earlier response (which I stand by) was a little premature.  I did not finish your blog. I understand that you are aware of this historical/grammatical exegesis.  I guess the bigger issue then is the one you raise, “but I have to admit…it all feels cold after reading what happened to Uzzah”.  

    I completely understand.  We would love for the story to read…”and as the ark appeared to fall, Uzzah caught the ark from falling into the dirt and disgracing the glory of God.  Then God honored Uzzah’s willingness to protect the reputation of God.”

    This sounds better doesn’t it?  It sounds…dare I use the “f word”….fair!  Here in lies the problem.  What is fair?  It is a moral concept is it not?  That is to say, fairness is an extension of justice.  Our concepts of fairness are either…grounded in a subjective morality or an objective morality.  I would argue that our fuller understanding of this issue is wrapped up in this concept.  

    I find it ironic however that we typically call foul on account of fairness in this situation, but not at the cross….

  • Evanposey

    This post seems rather timely as I finish a course on exerting the old testament.

    Is Uzzah in heaven? – don’t know.

    How does this display of God’s anger affect the others who witness this?- I imagine the stark realization that God means what he says comes to mind. (btw, we must not assume that Uzzah has good intentions. Even if he did he, good intentions are not enough to satisfy a righteous God.)

    Will they forever be fearful of making a mistake? -Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom is it not?

    Even making a mistake by doing what appears to be the right thing to do?- that’s just it, God made it clear that touching the ark was not the right thing to do.

    It certainly affects David..
    And how do we interpret this today?- the text cant mean what it never meant so we must fight the temptation to allegorize this episode. In a theocracy like the Israelite nation, God’s Law (which the ark contains) is the basis for Israel’s salvation. This is not the only action in the OT that had capital punishment as the consequence. The point is, God desired that Israel be holy as he is holy. This is accomplished by Israel’s obedience to His word no matter how trivial it may seem.

    So, if complete obedience to the law satisfies God, and it does, what hope do we have even with the “trivial” things? Christ satisfies the Law and does what it and we could not.

    • I am thankful for Jesus. Best point on the comment.
      But c’mon Evan, put yourself in their shoes for a moment..they just saw a man killed because he seemingly responded like any human would. Probably instinctual. And in the same way we can’t presume Uzzah’s good intentions, we can’t assume he has bad intentions. The scene was a celebratory one and the oxen stumbled..I’m not sure how you could even suggest there is any ill-motive. Ok, so you’re walking alongside the most holy thing on the planet, and it begins to tip over..what really would your response be? Are you saying you would jump out of the way, and let it crash to the ground? Would there be any punishment for that? Which seems more irreverent?

      God is God..and He can only be right..never wrong..so I’m not questioning His rightness..I’m just being honest about how difficult it is to swallow at times. No Sunday School answer or perfect doctrine will make it any easier.

      • Evanposey

        “Put yourself in their shoes”? – that is exactly what historical/grammatical exegesis is attempting to do.  With that said, I would have to do the same for all the other Jews that did not attempt to catch the ark.  Apparently Uzzah did not respond like any human would.  Don’t fall into the trap that your other reader did in assuming something I did not explicitly state.  I do not assume that Uzzah had “bad” intentions.  You assume he has “good’ ones.  My point was that even if he did have good intentions, it is irrelevant since “good” intentions do not satisfy God.  

        The matter of irreverence is one regarding the referent of the action.  There is no ethical dilemma for Uzzah here.  I realize its difficult.  

        Also, I sense a pejorative use of “sunday school answer” however.  If the sunday school answer is the answer that takes into account the evidence as a whole, and helps move toward resolution to an admittedly awkward text, then why should it be dismissed as merely a “sunday school” answer as if it were elementary.  

        The doctrine here is not my doctrine but God’s is it not.  Namely, “I am holy” conjoined with “don’t touch the ark” (paraphrases). I am simply dealing forthrightly with the text when I offer these suggestions.  Does this options appear to simplistic?  And if so, what other resolutions can we come to?

        • Evan,

          I’m sorry if I sounded snarky..I might have been reading your response in the same frame of reference as the other commenter. So, I may have let your short answers to my rhetorical questions kinda get to me. They felt cold and heartless and nearly dismissive to me (notice I said how they made me “feel”..not whether or not they are factual, accurate, or histo-exegetical-whatever-you-said..I have no idea what that means.)

          Honestly, I felt like you were talking condescendingly to me.
          I have been transparent with my struggle “emotionally” with understanding this passage. The incredible and powerful justice demonstrated by God here..and trying to reconcile that with many events in the New Testament that display His amazing and underserved grace. (Not that his justice and His grace are in contest..I know in my head they are not..but I can’t escape the emotion of it, nor the “fairness”.)

          I do have difficulty, and speak pejoratively often (although I like to call it the nicer word “wit”), when people try to explain how they have God figured out (not that you are doing that even, I’ll admit that I might have read it with the wrong tone of voice in my head.) So, I tried to go ahead and make reference to the Sunday School answers in both the original blog post and then in response to your comments. I was trying to say, yes, I have thought about them..and they don’t make reconciling my heartbreak for Uzzah any easier.

          I do appreciate your perspective and love that you chime in. You always teach me something. I am an emotional creature who is created by God that way. I feel for Uzzah and wish he had gotten a second chance. Yes, I DO long for the ending of the story to be the one you offered in your second reply. And I’m thankful that we both agree that Jesus covers all of this!

          I will err on the side of compassion and grace. I hope I always do. However, I believe in His ultimate truth and justice. Again, even if I don’t like it, or even if I can’t reconcile it with my emotions, I will still follow. I will still fear. I will still honor. I will still worship.

          Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us..we all can gain from your learning.

