Notes on The Ark of The Covenant

There is a story in the bible that starts out in the Book of 1 Samuel I want to share with you. It is a story about the ark of the Covenant, and it takes a number of years to play out, but it represents something rather important, as well as interesting.

Most Christians are familiar with the ark of the Covenant these days. It was designed by God, was overlaid inside and out with gold (representing purity), and there were three items contained in it. These items are the tablets of the law, written on stone, the homer of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. These items symbolize spiritual things I’d like to touch on briefly here before I proceed to the rest of this.

Tablets of the Law:
Reminds us of our old stoney heart, of which God said:
Ezek 11:19   “….and I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh….”
Ezek 36:26   “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
Jer. 31:33   “….I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts….”
Heb 10:16   “….I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them….”

Homer of manna:
This is a measured sample of the manna which fell in the wilderness, kept as proof of God’s provision in the wilderness, as a testimony for all Israel, and represents our daily bread, or The Word of God. In the New Testament, Jesus is recorded as giving us, in part, the following words:
“…..Give us this day our daily bread….” which speaks of our natural daily food and our spiritual daily food. He has given us our daily bread, and it is our responsibility to receive it, so let us not be remiss.

Aaron’s rod that budded:
In Num 17:1-10 we read that God commanded Moses to bring a rod from the head of every tribe into the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where, He said, “I will meet with you”. God told Moses that the man’s rod, whom He has chosen, will blossom and He will “make to cease from Me the murmurings of the children of Israel….” Aaron’s rod budded and was then ordered to be kept with the ark of the covenant, also known as the ark of the testimony. Once laid up in the ark of the Covenant, it not only was proof that God had chosen the levitical line for the priesthood, it also became a symbol of “new life springing forth from that which was dead”. On this, Jesus would later testify that “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

These three items represent critical elements that should be a part of every Christian’s life. Every Christian! If any of these three are missing from your daily walk with The Lord, you are either incomplete, or out of God’s order, and need to come back into alignment.

Now that we’ve covered that a bit, I’d like to go on with some background for this story:

1 Sam. 2:12  “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not The Lord.”

As you may know, Eli was a priest of The Lord in the days when Samuel the prophet was born, and he had an ongoing problem with two of his sons which is spelled out in verses 12-17. They were not performing the responsibilities of their priestly office in the manner which God had commanded, choosing instead to do things their own way, and for their own pleasure, with the following results:

1 Sam. 2:17  “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before The Lord: for men abhorred the offering of The Lord.”

Here’s something that appears almost as a side-note in these passages:

1 Sam. 2:21  “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters.”  Here we find what God did for Hannah after she gave Samuel to the Lord. That’s five children after she gave her first-born son to the Lord. Five, as you will recall, is the number that signifies divine grace, which is Gods available power for your situation or need. Isn’t it amazing what happens when we offer up our first fruits to the Lord?

Getting back to the house of Eli, we find another indictment against him and his sons:

1 Sam 2:22:  “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

It appears that Eli’s sons were using their positions as priests to take advantage of some of the beautiful women among the congregation, having sex with them, which is forbidden, of course. In verses 23-25 we find the record of Eli confronting them with dismal results. Eli, as high priest, should have removed them from office, but failed to do so. In verses 27-36 we find that God sent a “man of God” to inform Eli of His judgment against the house of Eli, which included, as a sign, the impending death of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas in a single day.

In 1 Sam. 3:11-14 we read where God told Samuel that He was about to fulfill His words to Eli concerning his house, which would be recorded in the fourth chapter of 1 Samuel. This is the backdrop for what is about to play out in the years ahead, and now we come to what I would like to share with you concerning this story:

1 Sam. 4:3  “And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.”

Now, did you notice their language in this passage? “….when it cometh among us, it may save us….”.  These were the elders of Israel, and they knew or should have known the error of this, but for some reason, failed to understand their error. They failed to handle the holy things with proper reverence, and in the manner that God commanded. The ark was not some talisman that could be brought in and waived around like a flag to “make” God do their bidding for them. It was a symbol of spiritual things He desired to make known to them. It was, and remains a physical representation of that which was yet to come, that is, Christ. See my previous description of this for clarification. Whereas Jesus embodied and is the ark foreshadowed by the ark of Noah and the ark of the Covenant, He left authority and responsibility for things on earth to His church.

