It seems that God allows the Ark of the Covenant to remain in the hand of the Philistines for seven months rather than rest with His own rebellious people. While the Ark of the Covenant remains with the Philistines they learn that God is holy and that He is to be feared. Tired of the plagues they devise a plan to return the Ark to its rightful owners.
God strikes down seventy of the men of Beth Shemesh because "they had looked into the ark of the LORD." Their natural curiosity and lack of reverence toward God cost them their lives. Ordinarily the Ark of the Covenant remained behind the veil in the Holy of Holies and was maintained by the Levites. The Israelites, however, had taken it into battle with them seven months earlier; they had foolishly thought that to have the Ark of the Covenant accompany them into battle would ensure victory.
Hophni and Phineas, Eli's wicked sons, had so dishonored the LORD in their ministry that the people no longer respected the Ark of the Lord. In an act of desperation they "used" the Ark as a magic thing, thinking that "it will save us from our enemies." Their disdain for the Ark had infected the men of Beth Shemesh; so now this judgment has come upon them.
The lessons from this judgment are clear and compelling.
- God's ministers must give God His due reverence especially before or in front of the people of God. As goes the leaders so go the people. Spiritual leaders are responsible to teach and live in such a way that their people know that God is holy and they know how to approach holy things.
- Unchecked, natural curiosity can lead people into trouble. Even though the people had not been taught by the priests to not touch the Ark of the Covenant God still held them responsible and they were punished. This should warn spiritual leaders that when they aren't what they should be that it costs those around them.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: 1 Samuel 6:1-7:17
- What do the Philistines understand about God and the Ark of the Covenant?
- How do the Philistines differ from the Israelites in their treatment of the ark of the covenant?
- What do the people of Beth Shemesh learn about God?
- What does Samuel say to the people at Kiriath Jearim that repentance would involve?
- How does God protect Israel against the Philistines during their time of assembly with Samuel?
- What had Samuel failed to learn from Eli regarding parenting?
- Describe what having a king would mean for the people of Israel.
- Review the regulations Moses gave the people regarding their choice of a king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
Pray for the leaders of your church. Pray that they will walk in the fear of the Lord and honor Him as holy.