In today’s reading we see that what God had told Samuel would happen in Israel and to the household of Eli starting to take place. As we look at today’s chapter we once again see that people have not changed much over the years. All of the technological advances in the world will not change the heart of man.
Israel is in a fight with the Philistines (modern day Palestinians from descent) and they come up with an idea. Their idea is to take the ark of the covenant into battle with them in order to defeat the enemy. Their mistake had cost them greatly, in fact it cost them the lives of thirty-thousand men. Instead of trusting in God, they put their trust in a box. The word ark means “box.” They used the ark as a type of “lucky rabbits foot” as they went up against their enemy. This chapter is so rich with illustrations that I could write for hours on them; but I will only highlight the symbolism of what these men did that shows the heart of the religious man who has no relationship with God.
The ark of the covenant was to be in the holy place and it was there that the mercy seat was placed. The mercy seat is a representation of Christ. As the priests would bring the blood of the sacrifice to the temple it was a symbol of sin equaling death. The sacrificial death of an animal could not take away sin, but confession of sin before the mercy seat allowed a covering for sin. We see in Hebrews that this sacrificial system was a “shadow of the good things to come.” The good thing to come was a sacrifice that would stand once and for all for the removing of sin in Christ.
The people did not come with repentant hearts over their sin as they sacrificed; they instead went through the motions of the ceremonies (as mentioned in Isaiah chapter 58 for further studies). They did not want to come to God for the remission of sin, they instead wanted to use God to meet their personal needs.
The mercy seat was considered, in symbolism, the throne of God. It was a symbol of where God dwelt. So the people placed their trust in the house of God instead of in God Himself. So often we place our trust and salvation in a meeting place. The place of worship has become today, much like the mercy seat was back then. We so often use it to get what we desire when necessary. Salvation relies on the box (or church building) where God stays. He has no part of a life outside of that box. We come to the box to make sure we have met our self decided requirements in order to keep Him in good standing with us. Then, when things get way out of control in life, even if we have not been to the box in months, we run to the box and expect it to fix everything up just the way we like them. If things go back to normal, we put that box back where it belongs and continue on in our lives until the next big threat comes our way.
God shows the nation of Israel that He is not a pawn or a weapon at their disposal. Sadly, the unbelieving enemy had more faith in the power of God then did God’s own people. God gave Israel feasts so they would remember what He had done in Egypt (before the ark was even given by the way) and how He had miraculously delivered those who obeyed them. The philistines instead, as we read in this chapter, remembered the saving arm of God when the people of Israel did not.
We learn so much from the Old Testament. I hope the we will never put it on the back burner forgetting all of the wisdom God shows us in it.