Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies. 1 Samuel 4:3
This struck me as odd.
It seemed to me that Israel was treating the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords as if He only existed in the Ark. As if God could be contained in a box. Somewhat like a lucky charm. Almost as if their faith was in the Ark and its contents rather than the infinite, eternal, mighty Deliverer, Sustainer, Creator, Almighty God Who brought them out of Egypt (before there was an Ark) to the Promised Land which He gave them as their possession. And Who could never be contained – in a box nor in the universe for that matter.
The ESV study note on verse 4:3 says “The ark was a visible sign of the holy presence of the Lord, whose real throne is on high, above the heavens. But it was more than just a sign, for the ark was also the focal point of God’s actual presence among his people…The conception of the ark as a visible sign of the Lord’s presence gave a military importance to the ark… it functioned as a battle safeguard and showed that the Lord was present and fighting for Israel. …Or perhaps they just thought that it would perform a miracle if used magically. That the ark would inevitably grant victory was a persistent idea … The Hebrew might also mean ‘that he [the Lord] may come,’ but in either case, the elders are treating the Lord as a thing. By saying ‘bring,’ the narrator is probably conveying the idea that the people treated this sacred object disrespectfully as an instrument through which victory might be attained. Surely, the covenant people had lost the sense of awe toward God’s holy presence.”
How does this relate to us today?
Well, I wonder if there are ways that we put God in a box, not an ark per sae, but perhaps a medal we wear around our necks or a statue we put in our yard or even a church building or specific receptacle within a church building.
There is nothing magical about any of these. God is not confined by any of these objects – His presence is everywhere. Although the Spirit of the Living God dwells in every one of His children, redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, He is not confined there.
Are there any ways that we treat sacred objects or places disrespectfully as an instrument through which victory (or safety or obedience or security or good things) might be attained; or have we lost the sense of awe towards God’s holy presence?
“Am I a God at hand,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:23-24
There is comfort, peace, rest and joy knowing with certainty that God is not confined to a box, picture, crucifix, medal or any other finite thing. God is omnipresent – equally present everywhere all the time.
Rejoice, sister, for today you walk in the presence of God wherever you are and wherever you go.
Diane Hunt serves part-time on the staff of America’s Keswick providing ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.