1 Samuel 6:19-7:2
19 But some of the people of Beth Shemesh looked into the ark of the Lord. So he struck them down. He put 70 of them to death. The rest of the people were filled with sorrow. That’s because the Lord had killed so many of them. 20 The people of Beth Shemesh said, “The Lord is a holy God. Who can stand in front of him? Where can the ark go up to from here?” 21 Then messengers were sent to the people of Kiriath Jearim. The messengers said, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” 7 1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and got the ark of the Lord. They brought it up to Abinadab’s house on the hill. They set his son Eleazar apart to guard the ark. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim for a long time. It was there for a full 20 years. Then all the Israelites turned back to the Lord.
“Can’t live with Him, can’t live without Him.” This seems to be the rhetoric of the Israelites in these verses. They’re mourning at first because 70 men have been killed for looking into the Ark of the Lord – they cry out “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” So they decide to send the Ark away, but then mourn for 20 years because it seems the Lord has abandoned them! Their mistake here is in their response to God’s holiness. When they encountered some part of Him that they couldn’t understand, they pushed Him away in fear, rather than reaching out to Him in faith.
It’s often easy to judge the actions of those in the Bible with the benefit of hindsight, but in reality the weakness and struggles they faced are common to humanity. I know that I often get caught in a cyclical push/pull relationship with God, just like the Israelites in this story. I have a crisis and realise my need for God and draw near! Then I experience His holiness and it all seems too much – the call is too great, the sacrifice is too much, His goodness is too overwhelming – so I push Him away. Back and forth, back and forth. But this isn’t how God intended us to live with Him. What we need to do is learn to always switch on our faith, trusting God and pressing in to Him more, no matter what is going on around us.
Jesus, help me to always have faith in You. In every situation – good or bad, easy or hard, simple or complex – help me to learn the way of faith, and not turn to fear. I know You are good, I know You’re always near, I know You love each of us more than we know. Help me to live out of that truth.
Written by Matt Samperi