In the book of 1Samuel 5 & 6, we find the ark of the covenant being captured by the Philistines and then being carried from town to town with interesting events that accompany that journey. While the story is interesting, it also points toward several spiritual truths.
- The collective will of man decides the course of history: Even though the ark was the ‘seat’ of the Lord, God allows the Philistines to capture it and take it away from Israel. This dramatic event coincided with the end of the decadent era of Eli’s reign as high priest. The adverse leadership of Eli and his sons, along with the conscious participation of the people of Israel in a lifestyle of worldliness, rejected the Lord and in an ill-advised battle with the Philistines, lost not only thirty four thousand men, but also the ark of the Lord. Eli’s family was killed as well. As Eli’s grandson, was being born, his dying mother names him ‘Ichabod’ which meant ‘the glory has departed from Israel’. People can decide whether to retain the glory of the Lord in their personal and collective lives or to let it leave. And what a tragedy it is when the presence of the Lord departs from families, churches and nations who once knew God!
- God’s sovereignty reigns supreme: The sequence of events that follows the capture of the ark with people being afflicted by tumors and death, with Dagon the Philistine god’s image being shattered, with the panic generated and the eventual return of the ark to Israel shows that God is anything but helpless even though the will of man decides the course of history. He can and will accomplish his purposes in this world. All who recognize that fact and willingly submit, will turn out to be winners whereas all who don’t, will eventually lose.
- Abundance comes from alignment: It follows from the reality of God’s sovereignty that failure to align oneself to the will of God will lead to much grief. The Philistines had no idea of the power that was amidst them and ignorance was no excuse for relief from judgment. They were afflicted with tumors and death, rats infested their towns and panic gripped them. Through it all, ironically the Philistine nation comes to a point of recognition of the glory of the Yahweh God, something that the nation of Israel had failed to do. They end up paying homage to the Lord, encourage each other not to harden their hearts and send the ark back with great respect and a guilt offering to the Lord.
- God’s holiness is to be revered: Through the journey that unfolds, God’s holiness is exhibited, often with disastrous consequences. People who disrespectfully look inside the ark die, people who keep the ark apart from God’s will are struck down with disease whereas those who keep the ark as ordained by the Lord are blessed. It is disastrous to be found on the wrong side of God. His name is to be revered above all else. The Israelites, in receiving back the ark and making way for Samuel’s leadership learnt that lesson, albeit the hard way.
There are times when God shakes the world out of its slumber and deviant behavior. The journey of the ark was one such event.
- THE EFFORT TO FIND REST
- ABOLITION OF FEAR