THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
The Ark of the Covenant has just gone through many of the chief cities of the Philistines and rendered great destruction upon their people and gods. The Ark came out of Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh and was brought presumptuously into the midst of the battle with the Philistines. Israel lost the battle and they lost the Ark. The Ark of the Covenant resided in the cities of the Philistines for a period of seven months. The Philistines had seen enough, they sought for a way to have the Ark returned back to Israel. God demonstrated His power against the Philistines without any help from Israel; it was His victory alone. It is God’s intent for His people to share in His triumphs but it must be on His terms. This will certainly be true at the time of the 2nd coming when He comes to reclaim the earth with ten thousands of his saints. (Rev 19:11-16) This is why we study this period in Israel’s history. The Old Testament pattern seen in this account provides valuable insights for the church of the last days.
Arrangements were made for the Ark to be returned to Bethshemesh. (1Sam 6:9) The name means “House of the sun”. The people of Israel rejoiced as they witnessed the Ark’s return. (vs 13) It did not take long before another significant judgement came upon Israel as over 50,000 people were smitten. (vs 19) What happened; what was the reason for this massive slaughter of people? It appears they still had problems with presuming upon the presence of God as they carelessly looked into the Ark of the Lord. It is abundantly clear that there was no Fear of the Lord in the way they related to God. Their alarming casualness should give all of us pause for concern. Israel came to the revelation that God indeed is Holy and not to be trifled with. God was making clear that no ordinary group of priests was going to be representing Him from this time forward. This transition is a picture of what we can look forward to in the days ahead. The message of holiness and the Fear of the Lord is going to again come to the church; this time on a much heightened scale. Will we have the credentials or will we be satisfied with something far less? It is a decision we will have to make and it is one we will be tested on.
The men of Bethshemesh made arrangements for the men of Kirjath-jearim to come and get the Ark. Soon afterwards it was brought to the house of Abinadab and resided there for about 20 years. It was also a time when Samuel, the prophet and priest took charge in leading Israel into a state of repentance. God was cleaning house in Israel. Samuel was mightily used in not only leading the nation into repentance but also preparing the way for a new order of king and priest. Up until this time the nation of Israel has yet to have a king. That was about to change as we are soon introduced to the life of King Saul. He was the people’s choice but he was not God’s preferred man. (1Sam 8:7) They wanted to be ruled like the other nations of their known world. They wanted God to give them a king but they did not want God to be king and Lord over them. This scenario played out similarly during the time of Jesus. They wanted to force Jesus to become king for the wrong reasons. (John 6:14-15)
If we are honest it is not too difficult to make parallels to our day. This is why this study on the Ark of the Covenant has such deep meaning for the church. Do we not seek to manoeuvre and manipulate God to our self-serving agendas? Do we not also have an occasional tendency to take him for granted? This is often seen in modern day worship services where we approach God on a casual basis. Israel, under Samuel’s capable leadership was becoming acquainted with the Fear of the Lord.
We find that Saul lightly regarded the presence of God as king. His leadership set an unhealthy precedent amongst the people.
1Ch 13:3 And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.
Let’s try and put a few things into perspective; Moses Tabernacle was still functioning at Gibeon but it no longer had the Ark. Can you imagine going to a church service that is void of his presence? Sad to say this is becoming more the norm when it comes to the subject of the Presence of God. The form and ritual is there but the anointing and presence has left. The preparation of the true priest and king is still in its formation stage. Samuel, is the priest and prophet that God has appointed in helping to facilitate this transition. Can we see the parallels?
King Saul had early successes which resulted in the people feeling vindicated in their demand for a king.
1Sa 11:12 And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.
This is one of the primary ways that deception takes root; early success indicates vindication. This account demonstrates the smugness of those who opposed the people of the truth. This will certainly be an issue in the last days. The Apostle Jude warns of the personalities of Cain, Balaam and Korah as those who will oppose the messengers of integrity. These are men who once walked with God but who made allowances for uncircumcision of heart. This was certainly true of Saul and he was soon to be tested on it.
1Sa 13:11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
Let us not forget that Saul was the people’s choice. He presumed himself to do the office of as priest in direct violation of the law of God. (1 Sam 13:13) It is here where God makes a clear distinction of the manner of king that will one day serve him.
1Sa 13:14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.
It was here where jealousy and envy began to grip Saul. It is a picture of the opposition that will arise in the last days towards those who have a heart for Zion. We will either be serious in our walk with God or be in the position of later opposing those who have a vision for Zion; the place the Lord has chosen for His habitation. (Psa 132:13) Those who are willing to pay the price will provoke and expose the hypocrisy and casual regard that the majority of churchgoers bring to the table today. The middle ground is eroding between the two; will we be more like a David or a Saul? Will be more like a David and Samuel or more inclined to be a Cain, Korah and Balaam? God is looking for kings and priests who are made and likened to that of the most high-God. It is the true priest and king who will become acquainted with the heart of God. (1Sam 2:35, 1 Sam 13:14)
Let us not forget that there is a preparation in the formation of a true king and priest. This is clearly seen in the life of King David. He was anointed king at a young age but did not reign as king for several years afterwards. Can we appreciate the process and make application for our own life? How many would have endured the humiliation and discouragement that David went through? Does our theology today make allowance for such experiences? We will later examine the process and preparation that David went through. Is this brief study of the Ark of the Covenant really applicable for our day? Is there a New Testament verse that can help put this message into a proper perspective?
1 Jn 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
The Ark of the Covenant speaks of the Presence of God. In following the Ark we are in fact walking in the places where the Lord is leading. The question before us is whether we have a love for light and truth. Do we allow the Lord to lead us to the throne of grace where we can experience that Divine exchange? Do we have the Fear of the Lord?
This is how kings and priests are made and it represents the quality of people that God will one day allow the privilege of bearing His presence; men and women like David who truly carry His heart.
In our final instalment we will examine the preparation process as seen through David and others. We will also see the Ark of the Covenant coming to its resting place at Zion under the custodial care of a true king and priest.