I believe that what these elders should have said was something like this: “Bring hither the ark, that we may inquire of God, that He may save us!”  This is a very big difference, and my opinion here is that, due to the ongoing sin in the land because of the priests, they failed to notice their error, being blinded by their own now-corporate sin.

Reading through this chapter we find it closes with these tragic words:

1 Sam. 4:22  “And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.”  Thus the word of the Lord which was spoken by the man of God, and again confirmed by Samuel, was fulfilled.

1 Sam. 5:1  “And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.”

There is a very powerful image or parallel manifested in these passages, namely: Whenever we fail to treat the holy things of God with proper reverence we will descend into carnality, here represented by Philistine lands and cities. The Philistines almost always represent second-dimension, or carnal-minded man. It is a condition of humanity in which not only base carnality exists, but also the inevitable rank paganism that accompanies it.

Now we come to a series of interesting events, and these events must have become widely spoken of in the region, otherwise we wouldn’t know of them, as the children of Israel were not known to inhabit the lands of the Philistines. In verses 2-3 we find that the ark was placed in the house of Dagon, the god of the Philistines, and that when the priests of Dagon came into their temple the next morning, “….Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord.”  and they set him back up. Imagine worshiping something that has “fallen and can’t get up” by himself! Almost too silly to be true, but they still didn’t quite realize anything was going on until the next day when once again they find, in 1 Sam. 5:4, that Dagon was “fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.”

At this point I’d like to point out an interesting parallel to you. The words of this verse state that Dagon’s hands and feet were cut off, not broken off. This implies that someone, likely an angel of the Lord, actually went in and performed the deed. The cutting off of the head implies the cutting off of spiritual headship, or cutting off from the source of their spiritual power, while the cutting off of the hands implies the cutting off of their power to do work, or get gain, which the Philistines usually did by raiding and stealing from Israelite or other villages. This must have seemed like a terrible and powerful omen to the priests of Dagon. It would not be the last time the Philistines faced such a powerful omen. See 1 Sam. 17:51 regarding David and Goliath.

In 1 Sam. 5:6-12 we find that, not only did God cause unusual events to unfold in the house of Dagon at Ashdod,  He also destroyed them , smiting them throughout their coasts with emerods. When the men of Ashdod realized what was happening and why, they sent the ark to the village of Gath, where the Lord smote the men of the city, small and great, with emerods in their secret parts. They then sent the ark to Ekron. Now these folks at Ekron were starting to realize what what was happening in the other two villages, and they wanted no part of it in theirs. Here in verse 12 we find something rather unusual occurred: “….and the cry of the city went up to heaven.”  Bible students may recall that, in the book of Genesis 18:21-22, the cry of another pair of cities (Sodom and Gomorrah) went up to heaven.

1 Sam. 6:1  “And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.”   Here we find a period of time (seven months) that speaks of completion, which is rather interesting simply for the fact that it was mentioned. It appears that God is telling a story here, demonstrating something that he will want generations yet to be to understand. More on this later….

1 Sam. 6:2  Here we find the Philistine priests and diviners called upon to decide what to do with the ark, and we also find clues as to the nature of the plague that was upon them. You’ll notice that their land was marred with “mice” as well as being plagued with death and emerods in their private parts. The word “mice” here is also interchangeable for “rat” and, coupled with the “emerods” and death, reveals this to be a form of bubonic plague, which is almost always foreshadowed by an explosion in rat and mice populations. The “emerods” are nothing more than swollen lymph nodes, which always accompanies bubonic plague. The priests of Dagon made golden images of these mice and emerods and placed them in a small coffer, or box, beside the ark of God on a wagon. Hooked up to two fresh milk cows, it was left to travel back to Israel. Notice the number of images these Philistines placed in that small coffer for their “trespass offering”….five golden mice and five golden emerods, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines and their cities. The number of divine grace again.

