Christian, it matters how you treat God
Israel had lost God (1 Samuel 4:22). The Philistines had captured the ‘ark of the covenant’ – the symbol of God’s presence and glory.
But the Philistines’ mistreatment of the ark wrought havoc. God smashed their idols (1 Samuel 5:4) and brought the bubonic plague on its capturers (1 Samuel 5:6).
So the people of Ashdod passed the ark to the people of Gath. They passed it to the people of Ekron who didn’t want it either.
So they sent God’s glory back to God’s people - and that’s when the surprise comes.
Who can stand?
Israel also treated his presence casually, so God struck down seventy men (1 Samuel 6:19). This left Israel asking:
‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?’ 1 Samuel 6:20
Israel thought they’d win the battle simply because they had the ark of God – regardless of their heart attitudes toward him.
Christians can think similarly. Because of Jesus, it doesn’t matter how I treat God. But it does matter. This is why God allowed Israel’s defeat.
The next battle, however, they won. So what had changed?
A Better Ark
Israel rid themselves of their idols (1 Samuel 7:3). And Samuel offered a sacrifice for their sin (1 Samuel 7:10). Repentance and faith.
Likewise, God graciously presents Jesus as our sin sacrifice. And then he calls us to repent by ‘serving him only’ (1 Samuel 7:3).
But we’re still casual in our service. We still give our worship to other gods.
So just as God taught Israel through defeat, God will often coax us away from idols through loss, defeat or suffering.
But God’s presence and glory can never be taken from us – in Jesus we have a better ark.
And while he works repentance and faith in us, we should never fear; God’s treating us as children (Hebrews 12:7).