Every child has experienced that uncomfortable moment when they realize they have crossed the line with a parent. The first clue may be their dad’s stern tone of voice or that pinched look their mom gets. The result is usually a feeling of fear that combines the child’s awareness of transgression with a recognition that they deserve punishment.
After suffering judgments by the hand of God for seven months, the Philistine rulers debated how to rid themselves of the ark. Afraid of making matters worse, they sought the advice of their priests and soothsayers. The religious leaders advised the Philistines to send the ark out with a guilt offering consisting of gold images that represented the plagues the Lord had sent (vv. 4–5). They also chided the Philistines for their reluctance, pointing to Pharaoh’s experience during the Exodus as a warning (v. 6).
The conditions described in verses 7–9 served two purposes. They attempted to solve their problem by combining magic with paganized devotion. And it was also a test to prove the source of the plagues. The new cart and cows that were previously untouched by the yoke speak of a kind of recognition of purity. However, the golden images showed animals that were considered unclean by the Mosaic law (Lev. 11:29).
When the people of Beth Shemesh, a town in Judah near the Philistine border, saw the ark returning of its own accord, they rejoiced. But their joy was short-lived when several were struck down after peeking inside the ark (vv. 19–20).
>> Those who fear the Lord value what God values. They let Him draw the boundaries that shape their behavior. As 2 Corinthians 7:1 urges, we should “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Today, we thank God for His holiness. Praise Him that He changes us into the image of Christ, making us holy as He is holy. May we submit to His will, allowing Him to shape our behavior and purify us.