Did you ever wonder why there were Philistines in those five cities to begin with? Did God provide them with the grace to live there? There were, after all, five cities they occupied. You will recall that God told Moses and the children of Israel that he would drive out the inhabitants of the land before them, but yet not all of them. He would leave some of them in the land to prove them therewith, to see whether they would obey and serve Him. Among these were the Amalekites, the Jebusites, and the Philistines. God had ordered King Saul to destroy the Amalekites, but he disobeyed. The Jebusites, who occupied Jerusalem, would be dealt with later by King David, while the Philistines remain to this day as the Palestinians. The land of Israel was renamed “Palestine” as an act of contempt and derision by a later Roman Emperor. They still continue to test the Israelites.

Here’s another thought: Were the Philistines, even in their ignorance, attempting to get hold of a double portion of God’s grace for the healing of their cities and land? Is it possible that the priests and diviners of Dagon either stumbled upon or were led to this? You must recall that the Philistines were never trained in the ways of the Lord, nor yet in how to handle the holy things of the Lord. And isn’t it interesting that, although we know they must have handled the ark of God, there is not one recorded instance of any of them falling down dead for doing so? This would not be the case for one Israelite priest or a certain village in the future, though. Unlike the Philistines, all of the children of Israel were trained in how to handle the holy things of God, and should have known better.

1 Sam. 6:14  “And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone….”

Reading the preceding verse and continuing from there, we find that the people of Beth-shemesh, about fifty-thousand and seventy men, were smitten by the Lord because they had “….looked into the ark of the Lord.”  This caused quiet a lamentation to rise up among the people of the area and the ark was soon moved to the house of Abinadab in the hill. Eleazar his son was sanctified to keep the ark of the Lord, which abode in Kirjath-jearim for the next twenty years, until after the reign of King Saul, when  David ascended the throne of Israel.

2 Sam. 6:1-11  Some time after David ascended the throne, he decided to gather his chosen men and bring up the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim. From reading these verses, you can see this was quite an event. It looked like nothing could possibly go wrong until the oxen shook the cart and Uzzah, the son of Abinadab, reached out and put his hand on the ark to steady it. And then he fell dead, struck by the Lord for his error. David was displeased with all this, and the ark of God ended up staying for three months at the house of Obed-edom, who ended up greatly blessed for keeping it there during this time, which brings me to the point of what The Lord has revealed to me concerning this.

I believe the journey of the ark of God from Shiloh to the towns of Philistine, and back again, represents a sort of time-line; an illustration of the history of the church of Jesus Christ. This line covers a period from the time of the early church through the time when it was usurped or co-opted by the emperor Constantine, and on through the period of the Roman Catholic Church even to this day we live in now. Bear with me as I elaborate, and understand that what applies here to the history of the church can also, and in fact, does apply to each of us as individuals. The illustrations and warnings are eerily similar.

The early church started out as directed by the Lord, and the apostles were performing their function of training up other disciples to perform the work of the ministry. Luke, writing for the apostle Paul, stated in a letter to the church (Acts 20:29) that “….after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” That this actually happened is now a matter of historical record, and some of the most damning evidence of this is held in the Vatican’s own archives. Infant baptism, sprinkling instead of baptism, doctrines of purgatory, changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first, and the list goes on. All not even in the bible. There is ample evidence that the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2:6, 2:15), although well-established in some churches even in the apostles day, was carried to extremes under the catholic church, and is still something most modern churches struggle to break free from today.

The ark was on its way into the land of the Philistines.

A series of events would unfold in the church, however, that would altogether shake the foundation of mindless traditions of men, and the bondage that had resulted from it. For centuries the church had sunk into corruption, idol-worship and rank paganism, worshiping “saints” instead of Jesus Christ. That was about to change.

It started when Martin Luther nailed his now-famous thesis on the door of a local church establishment, detailing over some things the church did that the bible didn’t require, while failing to do things that it did require. Sound familiar?

