This week we are going to look at a few examples of people who tried to do things for God and learned that God has a way of doing things. Let's begin with a story in the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel parts of it are also found in 1st Chronicles.
In the days before Israel had kings, the Lord would give them a prophet to lead them when they would stray and get in trouble. Just a little word to the wise, EVERY time Israel strayed they got in trouble. The next to last of these prophet leaders which were called Judges was a man named Eli. Eli was a fairly good judge but he had two evil sons that he did not correct. If you want to read the story about Eli, his sons and how Samuel came to be a prophet, it may be found in 1st Samuel chapters 1-4.
In those days Israel's chief enemy was the Philistines. They had just lost a battle with them 1st Samuel 4:2 so the elders decided to take the Ark of the covenant to the next fight. If you don't know what the ark is, read Exodus 25:10-22 where Moses was commanded by God to have it made.
This ark represented the presence of God to the Israelis and they assumed that with it present they could not lose. What they may not have known was that God had pronounced judgment on Eli and his house because of his two evil sons who went with the ark to the battle chapter 3 verses 11-14. To shorten the story, they take the ark, loose the battle and the ark, the sons of Eli get killed and when Eli hears he falls and breaks his neck. Eli's daughter in law has a baby at the same time and names him Ichabod, meaning the glory is departed; 1st Samuel 4:3-22.
Before we continue let me make a few observations at this point. First read verses 5-8 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
This battle occurred about 400 years after the exodus and still the people remembered how God had delivered the Israelis from Egypt. They would overcome their fear and win the battle but it makes one wonder why, if they remembered and believed the story, they would fight God's people in the first place. Perhaps there is a greater battle occurring in the spiritual realm that plays itself out in the physical. Perhaps the fallen angels know when God's people make themselves vulnerable through their sin and use the people they have deceived to try and rid the earth of them.
Second the Israelis incorrectly believed that the presence of the ark would deliver them. When the children of Israel were wondering in the desert they got themselves in trouble and God sent fiery serpents to punish them. They repented and God had Moses make a brass serpent on a pole and everyone who was bitten and looked at the object lived, Numbers 21:5-9. Later the serpent on the pole became a problem and King Hezekiah would have to destroy it because the people were burning incense to it 2 Kings 18:4.
It seems that we humans need something we can look at to put our faith in. EVERY TIME we do this, it is idolatry. Even if it is something God had everything to do with it in the first place. In a book called Fox's Book of Martyrs, which everyone should read at some time, there are stories of early Protestants that died rather than worship a crucifix. Worship the Savior that hung on the cross to pay for sin, even though the cross is a reminder of that supreme act of love, there is no more power in an image of it than there is in a rabbit's foot. Some of the early settlers of this (US) country would permit no images at all. Personally i think we have lost something by relaxing that standard so much.
Keep in mind that it will be an image that the world will worship in Revelations. Also keep in mind the second commandment, the first part of which says Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Exodus 20:4. Not to be too harsh but if there are paintings of Jesus on the wall and none of His words in the heart, that person will be eternally disappointed at the judgment.
In the case with the ark, the two sons of Eli who accompanied it to battle, were taking for themselves the sacrifices the people brought for God. If that wasn't bad enough they were committing fornication with the women that came to worship God, and Eli and the people allowed it to occur. Small wonder that God would allow them to be punished, but lets find out what happened to the ark.
Chapters 5, 6, and the first two verses of 7 of 1st Samuel tell the story of the ark's stay with the Philistines, how they returned it, and where it was for the next 20 years. Briefly, the Philistines were punished by God for their deed.
After 7 months they got together and decided to return it. Verses 2-8 of chapter 6; And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.
Here we see that the rulers of the Philistines and their priests and false prophets had more sense than the Egyptians. They let the ark go back to Israel before they and their people were devastated like Egypt was. They even sent a trespass offering with it. Note the method that was used to transport the ark, a new cart and cattle, we will see this method again in the future. The first Israeli town the ark comes to takes the cart and the cattle and make a sacrifice to God for returning the ark but they also look into it which is a no no. After they are plagued they call the inhabitants of another town which retrieves the ark and there it stays for 20 years.
After Eli's death Samuel was established as prophet in charge and he begins to return Israel to their God and His ways. 1st Samuel 7:3,4 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. When the children of Israel got their hearts and deeds right before God they defeated the Philistines, with God's help and had a more peaceful existence, verses 5-14.
Lets skip ahead several years and pick up the story when David goes to retrieve the ark and bring it to Jerusalem. In the mean time Saul has become king of Israel and done things his way until God removed him and replaced him with David, who God said was a man after His own heart. For the more complete story we will go to 1st Chronicles beginning with chapter 13. And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us: And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul. And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjathjearim. And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjathjearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perezuzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me? So David brought not the ark home to himself to the city of David, but carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the family of Obededom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obededom, and all that he had.
Here we see David had pure motives and even worshipped the Lord in an acceptable manner yet he used the same method to transport the ark that the diviners and priests of the Philistines had used. When David learned that Obededom was blessed by the ark he would try again but not until he did his homework.
Whether someone told him or he read it himself is not sure but God had clearly stated how the ark was to be carried to Moses in Exodus and David had learned his lesson. In 1st Chronicles 15 we see David giving instructions to the people including the priests, verses 11-13 And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab, And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. We also see in verse 1 that he had prepared a place for it this time. Look at verses 25 and 26 and see the difference in this attempt. So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obededom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. This time David did things God's way and was successful. He would go on to establish the order of worship and appoint priests, and his son would build the first temple in Jerusalem.
Well there are a lot of other lessons to learn from this period in the history of Israel, and the life of David but lets save them for another day. Hope ya'll are staying cool out there and until next week the God who created the heaven and the earth bless and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace.