David was really ticked.
He thought he was doing what God wanted him to do. He thought that God would be pleased that the Lord Almighty was to be restored with honor and reverence by transporting the ark of the covenant back to Israel. David thought that God would honor their intent even though the people didn’t fully prescribe or carry out precisely the instructions God gave to move it. Despite good intentions, God expects to be obeyed completely.
If only David would have truly feared God, tragedy would not have befallen on a day meant for triumph.
While moving the ark on a cart driven by oxen, the cart suddenly stumbled. Instinctively, perhaps without thinking, a man named Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark (1 Chron. 13:9). Instantly the Lord struck him down and he died. A sudden pall came over the throngs gathered and the celebration came to a sudden halt. Unfortunately, greater care was not given by David and the organizers. They did not carry out God’s precise commands to prevent any possibility that a human hand would touch the ark. In what should have been a great cause for worship, turned out to be a great offense. And God was not pleased.
God takes His Word very seriously. He is perfect and holy, and we are not. Even though God does look at the heart of faith for the forgiveness of sins, He also looks at the acts. By not carrying out what God prescribes in His Word, people exhibit an absence of trust or faith. Taking God at His Word is serious. God expects his commands to be obeyed completely, with outward actions and inward motivations both confirming exactly to his stated will.
David responded to God’s anger with anger of his own, but it was short-lived. He realized his grave error. The fear of God was renewed as he realized what a holy God Israel served. The next time the ark was to be transported, greater care was going to be given to carry out God’s explicit instructions (1 Chronicles 15).
“David had learned to be suspicious of his own will and less inclined to follow his own thoughts and desires, however pious they might have seemed to himself and to others. …As we pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ we need to ask God that his will be formed in us, rather than that he conform to our will. We need to ask God to give us patience as he breaks our will and shows us the more excellent way. We need to beg the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, not only to give us the grace to seek out what he wants for us in any given matter, but also to want what he wants with a hold and ardent desire.” (Paul Wendland)