It happened again when William Tyndale told an exasperated catholic scholar: “I defy the Pope and all his laws….If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”  Four years later his English translation of the New Testament was completed, and it literally set fire to the reformation in Europe. This was the fuel that drove the reformation. The Pope and kings alike were aghast. And embarrassed. Luther used it to create his German translation. The rulers of Europe were filled with hatred and rage. The book may have been banned in London, but the first print edition alone was over three thousand, and within eight years there were at least five pirated editions being printed. And you thought pirating was a new development? Although Tyndale was martyred for translating the Bible into English, within 100 years King Henry of England would commission yet another translation of it, and those he employed to this purpose would plagiarize Tyndale’s translation in the process of creating the King James Version, also known as The Authorized Version. The Geneva Bible , which accompanied the pilgrims to America, was, and remains, separate and distinct from the King James Version, and kings hated it largely do to the nature of the notes and commentaries that were included in the margins with it, which clarified some texts.

And Dagon rocked until he fell from his place before the ark of God.

The Pope, of course, as well as his bishops and cardinals did everything they could to “prop up” and maintain their positions and power, much like the Philistines attempt to put Dagon back up on his place. It didn’t work. In the late 1700’s, a revolution would take root in France that would rock Europe. Kings would fall. Even the Pope was not immune. The powerful stranglehold the corrupt church of Rome had was broken. And a new nation would form on the other side of the world with a constitutional form of government unlike anything the world had ever seen.

“….behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.”

After the French Revolution and the chaos that resulted from it, people from all walks of life would get their hands on printed editions of the Bible, and the gospel would spread even faster and farther than Luther and Tyndale could have dreamed. In The United States of America, the gospel found a ready base from which to spread throughout the world to places never dreamed of before.

The ark was making its journey back to Jerusalem.

The church still had some learning to do, however, but it was growing and learning, nonetheless. Today, the church is beginning to see the previously-overlooked importance of building and doing things Gods way. This is increasingly demonstrated in home groups, home schools, and even in modern politics, where new groups are doing their best to “raise up the waste places” of biblical values, and overturn years of godless, humanistic doctrine and laws that are in direct opposition to biblical values and freedom. It is at this point that we are coming to a possible “bump in the road”, so to speak, and I feel a necessity to sound a “trumpet of alarm”. A reminder, if you will, of two very different options I see in the near future of the church of Jesus Christ, and how we act in this period can determine how we enter the last leg of our journey to that “New Jerusalem” we long for.

2 Sam. 6:6  “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.”

Remember this passage? This is where the priests’ lack of regard for Gods ways came to it’s ugly conclusion. It seemed like such a small thing, but it yielded such large, and tragic, consequences. Uzzah died there on the road back to Jerusalem for his error, and it was a huge wake-up call for all of Israel.

And this, I believe, is where the church is today; at the same point on the road back to Jerusalem. I believe it is imperative that the church of Jesus Christ pay particular attention from this point on in our walk with Christ to doing things “after the pattern given in the mountain”. To doing things Gods way. We must remain aware that our ways are not His ways, and we will not get to heaven doing things any old way we please. This applies not only to sound doctrine, which many in our day will flatly reject, as we’ve been warned, but also to our daily mode of living. I am more certain than ever that what the church does in the upcoming season can, and in fact, will determine the difference between having another “Uzzah” moment, or bringing the ark of God back into Jerusalem with song and celebration.

It’s been almost two years since I started going over the basic outline of this revelation in private. Our local pastor at The River has preached messages and taught on Uzzah and the events surrounding his untimely death. Even now, as I type this out, our local body of believers are preparing our hearts to join millions of other believers in what is known as a “season of prayer and fasting”, or a “Daniel Fast”. I’ve never seen such excitement or anticipation over any corporate events such as this before, and it is revealing. Across this country and around the world, others are, or already have joined in this “movement” with great excitement and reverence. God is about to do things in ways we’ve never seen before, and I believe His power is about to manifest in and through His saints in greater ways than anything we’ve seen in our day.

Let the preparations for His coming continue, and let the His Kingdom come!

In Christ,
Michael P. Hamilton
Thurs. 13 Jan. 2011

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