1 Samuel 6:20-21
Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
We read today of Israel’s great defeat by the Philistines – not just once, but twice. After Israel’s first defeat, they bring the ark of the covenant from Shiloh as a desperate measure to aid them on the battlefield. But God was not with them, and the ark was captured. When Eli, the priest, heard that the ark had been captured by the Philistines, he fell over and died. Eli seemed more grieved by the loss of the ark than the death of his two sons in the battle.
But something interesting happened after the ark was captured… The ark – symbolizing the presence of God – brought great calamity upon the Philistines. So much so, that the Philistines kept moving the ark from city to city trying to get rid of it and ultimately sent the ark back to Israel!
This is a vivid picture of an important biblical principle. God’s presence can bring comfort and protection to the believer but is the terror of judgment to the non-believer.
This is also evident from Jesus’ teaching in today’s passage from Luke. Jesus speaks of his future return to the earth. These end-time parables seem to divide people into the “faithful” and the “unfaithful.”
For those outside the Kingdom, to be in God’s presence will be sheer terror – as there will be no Sacrifice to shield them from his wrath. But for God’s children, the Sacrifice makes it possible for us to draw near to the balm of His Presence and find peace and rest!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).