After the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites, God’s hand was against the Philistines. Many died while the Lord afflicted others with tumors (1 Sam. 5:12). Finally, the Philistines had enough and sent the Ark back to Israel on an ox cart (1 Sam. 6). The residents of Beth Shemesh, a border town between Israel and Philistia, were overjoyed when they saw the Ark roll into town. They immediately made a sacrifice to the Lord. However, 70 of them also took the opportunity to look into the Ark, a privilege reserved for the High Priest. God struck them down. Now, if I had been one of the residents of Beth Shemesh, I would have wanted to check out the ark’s contents, too, especially after seeing my neighbors take a peek (God apparently did not strike down the 70 until later). Yet, God is a holy God. He requires us to act in keeping with His holiness. Leaders can be opportunistic. This is often a good trait provided that seizing the opportunity in no way undermines God’s holiness and the holiness He desires in us.
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The Israelites were in trouble again. They had just lost 4,000 soldiers in a battle with the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:2). They desperately needed God’s help, so they devised a plan they hoped would secure His blessing. They took the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s presence, into the next battle, believing it would save them from the hand of their enemies. It didn’t. They lost the battle and the Ark (1 Sam. 4). They put their hope in an object and not God Himself. It reminds me of my own propensity to rely too much on my own abilities and the resources at my disposal. God obviously wants us to use what He has given us; yet, to do so dependent on His guidance and strength.
According to Hebrews 12:1, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – those who have gone before and who demonstrated a strong faith in God. The passage seems to refer directly to the heroes of the faith mentioned in the previous chapter. However, we could probably add other names to the list – godly role models who have impacted us throughout our lifetime. Their lives serve as a witness to God’s faithfulness. As we listen to their witness and alter our lives accordingly, we stand on their shoulders. We become their lasting legacy. In the same way, as we live faithful lives, we develop strong shoulders upon which others can stand.
Note: You can listen to a sermon I preached at South Langley Church on this topic (go to sermon).