Never doubt the LORD is ultimately in control, even when facing difficult circumstances. We are not promised an easy path with no trouble. Quite the contrary. We are warned that we should build our lives on the solid rock of Christ and his teachings so that when the storms come, we can stand firm. (Matthew 7:24-29)
The people of Israel lost the ark and it was out of their power to confront the Philistines and get it back. The LORD brought it back in his own timing after showing his power and glory to the Philistines.
We can also be reminded that, even when we celebrate and want to give glory to YHWH, be sure to do it his way, rather than our own. He smote over 50,000 Israelites who looked inside the ark. Only the Levites were supposed to handle the ark. In their excitement, the people disobeyed, and suffered greatly for it. The ark indeed represented the presence of YHWH. He is holy and the people were to approach him only in the ways he had prescribed, not in whatever way they wanted. There could clearly be a lot of study on this point alone.
The Ark Returned to Israel
1Now the ark of the LORD had been in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we shall send it to its place.” 3They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but you shall surely return to Him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” 4Then they said, “What shall be the guilt offering which we shall return to Him?” And they said, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for one plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5“So you shall make likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will ease His hand from you, your gods, and your land. 6“Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed? 7“Now therefore, take and prepare a new cart and two milch cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. 8“Take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. 9“Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.”
10Then the men did so, and took two milch cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11They put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the likenesses of their tumors. 12And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh.
13Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they raised their eyes and saw the ark and were glad to see it. 14The cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite and stood there where there was a large stone; and they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. 15The Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the box that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone; and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices that day to the LORD. 16When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned to Ekron that day.
17These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned for a guilt offering to the LORD: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron; 18and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages. The large stone on which they set the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
19He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20The men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” 21So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up to you.”
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