Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1 Samuel 6:13-21

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.”

Questions to consider:

  • How do the people of Beth Shemesh respond to the appearance of the ark?
  • What is the first thing they do?
  • When do the Philistines actually return home?
  • Why do 70 of the people die?
  • Where do the people want to send the ark?
  • Why do you think they don't want to keep it?

Possibilities for prayer:

As we've seen, the Philistines recognize that there's something special (and important) about the ark of the Lord. They send it back to the Israelites, despite it being a spoil of war. When the people of Beth Shemesh see the ark, they rejoice. And it seems like they generally have the right idea at first...they make offerings to God in thanksgiving and celebration, including sacrificing the two cows that brought the ark in the first place. But after that, it seems like people get a little bit confused, or a little too curious.

There were very clear rules and regulations surrounding who could interact with the ark, but several people choose to disregard those instructions. I think that we encounter situations like this in our own lives today. We start on the right path, listening to and praising God, but as we continue down that road we might start to think that we have everything figured out and go off on our way. While chances are that God isn't going to put us to death for making some different decisions, it does ultimately do us harm to make choices that are lining up with God's best for us. Let's spend some time in prayer asking God to fully direct our lives, leading us into God's best.