1 Samuel 6.13-7:2a
13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron. 17 These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to the Lord—one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers—the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock on which the Levites set the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. 19 But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them. 20 And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” 21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “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 took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.
This passage is the end of a fascinating story. The Philistines had just learnt the hard way, that God is holy. To treat God as less than holy was to invite the terrible consequences they experienced. So, they returned the Ark of the Lord to Israel. Now the Israelites are also reminded that God is holy.
The Israelites see the Ark returning on a cart, no one leading it, but the cows pulling the cart directly to their village. Naturally, there was a celebration. The cows were sacrificed, burnt offerings made, some Levite men set the Ark on a rock, it’s all going well until seventy men decided to have a look inside the Ark and died. The Lord’s holiness killed them.
There are no excuses, the Levite men should have known the Law and God’s clear instructions regarding the Ark. God is a holy God. His Word must be obeyed always. No exceptions, sin can not live in the presence of a holy God. Both the Philistines and the Israelites found this out. The people of the village cried out, “who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?”
Ps 119 opens with this, “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord”. (NLT)
I am reminded that we don’t obey God’s law out of fear, but because of our relationship with him, his great love for us, we are now made holy though the sacrifice of Jesus, allowing us into His presence. Blessing, wisdom and joy follow.
Father, your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Written by Andrew Martin