I have a question about God making exceptions to his law. In 1 Samuel 21:1-6, David was allowed to take the consecrated bread only the priests were to eat. I know that the priest had compassion on David because he was in need. Yet in 2 Samuel 6:1-6, when Uzzah was struck down for trying to steady the ark, there was no grace. God taught in the Law that no one but the Levites were to touch the ark. Why is that God allowed David to eat the sacred bread, yet struck down Uzzah? -- Brian Cattaneo (Long Beach)

Great question! Your query, and the theological quandary it underscores, is expressed in Romans 11:22: "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God." God is strict, from one angle, yet merciful and flexible, from another. Both are characteristics of his deity, and both aspects are present in spiritual, Christlike individuals on the earth today.

Yet though the instances have some points in common, there is a difference between the them. In the case of the sacred bread, the illegality of non-priests eating it is not so obvious in the Torah; it is for the sons of Aaron to eat, yet is not explicitly forbidden to others--though this is implied (Leviticus 8:31, 24:9). On the other hand, approaching or touching the holy things often required a stern discipline in the Law, and touching the ark was a very serious offense. The death penalty was required (Number 1:51). Had no one learned from the citizens of Beth Shemesh, where, a few centuries before, irreverence led to the death of not one, but seventy, persons (1 Samuel 6:19)? In other words, there was far less excuse for Uzzah's irreverence (2 Samuel 6:7) than for Ahimelech's generous sharing of his food with David and his men (1 Samuel 21:6).

Your question, I believe, is David's (initial) question. Remember how he reacted on learning that the Lord had struck down Uzzah? He was angry (1 Chronicles 13:11); God was being so unfair! And David was afraid (1 Chronicles 13:12). And yet he considered the stipulation of the Law that only certain Levites were allowed to handle the ark - and even then, only indirectly, carrying it with poles (Exodus 25:15) inserted into the carrying rings. David learned from the law and moved on (1 Chronicles 15:2.)

We serve a God who is willing to make exceptions, but the exercise of distinguishing the issues surrounding Ahimelech and Uzzah should have taught us not to be presumptuous. The best approach: be sure we know God's word, lean towards the conservative side, and rejoice when we see a clear instance of God's making an "exception."

See also the longer response by John Clayton. Click here.

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