Today: [1 Samuel Chapter Six]: What Shall We Do with the Ark of the Lord? The Philistines have captured the ark and their cities are suffering with plague. They consult their wise men and decide to put it on a cart and set it adrift to see what would happen. They were careful in so doing to make a trespass offering and to laden the ark with jewels and gold so as not to offend the Lord further. Even a Philistine understood that you don’t come before the Lord empty handed. The ark wanders on its cart and comes to the city of Bethshemesh where they presumed to lift the lid of the mercy seat and peer within. What happened next?
[1Sa 6:1-21 KJV] 1 And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. 3 And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. 4 Then said they, What [shall be] the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, [according to] the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague [was] on you all, and on your lords.
In chapter four the Philistines captured the ark and killed the two sons of the High Priest Eli. In chapter five they place the ark of the covenant in the temple of their god Dagon. On two successive mornings they open the temple and find the idol of the fish god Dagon prostrate before the Ark as though worshipping the God of the Hebrews. To make matters worse every city they send the ark to experiences plague and pestilence. Obviously something had to be done.
The five Lords of the Philistines call on their priests and diviners to determine how best to deal with the “hot potato” of the ark of God. Shall they destroy it? Should they bury it? Should they seal it in a cave in a remote place? The consultants determine they should send it away with an offering. Interesting that even a Philistine knows that you don’t come before the Lord empty handed. They understood of they honored God with an offering two things would happen: 1.) They would be healed. 2.) They would know what they needed to do.
Many people stumble on this issue of offerings. In the 13th century the Medieval church took what was originally a vow of humility and turned it into a vow of poverty. This was originally done by the church in Rome in order to seize holdings of the bishops in Germany. It became a universal requirement along with the vow of celibacy. These vows are in direct contravention of the scriptures. However this perverted vow influences all of Christianity where finances are concerned.
Many quote Matt. 10:8-10 where Jesus said “…freely you have received freely give…” However in the next verse He tells the disciples not to take month earned from secular employ into the mission field because “… the workman is worthy of his meat…” So in the context of the passage Jesus was not saying that receiving of offerings or bringing an offering to a ministry in lieu of his ministry was unacceptable. Philistines get this – Christians many times do not. In these latter days the prophets have prophesied a transfer of the wealth into the hands of believers. In order for this to happen those destined to receive must cleanse their thinking of the religious attitudes about the false sanctity regarding the supposed necessity of poverty.
5 Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. 6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? 7 Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: 8 And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him [for] a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. 9 And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh, [then] he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that [it is] not his hand [that] smote us: it [was] a chance [that] happened to us. 10 And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home: 11 And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods. 12 And the kine took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, [and] went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside [to] the right hand or [to] the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Bethshemesh.
The priests and diviners instruct the Philistines to put the ark on a cart and laden it with Jewel and let it go free. If the oxen were to go toward Bethshemesh then they knew the Lord had done the thing and they expected that they would be free of their plagues. Bethshemesh means “house of the sun”. Jesus is the “daystar arising in our hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19). It was the Philistine’s to laden the cart with jewels and gold. It was the part of the oxen to move toward Bethshemesh. Oxen in scripture represent the ministry, the servants of God. When you give it is the responsibility of those you give to honor God and press into His kingdom. Either way the people who gave were going to be free from their current problem. This works whether a person is a believer or not. These were Philistines. What if they hadn’t given? They would have continued in their problems.
Many months ago we receive an invitation to be keynote speakers in a conference. At that time we were used to flying into cities on our own and setting up our own meetings so this was a new and pleasant surprised to be hosted in a city by another ministry. Assuming that our expenses would be covered we bought our own plane tickets and even the tickets of others connected with our ministry who had also been invited. To make a long story short there were no expenses covered. The founder of the hosting ministry even went so far as to stand us up in front of the audience and insist on the necessity of blessing the prophets (taking money in our name) and then didn’t give us so much as a stick of gum. The insult was not primarily to us but to God because they invited us to minister to them in God’s name. In the months afterward the financial affairs of this ministry fell into disarray, and the leader even wound up hospitalized with illness.
We occasional see people take umbrage that they request ministry and we respond with an invitation and an encouragement for them to include a donation with their request. The e-mails they send at times are full of venom and hate. I always go back and look however at their original request. They are sick. They are confused. They are facing bankruptcy. Their marriages are falling apart. Is there any wonder? Things are the way they are because of what they are doing. Perhaps if they changed their mind regarding how they think ministry and the kingdom work in their lives things might be different. Attitudes and actions have consequences. God wanted to bless this ministry but the blessing was negated when they lied to the Holy Spirit and took unfair advantage in this way. Again the words of Jesus from Mat. 10:8-10 “… the workman is worthy of his hire…”
13 And [they of] Bethshemesh [were] reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see [it]. 14 And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, and stood there, where [there was] a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that [was] with it, wherein the jewels of gold [were], and put [them] on the great stone: and the men of Bethshemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.
What is God doing and where is He moving in the earth? In Bethshemesh the ark of God’s presence was moving toward those who were workers in the harvest. They were sitting on their front porch waiting upon God to do something for them. They were anticipating a harvest and were out working in their fields. Where is the field you are supposed to be working in? That is where you will be standing when ark of God comes into view laden with your blessings.
16 And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen [it], they returned to Ekron the same day. 17 And these [are] the golden emerods which the Philistines returned [for] a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; 18 And the golden mice, [according to] the number of all the cities of the Philistines [belonging] to the five lords, [both] of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great [stone of] Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD: [which stone remaineth] unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Bethshemite. 19 And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten [many] of the people with a great slaughter. 20 And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us? 21 And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjathjearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, [and] fetch it up to you.
If the men of Bethshemesh had received the ark and simply turned it over to the Levites in Shiloh everything would have been fine. They went a step further though and got into trouble. They looked into the ark. They lifted the mercy seat and peered into the contents of the ark (where the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded and the tablets of Moses were stored). God is not a God to be approached with idle curiosity. We have seen people request prophetic ministry who said “not really believing for anything – just curious to see what God would say to me….” For their own sake we don’t respond to such requests. We are talking about the God of the universe here. The God who gave His only begotten son. We have every right to approach God boldly and with great confidence that He will receive us for cleansing and blessing. We do however need to consider in approaching God in prayer or in our corporate gathers that God is a Holy God and worthy of honor in every respect.
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