Day 3

The Ark of the Covenant

from the 1 & 2 Samuel reading plan


1 Samuel 5:1-12, 1 Samuel 6:1-21, Exodus 10:1-2, Leviticus 5:14-17

BY Kaitlin Wernet

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 5:1-12, 1 Samuel 6:1-21, Exodus 10:1-2, Leviticus 5:14-17

I imagine the cassette tape is the kind of thing that will make my grandchildren’s eyes grow wide. They will giggle at these long gone, barely imaginable pieces of technology that have been replaced by something that is faster, smarter, and better. It will be to them what my own grandparents’ stories of their first radios and 45 records were to me.

I could tell them how my brother and I used to make recordings of our favorite songs when they came on the radio, one of us pressing play on our tape recorder at exactly the right moment while we sat there, silent and completely still, for the entirety of the song. Despite our best efforts, these recordings always seemed to consist of muffled versions of our favorite tunes, featuring the sounds of our breathing and restless fidgeting.

Our most beloved cassette tape not only included the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark, but also the static of the television we recorded it from. We could never seem to get it right, but at the time, it was worth it for the chance to carry our favorite tunes with us, playing them over and over again.

I can’t read about the Philistines carrying the ark with them without getting that same theme song stuck in my head. Of course, I could now easily pull the song up online to hear the track clearly and without distraction, but I like my crackly, static version just fine.

If I’m honest, I’m still easily persuaded that I can break God and His glory down into “good enough” pieces of religious comfort—pieces I can carry with me. The Philistines seemed to think this, too. The problem is, we’re not the ones in charge of the carrying.

The ark, roughly four feet long, was gold-plated and carried on poles that hung through rings on its sides. It was holy, created to house the tablets of the Ten Commandments and serve as a representation of God’s covenant with His people. As we read these passages together, we can all agree that things get pretty weird, right? Dagon, Ashdod’s idol-god, falls onto the ark, and then the city is afflicted with tumors (1 Samuel 5:6). Somewhere along the way, the Philistines began to believe they could move the ark however they pleased, that all of God’s goodness could be contained in a four-foot-long box.

I wonder what kind of boxes we carry with us today. Maybe it’s containing God to a specific place or restricting His character to the confines of our own small experiences. Perhaps the problem is that we’re stuffing the box with selfish pride and hopeful gain but still calling it God’s will.

Regardless, our boxes are all our own cheap versions of the one true Father, muffled by our sin and covered in the static of our humanity. Let us not mistake them for the substance of the Spirit. If we choose to carry anything with us let it be the full arc of the gospel story. Even better, let’s remember that we are the ones who need to be carried.

That’s what Jesus does for us. He carries us into the very presence of our God, in all His holiness. When the question is asked, “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20), we can trust that Jesus has made a way for us to do just that. He stood in our place and died the death we deserved so that we could approach our holy God with confidence (Ephesians 3:12).

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Post Comments (91)

91 thoughts on "The Ark of the Covenant"

  1. Kristen Clegs says:

    The Israelite’s view of God had shifted: instead of approaching Him as a person – a relationship – they used Him as a THING that could be carted around. They apparently did not believe His power could extend beyond His “box.” How often do we use God, seeing Him merely as a source of power to accomplish our own agenda, containing Him within our own understanding and plans?

    1. Brooke Swift says:

      Love this comment! Helped me understand the passage more clearly.

  2. Danya Ho says:

    Somewhere along the way, the Philistines began to believe they could move the ark however they pleased, that all of God’s goodness could be contained in a four-foot-long box.

  3. Lana says:

    This devotional was so. good. I love the illustration of how we sometimes create a problematic relationship with God. 1) because we often put the vastness of God in a box and 2) we cram our other idols (selfish pride and hopeful gain) in that same box.

    This truth requires big time meditation and I feel like it’s been a lesson God has been teaching me the past few years. The key seems to be surrender. Surrender your plans for God’s. I think that’s what made Hannah’s prayer so successful. It wasn’t that she believed she would get what she wanted. But she prayed and believed God knew the desires of her heart, then she surrendered it. Without anxiety. Just let it go. Whether God blessed her with a baby was besides the point. She surrendered and put her faith in Him.

    Ooh God please replace my boxes with your vastness. Please let it spread across my my mind and heart. Please replace my idols with your love. Help me laugh with no fear of the future. Be my joy and anticipation.

    1. Brandi says:

      ❤️ Yes!

