Christ on Every Page:

The return of the Ark

Week 52: 1 Samuel 4-7

Monday: A day of Judgment

Read 1 Samuel 4

A nameless man of God had come to Eli and spoken judgment over his house and his sons.  And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.” (1 Samuel 2:34, ESV) 


A little later, young Samuel heard from the Lord and his little heart rose up with a man’s courage to say a hard thing to Eli. “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken to concerning his house. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity that he knows.” (1 Samuel 3:11)


And now in chapter four, the Word of the Lord is tragically fulfilled. In one day, the Philistines defeat Israel. They kill Eli’s sons and the ark, representing the presence of the Lord with Israel, is captured.  The old man Eli, upon hearing the news, falls over in his chair and breaks his neck and dies. Phineas’ wife gives birth and dies on the same day. In her passing, she names the child Ichabod, meaning: “the glory of the Lord has departed.”  

This is a catalogue of unspeakable tragedies.  No doubt, the day before was just an ordinary day.  


God’s cataclysmic judgments all have this in common: everything changes in one day.  


See Christ here: Jesus speaks of His second coming.  He compares it to days of Noah and the days of Lot.   They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:27–30, ESV) 

Tuesday: The ark captured

Read 1 Samuel 5

The Philistines think they have a great “magic” with the captured ark.  They put it into the sacred House of Dagon where they kept their Philistine god. No doubt they believe they have almighty power in their midst. They couldn’t have been more right about the Almighty Lord, and they would live to regret that He was in their midst.   

After two mysterious incidents where Dagon’s statue had fallen over in the night, the last occurrence decapitating the idol and snapping off its hands, the Philistines are shaken. 


“The kingdom of Satan will certainly fall before the kingdom of Christ, error before truth, profaneness before godliness, and corruption before grace in the hearts of the faithful.”    

Matthew Henry

We may be at first puzzled as to why the Lord lets His ark of the testimony to be taken. In a time of judgment, He causes his people to lose, not only in the battle with the Philistines, but for his people to lose--Himself and His presence.  The wife of Phineas, in her dying breath, names her son, Ichabod, meaning: “the glory of the Lord has departed.”  Shiloh, the house of God, was in spiritual corruption. And where the house of God is fallen, the people are fallen. Make no mistake about that.  Jeremiah 23:15


But Israel’s enemies shouldn’t think that they should gain from their loss.  


For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”” (1 Peter 4:17–18, ESV) 


See Christ here: As we looked at the ark and the Tabernacle in Exodus, we saw that it represented Christ.  God allows his only begotten son to be taken captive.   How did the unbelievers, the enemies of Christ, rejoice over His death! But they rejoiced only for a little while. Christ, the crucified would rise again. Out from the dark tomb, he would emerge! 


 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8, ESV) 


Christ’s arrest was not a slip up in God’s plan. It was part of the plan.

Wednesday:  Casting God away

Read 1 Samuel 5:6-12

And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god.”” (1 Samuel 5:7, NKJV) 


One could almost feel sorry for these Philistines who had taken the ark of the Lord.  The Lord was contending with them, but they would not repent and renounce Dagon. So the Lord afflicted their bodies and their properties.   


The Philistines were made up five major cities and with five lords over each city.  Wherever the ark was parked, that same city felt the hand of the Lord heavy upon them with curse.  The people and the lord of each respective city were afflicted with tumors. Rats also came out and ravaged their crops.  So, the lord of the afflicted city would send the ark on to a different city of the Philistines. They would meet with the same fate.  


How many of us have known those who are at odds with the Lord? The Lord’s hand is heavy upon them. Yet they still persist in a life that opposes God. We feel sorry for them, but in their stubbornness, they will not yield.  Those that fight with God, like these Philistines, will be ruined in the end. 

If a sinner will not be conquered by conviction, he will be conquered by destruction.   


See Christ here:  Jesus went into the land of the gentiles. He cuts through a storm on the sea to get to them. Christ meets two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs meet him.  He casts the demons from the men into a herd of pigs that run off of cliff. When it is reported to the people of the city, the whole town comes out to meet Jesus and they plead with him to leave their region. They missed their pigs. There is nothing new here.  Sinful hearts don’t like to lose their pigs,  When sinners feel the hand of the Lord, rather than make peace with Him, they desire to get rid of him.  

Matthew 8:28-34  

Thursday: Seven Months

Read 1 Samuel 6

Now the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of theLord? Tell us how we should send it to its place.”” (1 Samuel 6:1–2, NKJV) 


The Philistines were punished for seven months.  Priests and diviners were brought in to give wisdom as to how to send the ark to its place. The faith of the Israelites was clearly famous to the nations around them. No doubt, the pagan priests had curiously looked into the ways of Israel’s religion. They were familiar with the trespass offering (Leviticus 5:15), their history with Egypt, the plagues and Pharaoh’s hardened heart.   There must have been some Philistines who were slow to release the captive ark because even the pagan priests warned rightly warned them: 


Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He did mighty things among them, did they not let the people go, that they might depart?” (1 Samuel 6:6, NKJV) 


When the unrighteous rebuke you, you are far into rebellion.  Egypt had ten plagues and endured much suffering. It could have been fewer than ten if Pharaoh would have yielded sooner.  It is better to learn from another’s bad experience than from your own. 


See Christ here: While the Philistines were seven months with the ark. The Israelites were seven months without the ark.  Remember, the ark represents Christ.  How empty the tabernacle must have looked without it.  How empty the church is when Christ is not in her midst.  The church may have a lot of words, but no Bread of Life if Christ be not preached and practiced. She may have a lot of busyness but no sitting before his feet like Martha’s sister to simply worship.  


A.W. Tozer said it best when he said: 


"I want the presence of Christ Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion. You would never get me interested in the old maids’ social club with a little bit of Christianity thrown in to give it respectability. I want all that God has, or I don’t want any.”


The return of the ark

Read 1 Samuel 7

So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” (1 Samuel 7:2, NKJV) 


The word Ichabod had been echoing throughout Israel for twenty years now.  The house of Eli and his sons were in the graveyard. Shiloh, where the tabernacle had been, was a ghost town.  The ark was residing with a better replacement to Eli, Abinadab.    Israel missed the Lord and lamented in their hearts for the days of old when God was the lamp in their midst. 


Chapter seven reminds us of the reason the Lord had departed in the first place. The leadership in Shiloh was corrupted.  As goes the priest, so go the people (Jeremiah 23:16).   Samuel chastises Israel and exhorts them to repentance.  They had taken idols to their hearts and the shameful behaviors that go with them.  Sometimes it takes twenty years to break a people. It is sad that they wasted so many years drinking from mud puddles. Duly humbled, they are finished with their old lives. They confess their sins and piled their little gods into the waste heap.  It is with this backdrop that we see the salvation of the Lord. 


See Christ here:  Samuel prayed for them. Samuel is a type of Christ. He intercedes for us. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV) 


The offering Samuel offers is a type of Christ’s sacrifice.  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10, NKJV) 


The enemy is defeated through the victory of the Lord.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13, ESV) 


Finally, Samuel raises a stone called Ebenezer meaning “Help”.  “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  We sing in Church: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. Within the lyric is the line: “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”  Who has helped us greater than our great Helper Jesus Christ? 

“Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus."

Thomas Adams