As you remember from 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines defeated Israel in battle and captured the ark.
This incident caused the death of Eli when he heard the news.
I won’t go through everything that happened in chapter 5 but basically the ark caused plagues and death to those cities who hosted it.
Then, at the end of chapter 6 the ark was returned to it’s rightful owners.
1 Samuel 6 – The Return of the Ark
“He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord.
He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter.
The men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?”
So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down and take it up to you.” – 1 Samuel 6:19-21
An Offering of Guilt
“They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but you shall surely return to Him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” – 1 Samuel 6:3
The Philistines treated the ark as if it was one of their idols. They felt they could appease the God of Israel by sending a guilt offering along with the ark.
This is what they used when their “gods” were angry.
The “Angry” God of Israel
I remember in Sunday school Dr. Brooks Walker sharing his experiences in Africa. He talked about how the people of the villages didn’t really worship the idols placed around the camps.
They only kept them because they were afraid of them. There is a big difference between worship and fear.
Israel made this mistake in chapter 4. Yes, they too began to think of the ark as a “lucky charm” they could bring with them to battle.
But, they were sadly mistaken! The power was from God – not the ark.
From what we’ve read, it seems the Philistines believed in the true God. They were well aware it was Him who caused the disasters through the ark.
But, God to them was just another of their many deities. And, once He was subdued, they could put Him back on the shelf as they did their idols.
Truth is, many people today “keep” God this way. I’m sometimes guilty of only crying out to God during the tough times.
But, I become complacent during the good. I’m really thankful that God forgives me during these times of weakness.
God is Not Our Personal “Lucky Charm”
Yes, we keep God as a part of our lives. He gives us success and wealth and happiness.
But, God is much more. He is God of the universe who deserves our complete worship.
God loves us even with all our faults. So, let’s not be “Philistines” and only worship Him out of fear.
Through Christ, God offers us a personal relationship with Him. He wants us to be His children. And, He wants to be our Father.
And finally, God does not force us to worship Him. We have a choice. Let’s make the right one.
If you would like to discover how to receive the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to see John 3:16 here.