          • Evanposey

            No worries.  I intentionally steer clear of emotive language so that it does not color my exegesis (interpretation).  Not to mention, it is notoriously hard to decipher one’s emotional intention in a blog (this is why we utilize things like, :), lol, etc.)

            Historical/Grammatical exegesis is the interpretive approach that uses the historical context and grammatical usage as its primary interpretive tools.

            Although not the only hermeneutical tool, it is a vital one.  Since we have the gift of ministering to the same community, I would love to meet with you to discuss hermeneutics in general and historical/grammatical hermeneutics in specific.  Or, you could check out a few seminary classes that address this issue.  

            2 Timothy 2:15

  • Melanie

    You are not alone. I think about this kind of stuff daily. I’m sure many others do, as well. Even if I don’t understand it, I still know it as complete truth; so I have to just accept that there are some things I am not supposed to comprehend.

    • FriendOfSinners

      Melanie, Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” This portion of scripture has been revealed to us so that the children of God will understand. That’s why it has been written. The major hindrance in understanding scripture is a carnal mind (i.e. interpreting scripture based upon our emotions). Most of the time when a Christian says “I don’t understand this” what they are really saying by the word ‘understand’ is “This doesn’t make me *feel good* about God.” The number one no-no in Bible exegesis is to ask the question, “How does this passage make me feel” or “What does this passage mean to me.” Scripture is there to set our affections aright. It is not there to be interpreted by them.

      • Melanie

        In some instances, that may be right. But in others, I simply don’t understand and I don’t think I am supposed to. If I understood everything, then I would be “all knowing”. God is the only one who knows all. My mind cannot wrap around and understand things dating back to the beginning…God and the Trinity. It has nothing to do with my feelings, but only has to do with the fact that our minds are too simple to comprehend such things; thus, I just accept it as truth.

        • FriendOfSinners

           Melanie, what is your understanding of Deuteronomy 29:29 in light of what you said?

          • Melanie

            My understanding of that passage is that God reveals what He wants, to whom He wants, when He wants and that there are still things (even in His word) that we will never comprehend. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
            unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33) Emotions or not, our minds were never created to fully understand our Almighty Father.

      • That’s an interesting perspective, FriendOfSinners. And I do like that thought. However, if God did create our minds and our emotions..then certainly He is well aware of how we would read and interpret Scripture through that lens. My frustration with God’s justice doesn’t change Him from being just. I’m just trying to work through it today..

        • FriendOfSinners

           Trey, God did create our minds and our emotions but you are forgetting one enormous aspect of the equation. In our natural condition as unbelievers our mind, heart, will and emotions were completely corrupt. Scripture likens them to “darkness”, “dead”, “at enmity with God” and it says of us that we are “enemies of God in our *minds* through wicked works.” How we think directly connects to how we act. But I digress.

          When scripture says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins that means the corollary of that truth is that we need to be made alive by a sovereign God. *Reference Lazarus.

          Now, fast forward to redemption. Once we are made children of God by His sovereign Spirit that doesn’t totally do away with the corruptness of our mind, heart, will and emotion. Hence the word sanctification (John 17:17).

          When you said, “God did create our minds and our emotions..then certainly He is well
          aware of how we would read and interpret Scripture through that lens” you are in effect saying that God’s truth becomes subjective based upon our emotion rather than what God actually meant in His word. What you assumed by your reply was that your emotions are an untouched
          part of the fall of man and are an infallible interpreter of the
          scriptures.

          My question to you is do you believe that our affections need redemption? Are they a reliable “lens” as you put it? Let me give you a hint. If the mind is the control center and without proper information the mind cannot communicate proper instructions, apart from the renewing of your mind (which comes by doctrine) how can your emotions be a reliable lens unless they are grounded in the mind’s understanding of the scriptures?

          • Actually, I am NOT saying that God’s truth is subjective based on my feelings. I believe His truth is truth. I don’t believe I have any say in what is His truth. I don’t have to understand it or like it. But His truth is truth.

            You say that I “assumed by (my) reply was that (my) emotions are an untouched part of the fall of man and are an infallible interpreter of the scriptures” which is a bold statement to claim to know what I assumed. What I said was, “if God did create our minds and our emotions..then certainly He is well
            aware of how we would read and interpret Scripture through that lens.” I simply said He is “aware”..meaning He is all knowing and not intimidated or surprised by our questions. I’m not assuming anything.

            You are saying that you must understand “what God actually meant in His word.” However, I feel that we can study the Bible and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, do our best to understand what God is teaching us. Even so, I am not as confident as you that we will understand everything about God until we experience His majesty eternally in our complete spiritual state minus the flesh (as in heaven).

            And I agree in the renewing of our mind as Paul encourages us to do in order to be transformed (in Romans 12:2). But I can’t agree that transformation or renewal comes by “doctrine” as you profess. Rather I believe that renewal of our mind comes from the Holy Spirit’s promptings for us to die to ourselves daily. To offer our bodies (mind included) as a holy sacrifice. This discipline of sacrifice, in the context of relationship, reorients our minds away from self and hopefully keeps us thinking of God first..as in any relationship that is based on LOVE, our mind and heart should be on the recipient of that love more than on our self. (1 Cor 13)

            So, here’s Romans 12:2 (in context with the verses surrounding it..I included verse 3 which kinda speaks to why I wrote the blog today..being honest in my evaluation of myself..and being transparent about my frustration with the Uzzah story..)

            1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,
            I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done
            for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find
            acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
            2 Don’t
            copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you
            into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to
            know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.3 Because of the privilege and authority
            God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are
            better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves,
            measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

            Thanks again for your perspective..I’m just trying to sort things out and understand what God is teaching me.

    • Glad to know I’m not alone on this journey. Thanks for sharing your struggle as well as your faith.

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