Day 3

The Ark of the Covenant

from the reading plan

1 Samuel 5:1-12, 1 Samuel 6:1-21, Exodus 10:1-2, Leviticus 5:14-17

Without fail, every time I think about the ark of the covenant, I’m reminded of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie I saw many, many times in the theater.

Back in those days—before movies were sold in stores, let alone downloaded or streamed—a big, successful movie might stay in theaters for months. The really big blockbusters, like Raiders, would play for a year or more. And so I made countless trips to see it at the Cinema City 8 theater, complete with its Vegas-style lights illuminating the Roebuck shopping plaza.

It is possible I heard lessons about the ark of the covenant in Sunday school, but I don’t remember any of them before seeing that movie. Do you remember the scene where the Nazis have the ark and are having a “ceremony” to open it? Their goal was to use the power of the ark to fight the Allies. Of course, Indiana knows they are making a big mistake by opening it, so he tells Marion to look away and close her eyes when the ark is opened.

And then it happens: one of the most iconic, terrifying moments in my movie-watching history. The faces of all who look at the ark melt off, the presence of God spreads, and everyone is obliterated—except for Indy and Marion, who knew better than to look at it.

I had heard so many sermons and lessons on the holiness of God growing up in our Baptist church. But that movie is what brought this question home for me: “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20).

The answer, of course, is no one. When you read 1 Samuel 5 and 6, the point is clear. Not only are the Philistines going to pay for approaching the holy God in the presence of the ark, but so are God’s people. After all, Israel should know better. They should know the power of the ark and the depth of God’s holiness better than anyone.

Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?

It almost seems like a helpless situation. God’s holiness and power come together and no one can stand in the presence of either of those things. Our sin and lack of holiness separate us from God in such a dramatic fashion that we cannot look on Him without fear of death.

There is one way we can stand before the Lord, in all His holiness. Jesus, the God-man, made a way for us. He stood in our place and died the death we deserved so that we could approach our holy God with confidence (Ephesians 3:12). He took on our sin and gave us His righteousness in return, making the impossible possible. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can now “stand before the Lord, this holy God,” face to face (and still intact), welcomed with open arms (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Written by Matthew B. Redmond

Post Comments (13)

13 thoughts on "The Ark of the Covenant"

  1. Max Hohner says:

    Who can stand before the Lord God? That seems to be the central question of 1 Samuel 5 and 6. The answer is of course no one except Christ. But Christ has taken our place, died the death we were meant to die, and risen again to conquer death. So now we are able to approach God. We no longer need a high priest. Christ is our high priest and through him we pray to God. This is the way in which these chapters point to Christ, by asking the question: who can stand before God. Also, they emphasize the importance of prayer. Now that we can talk to God, we should talk to God. Furthermore, Israel is just as guilty for looking at the Ark as the Philistines. Thus these passages also show that no one is above or outside God’s law, even, and especially, God’s chosen people. They should know better.

    Three points:
    1. No one is outside God’s law
    2. Because our sin, our disobedience of God’s law, separates us from God, we cannot stand before God without dying
    3. Christ has taken our place and redeemed us, bringing us closer to God, so now we should talk to him

    1. Prayer
    2. Obedience

    Connecting thread:
    1. The necessity of Christ

  2. Caleb Combs says:

    The Lord is the essence of holiness. Nothing holy can stand before him. As hard as it is to stomach the death of those Israelites that died upon looking into the ark. We get to see the weight and reality of how holy God is. I’m comforted in this. Jesus has made me holy his sacrifice and invitation. I can now stand before God welcomed into his family without shame and fear. This lesson is a reminder to me of how I need to treat sin. There is no place for sin in the presence of God or one of his own.

  3. Daniel Rhodes says:

    I’m guessing Dagon was a god/idol in Ashdod. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but it seems a little humorous that when the ark of God is in the same room as a different god, he makes the other god bow to him. I love how that shows that God is saying, “EVERYTHING shall bow to me, even your fake gods.”

    While reading this, it becomes apparent that we aren’t worthy at all to be in the presence or even speak to God. God’s grace in sending us Jesus gives us the bridge to speak and have a relationship with him.
    It’s easy to forget the power that God has and the fragility of our lives. It just shows that we are nothing without the Lord living inside us and through us. Yet, it also should give us confidence that that power is on our side.

  4. Anthony Caligaris says:

    I’m not clear on how the coming of Christ, and his subsequent crucifixion, allows us to now stand in the presence of God without fear of death.

    Jesus’ life showed us that God loves us. Is this a changing of His temperament? It can’t solely be a change in human perception, as there were many instances of God exacting punishment on us for approaching the ark, and looking back as cities burned.

    We did nothing to earn this reward or allowance. In fact, we acted opposite and crucified His son. How now are we allowed this gift?

  5. Jeff Wilson says:

    I don’t honk often enough about the Holiness of God. Because of Him being holy, I’m unable, by myself, to look at Him or be in His presence. But, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I’m now able to enter into His presence. Not because of anything I’ve done. Only because of His sacrifice for my sin. He has opened up the Holy of Holies so that I can enter into His presence without fear of death.

    Thank you God for being Holy and just. Thank you for making a way for me to be in your presence, through you son Jesus. Jesus, thank you for faithfully serving God and willingly dying on the cross for me. I am in awe of your love for me and the extent of your mercy.

  6. Matt Lockwood says:

    It is only by Christ that we can approach our holy God and enjoy his presence forever.

  7. Ryan Sims says:

    God will show His anger and we can mourn what we have done wrong. And repent.

  8. Kevin says:

    Day 3: wow. This is what it would have been like had God not made the sacrifice for us yet. People looking wth the arc and getting tumors all over, the wrath of God alive because his son had yet fulfilled the prophesy. Kind of wild to think that something had to pay the debt for these people and that’s why they sacrificed animals and what not. I’m thankful to be able to eat those animals rather than burn them.. haha

  9. Kim says:

    Only by the grace of God can we boldly approach His throne.

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