    2. Abi says:

      I love this – Surrendering my own plans for God’s plans, not coming and begging and praying for my own plants to come to fruition, but surrendering the desires of my heart to God, who sees all things and who sees the big picture of life and eternity.

    3. Jennifer says:

      Amen

    4. christie says:

      beautiful. prayed this as well :)

    5. Haley says:

      Love this- thanks for sharing! I’m going through this study right now (Jan. 2018) and your comment is very encouraging to me!!

  4. Abbs says:

    Oh father, my god falls every day just like the philistines gods did. My eating disorder steal kills and destroys, but your love is flawless. Completely and utterly flawless. Lord above, keep me. Let me rest in your embrace moment after moment, for eternity. You carry me each step and I am yours and you are mine. My eating disorder, though it tries, only fails me. It falls and falls, leaving me empty and depressed. But your goodness shines fervently. Oh my soul, look to your Savior! Oh my God, keep me in your arms and teach me how to want thee. Show me how to worship you. Make me a servant after your heart my Lord…

    1. Lana says:

      Just said a prayer for your healing. Sending you all of my love.

    2. She Reads Truth says:

      Hi Abbs, this is Abby from the SRT team. Thank you for sharing with the community, and what a beautiful prayer! We are praying for you now, for strength, healing and encouragement. If you haven’t already, we would also encourage you to reach out and seek spiritual counsel and community from a local church, spiritual leader or a trusted mentor. Having those real life relationships and additional community support can often make such a difference as you’re facing a struggle like this. So glad to have you here!

    3. Viv says:

      Hi Abbs. As I read your post my prayers were lifted high for you to our Great God. I struggled for many years with anorexia and I understand how it steals, kills and destroys. My prayer is that you will find the healing and victory that comes through Christ and that you may see your identity as His daughter….because that is who you are:) You are so loved.

    4. Kristen House says:

      Hey Abbs, I just saw your comment too! How beautiful that God is pursuing you so faithfully and that you are wanting to grow with God!

      2 Timothy 1:9-10
      Philippians 4:11-13
      ^Those are some of my favorite verses when I face suffering!

      I am praying that you would feel God right in the midst of your suffering, that is what Jesus did for you and he will continue to be right beside you during this time! Praying you find full joy in Christ during this time and that he be glorified through your eating disorder and suffering!!

  5. Krystine says:

    I am a day behind in Samuel already but God knew what he was doing having me read about the traveling ark of the covenant today. I live in Phoenix where there is usually not much rain except for right now during monsoon season. I typically wake up at 5am to work out but have been feeling unmotivated and tired of my workouts. Today I still got up like I usually do and I am so glad I did! There was a beautiful raknbow in the pink sky of the sunrise as I walked to the gym. Then after work, there was a huge rainbow across the sky as I waited for the bus! Twice today God has put these beautiful rainbows right in front of me to remind me of his promise and love! He is so amazing!

  6. Libby says:

    What struck me was the fact that the Philistines, after their god being destroyed and being stricken with illness 5 times, STILL weren’t ready to acknowledge the power of God. They decided on a final test with the cows. COWS, people. This hit home for me. How often do I ignore God’s correction? How often do I doubt His power and authority? Then, I say things like, “Well, if this is really God’s will, then THIS will happen,” or, “If God doesn’t want me to do this, then something else will come up” – ignoring the fact that my plans frequently disintegrate before my eyes. I want to test Him. I often don’t see it that way, though. I chalk up my struggles and failures to “life” rather than taking a step back and asking our Father to quiet my spirit and allow Him to correct me and work within me. I am realizing that I rarely take correction from Him. When I don’t get the response from Him that I want, I move Him to another area in my life. I disregard His gentle nudging toward the Truth.
    This is my pride. Definitely a gut-check today.

    1. Michele says:

      Thanks Libby. That’s a good word.

  7. Sarah says:

    Lovely. I think I box God into my own nature: Giving me boxes to check and tasks to complete in order to be worthy. It’s a joke and I know better – that’s just where my fleshless nature always turns. He is better than my picture and I trust that He is slowly changing it to reflect His character better.

