October 24, 2017
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 24 October 2017
Religious symbols can be powerful testimonies to the authenticity of someone’s faith, yet they can also be abused and misunderstood. The Israelites did not understand the purpose of “the ark of the Lord,” which was simply to function as the symbol of God’s presence with his people (Exod 25:22). God, who is not bound by time, chose to bind Himself to the time-bound experience of his people. However, the people had no assurance that God would be present with them by simply moving the ark wherever they pleased, nor could they use it to manipulate God.
Foolishly believing they could manipulate God’s power and presence, Israel lost the great symbol of God’s presence (1 Sam 4:11). Whenever someone presumes upon the presence of God by seeking to control his power, the risk of losing the focus of worship is an ever-threatening reality. Through an agonizing ordeal, Israel learned to have appropriate reverence for the sacredness of the ark. Ever since the Philistines “took the ark of God” (1 Sam 5:1), they experienced nothing but difficulty as its custodians. The disasters were intense, and therefore, the Philistines returned the ark (7:1).
The Israelites erected a silent monument and witness of the ark’s return (6:17-18). However, the rejoicing of the Israelites would soon end. While the ark and the articles of gold were displayed on the large stone, “some of the men of Beth-shemesh . . . looked into [or gazed at] the ark” (6:19). According to Numbers 4:5-6, the ark should have been covered by Aaron’s sons, and the Kohathites who carried it were never to touch or look upon the ark (Exod 25:13-15; 37:5; Numb 4:17-20). The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) adds, “The sons of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the rest of the men of Beth-shemesh when they welcomed the ark of the Lord. . . .” Jeconiah’s sons were indifferent toward the ark, and even despised its significance as a symbol of God’s presence. God punished the indifference and irreverence by stricking the men (1 Sam 6:19).
The men of Beth-shemesh wondered appropriately: “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?” Leaders must be humble, which involves being patient for God to fulfill his purposes. God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7) by allowing his power and presence to be manipulated. Any leader who attempts to maneuver God for his or her own purposes will encounter dire consequences. We must reverence God’s holiness, and know and live his Word so that we do not repeat the same error of conforming the holy God to our expectations. If God was to help the nation, they must repent before Him (cf. Gen 35:2-4; Josh 24:14-15).
Israel had been defeated numerous times in battle at this time and was discouraged. Their repentance would be difficult because the “foreign gods” had influenced their lives (cf. Judg 2:13). Truly there is no other means to regain God’s favor than holy and humble repentance. Israel performed a water libation “before the Lord” (7:6) to signify their present distress. The libation may also suggest Israel’s confession that God’s favor was more important than life-sustaining water, or could signify the cleansing of their guilt. There certainly is application here to nations today. The lost battles do not need to be physical, but can be judicial, legislative, and moral to bring discouragement. Only by committing one’s heart to the Lord and serving Him alone can a people experience true revival.
Your Missionary to Georgia's Leaders,
Ron J. Bigalke, Ph.D.
Capitol Commission Georgia
Capitol Commission is prepared to encourage and enable local churches to participate in reaching our capitol communities for Christ (1 Tim 2:1-4). We only need to hear from you, if you have not already contacted us. We also seek to enlist individuals, businesses, and churches to become strategic partners with us in this ministry (2 Cor 8:3-6). Our success as a ministry is based upon God blessing all facets of the ministry, which certainly includes partners in this ministry. We earnestly desire to engage those who desire to participate in the ministry by offering their time and talents (Matt 25:20). If you have not already done so, join us and experience the joy of bringing hope, light, transformation, and truth to those who constitute our capitol communities.