After the Chest of God had been among the Philistine people for seven months, the Philistine leaders called together their religious professionals, the priests, and experts on the supernatural for consultation: “How can we get rid of this Chest of God, get it off our hands without making things worse? Tell us!”
They said, “If you’re going to send the Chest of the God of Israel back, don’t just dump it on them. Pay compensation. Then you will be healed. After you’re in the clear again, God will let up on you. Why wouldn’t he?”
First Samuel 6: 1-3 The Message
The “Chest of God” in this passage is referring to what many of us know as the Ark of the Covenant. The storyline of the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is centered around the Ark of the Covenant. Although Hollywood takes a few liberties with the biblical text, it is still treated with reverence in the movie. The scriptures tell us that the Ark holds the Ten Commandments, which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. There are also several times in the scriptures when people do not observe the guidelines God specified around the ark, and actually die for not following those instructions.
This passage refers to one of the most curious episodes involving the Ark of Covenant. Here, the Philistines have stolen it in battle, and assume it will make their nation better, bring them great wealth, success, and prosperity, as well as leverage over their enemies.
Unfortunately for the Philistines, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of blessings, the Philistines developed tumors on their bodies, and their cities became infested with rats. Ugh! This happens even as they move the Ark between a few different cities within Philistine territory. Wherever the Ark moves in Philistia, tumors and rats follow!
Finally, after seven months of torment, the Philistines ask their religious professionals about how they can get rid of this Chest of God. Obeying the advice of their religious professionals, they send it back to the Israelites in an ox-cart towed by a couple of oxen. The Ark is no longer a curse to the Philistines, and is once again a blessing to the Israelites.
So often, our world tells us that we will be happier if we only had something else, or one more thing. Sometimes “the grass is always greener” mentality gets a hold of us. What drives us may be jealousy, covetousness, or perhaps envy. No matter what the incentive is, it is a false security to think that something is going to make us happier, better or wiser.
Here, the Philistines have the false illusion that their life will become better with the Ark. Taking something that does not belong to you does not improve your life. In fact, it can become a curse. The scriptures teach us that the Ark of the Covenant became an albatross to the Philistines. To capture it, they were willing to have many of their troops lost in battle. When they discovered that God was not blessing them for having it, but rather cursing them, they sent it back. In fact, they even added some treasures (gifts, tribute) to make sure that it didn’t come back to them!
The story of what happened to the Philistines seems to be relevant to our world today. It should be a cautionary tale for all. There is never really deep peace in taking something that is not yours. The joy that Jesus offers us is not stolen. It is a gift. The desire to have what someone else possesses should only be around wanting to have as much deep faith as those who inspire us.
In a similar way, God wants us to show others our faith and love, in order to inspire them! The great thing is that they don’t have to steal it. It is a free gift for the asking. So, show off your love, your faithfulness, your commitment, and anything else that will encourage others to want what you have. Bless your neighbor in the same way that Christ has blessed you. True blessings are bestowed from the Lord, not stolen from others…
Thank You for the gift of salvation, offered freely to all who ask for it. Help us to be vessels for those who need to see, hear, and feel the love that abounds through You. Help those who feel the need to have what is not honestly theirs, and provide others with the ability to shine the light of Your truth on those who need to know Your glory. Give us the words, and guide us in our actions when we minister to our neighbors.
In Your most faithful name, we pray. Amen.