Defilement is dangerous; the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 from the Bible makes this plain. He was helping move the ark of God to Jerusalem (the ark was a box that contained the 10 commandments from the Tawrat written by God on tablets and given to Moses). The ark was put in an ox cart and they were merrily making their way. “And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled” (2 Samuel 6:6).
His desire was noble. The ark was holy, for it contained the very word of God. He did not want it to fall onto the ground. The problem was that he did not take into account the holiness of God and his commands regarding who could come near to him and in what way.
Touching the ark was off limits, especially for a non-Levite.1 The ark was the symbol of God’s presence and therefore the holiest thing on earth. Uzzah was not only disobeying the clear commands of scripture regarding who could carry the ark, but he was also wrong to presume he was properly purified and consecrated to even touch the ark. God’s holy judgment was swift and severe, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:7).
Approaching the holy while unclean or unconsecrated is deadly. One cannot simply presume to enter the Holy One’s presence. To enter God’s presence we must be made ready and we must enter through the way he has provided, that is, through the cleansing and forgiveness that God provides in the sacrifices. Worship is truly weighty, for it is a matter of life and death. If the priests failed to be purified from their defilements before worshipping the Lord, they would be cut off from his people, that is, they would be cut off from God himself.2
1. The Levites were the tribe of Israel that had been commanded by God to be the ones who were responsible for leading worship and caring for all the elements involved in worship. Among the Levites, only the Kohathites could actually carry the ark. However, even they were not allowed to touch it. God makes this clear in the Tawrat in Numbers 4:15, “the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die.”
2. Speaking of the priests, the Tawrat says, “The person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the Lord’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people” (Leviticus 7:20).
Other posts in this series
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing