1 Samuel 4:1-7:2
The significance of the Ark of the Covenant goes without question when considering Israelite history. Known to be the visible sign of the presence of God, the Ark was taken into battle as a reminder for the Jews to say, “God is with us!” However, one thing that the Ark was not was a mere token of accomplishing what man wanted done. After suffering a loss on the battlefield against the Philistines, the Israelites think that simply bringing the Ark would help them succeed in areas that they failed. But the Lord allows for a second defeat to the Philistines the next day and the Ark is captured. As a way of fulfilling God’s judgment on Eli and his sons, we read of their demise during and following the battle.
The rest of the narrative interestingly does not account for Samuel or any other Israelite for that matter. Instead, the story narrates the Philistine perspective of housing the Ark in their country. The Philistines showed some acknowledgement and fear of the covenant God of Israel and even recalling to mind the plagues in Egypt (4:8). For the duration of the seven months that the Ark is with the Philistines, it does nothing but bring plague and tumors to those who come near it. The Philistines then shuttle the Ark from city to city hoping to rid themselves of the unwanted side effects of this spoil of war. The final resolution is to return the Ark back to Israel along with guilt sacrifices as a way of acknowledging their defilement of such a consecrated artifact.
While it is quite remarkable to see the various means to which the Philistines approached the Ark, one thing is made certain: it did not belong there. As a way of being sentenced to their demise, the Ark is lost while in the spiritual care of Hophni and Phinehas (4:4). But the presence of God always belonged to the very people he established His covenant with. What Jesus does in his salvific work is invite us into that covenant community, the very community that communes with the presence of the living God.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9, 10
- Rev. Nameun Cho
This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.