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 They will giggle at these long gone, barely imaginable pieces of technology that have been replaced by something that is faster, smarter, and better.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. JessMC says:

    When I read the passage, I was struck by the Philistines lack of awe for the God of the Ark. Their god was brought down before the Ark twice and I thought, wouldn’t they be amazed by the One True God? Wouldn’t they want to give their devotion to the One who reigned over their fallen god? They were totally blind to anything but “their god.”

    I read an article about this passage and it said….the Philistines wanted the two to coexist. They saw the power in the God of the Israelites but they wanted God to coexist with their culture and their god. I thought, how ridiculous is that! They totally missed it.

    But the article went on to state, how many of us do this with our modern day idols? Pride, success, wealth, relationships, etc. and the list continues. We try to maintain a relationship with God while we pursue our idols but when we are stripped of the thing we are pursuing, how many of us try to send God away like the Philistines? Who holds onto the god instead of The God?

    This is another good reminder for me to hold tight to scripture and the truth it fills me with. It’s another reminder to be open to what the Lord has for me instead of holding tight to my worldly perspective on things. He is sovereign and I pray He reigns supreme in my heart!

    1. Jessica says:

      Love it!!!!

    2. Becky says:

      Thanks for this commentary. I would like to read that article! I continue to want my worldly idols to coexist with my holy God.

    3. Lauren Wiarda says:

      I am just starting to read this bible study, and I was still feeling lost after the blog. I wanted to keep reading comments until I found someone who had something that connected to me. Thank you for this beautiful analogy/ lesson.

  2. Momandorder says:

    The box I put GOD in is trust…can I trust HIM enough to rule my life without my help. About a month before my beautiful daughter died unexpectedly I had remarked that I want to be like Job…”Though he slay me, I will hope in HIM” Time and time again I feel I need to help GOD accomplish His work in my life and my five remaining son’s lives. I pick back up that burden and try to make everything “fit”. It can “look” ok but what I am really saying is…I DON’T TRUST YOU TO BE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE. The path of least resistance for me is to stress and prod and cram all that garbage into boxes and think that somehow I can turn it around with perseverance. I am as Paul..doing the very things I don’t want to do. Silly..silly me. Hanging onto the “sovereignty” of my rags instead of TRUSTING in the sovereignty of my Creator and Redeemer.

    1. Karen From Virginia says:

      I cannot grasp the suffering you have felt. And even though there is a lot of confusion and you’re sorting through a lot of pain as well as ideas that you have believed I know that God is holding you. It is a part of your grief and I’m believing that God will show you the way through. Sometimes worship and singing can just begin to bring rest her heart. Sometimes we think too much and it’s important to just be. When God weeps by Joni Erickson Tada is a good book about suffering. If you have time. God bless

      1. Keryn says:

        Ty for this! I believe we all want to believe our relationship to the Lord can be put in a box…I have learned the hard way that I need so desperately to be carried by my Lord!

      2. Keryn says:

        amen, well said and I am humbled by His passion towards His own…

    2. Keryn says:

      I like this… Romans 7! I do the same and then in my strength it all crumbles…Lord teach me your ways!
      I am so sick of flubbing through life!

  3. Frances says:

    I read that the men of Beth-shemesh were Levites and so they could make sacrifices when they got back the Ark. But then almost immediately, they ask for others to take it from them. I was left wondering whether they deserved the gift of getting back the Ark. Then I started to think of all the gifts God has given me that I have not appreciated, did not deserve, do not deserve – including the greatest gift of all, given by His Son’s blood.

  4. Wildflower says:

    Also, I’m finding that one of my biggest helps in surrendering and trusting Him is to PRAY FOR surrender and trust! Pray for help to not put Him in a box! Pray that he helps you surrender to His will! I think a misconception I’ve held on to my whole life was that I had to do it all on my own and fix myself. It’s so freeing to pray about my faults and flaws and trust Him to do His work there.

  5. Wildflower says:

    I think as with anything it’s about the heart. I recently started a prayer journal. Did I do this to try and box God in? No, I don’t think so, I think I just wanted a new way to talk to him and be able to look back on prayers and praises. However, I’m finding that sometimes this makes me not want to pray unless I’m writing it in my journal! No no no, silly brain, that’s not how it’s supposed to work! That’s boxing Him in! Ugh, I really need his gentle guidance and reminders. Silly wandering sheep I am!

    1. Shelby says:

      Hello!
      A suggestion could be to pray before and after each Bible study and insert in your prayer journal to “guide my heart and mind in the ways of you Lord so I can see your true message and not misconstrue the heartfelt message.” Lots of times after you pray pre-session, the questions in which you once had.. as you write them down you feel a sense of answers come to you.

  6. Nicole says:

    That sentence gave me chills. “That’s what Jesus does for us. He carries us into the very presence of our God, in all His holiness” I had a picture of Jesus carrying a person, carrying me (although I couldn’t see my face because it was hiding in His chest) into the very presence of God. It was overwhelming and then I realized JESUS was carrying me. To be so close, to have His arms around me, protecting me, taking me where I need to be and that I might be close enough to bury my face in His chest. Amazing. I am undone.

    1. Emily B. says:

      A beautiful image. Thank you for that.

    2. Cecelia Enns Schulz says:

      I love this picture. And I love the truth of it. Jesus carrying me, holding me close, always present, always for me.

  7. Rebekah DeLibro says:

    I desire to be in the presence of you Lord and savior. I want to make more time than just devotion in the morning and the evening, it’s hard to make it happen. I feel like I fall short of this so much. I struggle between being still and getting things accomplished. Praying that I don’t put God in a box or only reserve his presence to a certain time of day.

    1. Wildflower says:

      Invite Him into the other aspects of your life! Maybe listen to some worship music while you’re doing chores, or just talk to Him as you’re going throughout your day. Doesn’t mean you necessarily have to make more time to sit down and do a devotion. Just invite Him into everything :)

    2. Karen From Virginia says:

      Rebekah,
      We all fall short. The Lord loves you. He sees you. He has already accepted you in the Beloved. Live in that love. I have often prayed Lord I want to want you. Please give me the desire to want you before anything else. Jesus knows your heart and as you pray sincerely to ask him to expand your desire to know him he will open the doors in and change you. Be patient with yourself and humbly keep going to him. He loves to see your desire to want to know him more. Change is not easy and he knows it he is a kind God as well as loving you’re his daughter.

  8. Trace says:

    That last paragraph… I am once again just left in such awe that God, the Creator, would make a way for us to be in His presence, as our Redeemer, our Saviour.

    As a worship leader, my heart so often respond to scripture with song, and today “Boldly I Approach” by Rend Collective came to mind. Through Jesus, we are invited to have such a deep, personal relationship with Him; through Jesus, we are able to approach the Lord and be in His presence, not with fear, but with boldness and with confidence. How amazing is that?? Hopefully the link to the video will work! https://youtu.be/4QDnVD7gu5Y

    Thank you for such words of encouragement today!

    1. Jackie says:

      This song is a perfect pairing/response to this scripture. It is wild: some of the words used to describe US in this song: holy, blameless, welcomed as your own into the arms of majesty. All because we are seen through the blood of Christ. Thank you for sharing!

    2. Ellen says:

      Thank you for this song.

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