  8. Dana says:

    I apologize in advance, this is a long comment. I felt moved to contribute it in hopes that it will help someone in a similar situation. So, I’ve been married 27 years this Nov 2017, and have suffered emotional abuse and my spouse committing emotional and physical adultery, and all that it contains for 24 of those years. It’s been very bad. I’ve sought help/advice from many “Godly” persons and received my Biblical options, sympathy, and unsound advice. It is only because of God’s loving kindness that He gave me a vision and a promise, 3 days before everything went south, that I have been able to stand fast and not divorce, as He told me I couldn’t. Over the 27 years my alone time with God has been sporadic and I didn’t always feel His presence or seem to reap any spiritual benefit, often just intellectual knowledge. Daily for a month, then off and on for a month, no consistency. In spite of this, He has certainly been faithful to take me through many a rough patch over the years. Then I found this site about 6 months ago. I would occasionally read the study; my time with God was still off and on. At the beginning of this July, I stumbled onto the following site: vinefellowshipnetwork.org/H5NA2XDYBD8BE85ZMTOH (this leads straight to the videos). There are some amazing videos on how to maximize your time with God! 5 easy, very effective steps. I took 10 pages of notes just on the how to videos! I have been following these steps daily since the beginning of July and am so in step with God, finally! My marriage has not changed one iota. In fact I found out that my spouse had a secret appt. with a divorce attorney the other day that he has yet to tell me about. Now to the point of this study; this issue of putting God into boxes. Since I have truly been abiding in the Lord by spending focused time with Him every day, with my focus being on Him not me (guided by the info from the videos), He has given me great joy and peace. Even finding out about the attorney appt. has not shattered my joy. The Lord has given me great compassion for my spouse and the experiences he suffered as a child that he repeats in our marriage. I now know, that I know, that I know, God is with me and has a wonderful plan for my life. I don’t know how it will come about nor if it will include my spouse, but that is no longer the important element. Back when I thought I was being obedient by the “grit your teeth and bear it” method, I prayed for salvation for my spouse. I knew that was a prayer for my benefit as well as his. Of course he would do right by me once he was saved…right? Now I see that was a box I put God in. God is not confined to doing one small task at a time. He does not have to work on things in linear order. I now recognize my prayer for what it was, more selfish than compassionate. Contrasted with my prayers now, salvation for my spouse without any stipulations. As the writer says regarding putting God in a box, “Maybe it’s containing God to a specific place or restricting His character to the confines of our own small experiences.” or in my case, what I wanted my future experience to be, “…stuffing my box with selfish pride and hopeful gain but still calling it God’s will.” Yes, I see now that my box was very cheap and contained a tiny version of the one true God. He is so much more. He can and will do more than we can even imagine, if we just abide and let God be God.

    1. Rcg says:

      Hello Dana. Thank you for taking the time to share the information on the videos (I have bookmarked!). And thank you for sharing your story of hope and trust in Jesus. I will be praying for your husbands salvation and for your continued peace.

      1. Dana says:

        Thank you! :)

    2. Shelby says:

      Dana,
      Firstly I would like to tell you the major step you have made releasing that heavy weight that can weigh us down without us really acknowledging it. I am praying for you to have inner peace and solitude with events that are out of your control. Remember to pray specific and to always look up. You have a community here, if you need us.. we are all sisters of our gracious Lord. I’m proud of you taking more steps with the Lord and spending more time with Him. If your spouse is not saved and you being saved, God is gracious enough to extend that blessing. I’m praying for your marriage and maybe your hearts can be mended and focus on what initially brought you both together. A great marriage book which opened my eyes greatly is “Love and Respect” by Dr Emerson Eggerichs; for either you or both of you.

      Sending love and prayers!

    3. Brandi says:

      Thank you for sharing! I have often found myself praying those same kind of prayers for my husband. And it was such a good reminder today that our Father is not confined to doing one small task at a time – our God does not have to work on things in linear order! Awesome!

    4. Cathy says:

      Dana, I too am the wife of a man whose “drug of choice” was sex. I was blissfully unaware of it for 36 years, and just 2 months ago, he was forced to confess it to me when he lost his job because of it. I am shattered. My situation is easier than yours because my husband is a believer and he is very very remorseful, and is working hard on his recovery. He went to a men’s workshop in Minnesota called Faithful and True, which seemed to make a huge difference to him. They also have a workshop in October for the wives. Join me there! :)

      As I have studied this chapter, I began to wonder if God allowed this to happen, not only to shake my husband loose from his sin, but also to make ME focus more on Him. Perhaps I had put my relationship with my husband above my relationship with God. At any rate, that is what is happening, and for that, I am grateful.

    5. Sarah Tarkington says:

      Thank you for this resource, not only did it help me but I have someone near and dear to me that I believe my gain the clarity and some of the answers she’s been looking for and not accepting from me.

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