1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)
Yesterday we read how the people of Beth-shemesh sent the ark to the town of Kiriath-jearim because they were too afraid of the trouble it might cause. Of course, the ark itself didn’t bring about any trouble. It was the people themselves and their attitude towards the ark that caused problems.
But the people of Beth-shemesh weren’t willing to open their eyes to the fact that they were the problem. So they sent the ark – a symbol of God – away.
Notice that the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They wanted the ark. Otherwise they would not have come to get it. They could have declined to accept it. There was no one forcing them to take the ark to their town. They did it because they wanted to.
It’s interesting that the ark was not returned to Shiloh. Shiloh was the place where it has been until it was taken from the tabernacle and brought into battle against the Philistines, who then captured it and possessed it for seven months.
It is likely that Shiloh had been destroyed by this time, perhaps as part of the battle with the Philistines. Archaeological data show that Shiloh was abandoned around 1050 B.C.
Shiloh was where God’s tabernacle was located. But due to the sinful behavior of its leaders, God allowed it to be deserted [Jeremiah 26:9]. For many years after, there was not seat of national worship in Israel.
There is no record of any animal sacrifices being performed in Kiriath-jearim or any of the annual feasts being celebrated there. It seems that this was an obscure town that was simply used by God to temporarily house and protect the ark.
The ark was brought to the house of Abinadab on the hill where his son, Eleazar, was consecrated (identified and dedicated) to have charge of the ark of the Lord.
We don’t know anything about Eleazar but he was obviously a trustworthy man who had a strong relationship with God. As there is no indication in Scripture that God was displeased with the location or care of the ark, we can assume that Abinidab and Eleazar took proper care of it. Apparently this is where God wanted the ark at this time.
Since it was “hidden” from public view it’s likely that the people forgot about it. Out of sight, out of mind. The ark had become a security blanket for Israel. But God took that security blanket away because He wanted to teach Israel that there was no power in the ark. It was not a good-luck charm, as the people of Shiloh thought. Nor was it a bad-luck charm as the people of Beth-shemesh thought.
God wanted the people of Israel to turn to Him. He wanted them to see His power and presence in their lives. So He removed the ark.
God still works the same way in our lives today. He is not averse to removing something from our lives that distracts us from Him. That “something” isn’t necessarily something bad. The ark was a good thing. But the people had turned it into something that it wasn’t – something mystical that had power in itself.
Likewise, God might remove something from our lives for the same reason. Perhaps there is another person upon whom we put too much emphasis, such as a friend, spouse, or relative. Perhaps that person becomes our source of joy or where we turn when things aren’t going well in our life.
Having a friend is not a bad thing. And that person doesn’t have to be evil for God to remove him/her from our lives. But if that person distracts us from God then they’ve become a bad thing (not through any fault of their own).
We can treat other things similarly. We can put our security in our job, or money, or sex, drugs, or any number of other things.
Notice not all of these things are bad. Most are good and necessary. But it is possible for us to turn good things into bad, by exalting them over God. And if we do that, we should not be surprised if God takes it from us so that we’ll turn back to Him and give Him His proper place in our life.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.