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Advent Devotional for Thursday, December 18
2 Samuel 6:1-11
One can hardly keep from recoiling in horror at this story. After all, Uzzah was just doing what any of us would have done, if we’d seen the Christ candle wobbling in its stand, or the memorial flower vase edging its way off the table. He reached out to steady the Ark, the vessel that bore the Commandments, the base atop which sat the Mercy Seat. The sacred symbol of God’s presence with Israel had only recently been recovered from its Philistine captivity. It wouldn’t do to have Israel’s God tumbled over in Israel’s dirt, would it? What sort of God strikes God’s helpers dead? No wonder David hesitated to bring the Ark home.
The temptation of this tale is to think of what Uzzah did, rather than the reason he did it. I suspect that Uzzah was confusing the Ark with the God whose presence the Ark symbolized. Somehow, I can’t help wondering if, in a cognitive flash faster than light itself, Uzzah didn’t see the wobbling Ark and conclude that his God—and not just a symbol of God—was about to fall, and that his intervention was needed to avert a divine catastrophe. I wonder if Uzzah thought, perhaps without really thinking it, that God needed his help.
One of the great heresies affecting the church is the domestication of God, the idea that God’s purposes can’t be accomplished without human agency. “God has no hands but our hands,” we teach our children. We mean well. But God is not safely brought under our roof. God’s kingdom is coming, God’s purposes are working themselves out, God’s will is in process, whether we offer our assistance or not. God never needs our aid. Rather, God invites our participation. Among the lessons of Advent is that God does not need our help to draw God’s creation to its consummation. Among the lessons of the Incarnation is that, in Christ, we are invited to be heralds of the hope for that consummation.
Out-breaking, unconfined God, remind us that your reign drives inexorably forward toward its day of fulfillment, and that we are invited along for the ride. Amen.
Associate Dean for Ministerial Formation & Advanced Studies
For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
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