Friday, July 26, 2019

A New Mount Sinai

"So the men Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD" (1 Samuel 7:1).

When Israel came out of Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai and appeared to them. He told them not to try to gaze at Him nor touch the mountain (Exodus 19:20–24). He told them never to look at the ark; it was always covered (Numbers 4:4–6). When the ark went into battle, and when the Philistines sent it back to Israel, it was covered with a leather shield and over that a cloth of pure blue.

When the ark came back to Beth Shemesh, the cart carrying it stopped by a large rock. The Levites of the local synagogues in the area put the ark on this rock and led the people in making burnt offerings to the Lord. Later, however, some of the people lifted up the ark’s covering and gazed at it, only to be struck dead (1 Samuel 6:19; the number 50,070, literally “seventy men, fifty thousands,” probably should be understood as “70 men, of which 50 were chilarchs [elders over thousands]”; cp. Exodus 18:21).

The men of Beth Shemesh (those left) were struck with Sinaitic fear and asked that the men of Kiriath Jearim take the ark to their city. The ark was not taken back to the tabernacle. Apparently, Samuel, who led Israel at the time, understood that the tabernacle had been permanently profaned in some sense. God was not going to restore the old system but was moving Israel forward into a new system—the temple.

At Kiriath Jearim the ark was put into its own house on top of a hill and Eleazar was consecrated as a priest to guard it. We can compare this with God’s enthronement on Mount Sinai. As Israel stayed in the wilderness for 40 years before taking the Promised Land, so the ark remained on this hill for 20 years while Israel lived under the Philistine rule, and while Samson and Samuel judged the nation.

At the end of this period, Samuel acted as a new Moses, leading the people in a covenant renewal (1 Samuel 7:2–6). The people broke their idols and gathered at Mizpah. After they had renewed the covenant, the Philistines attacked them, but this time Israel was victorious. Samuel as a new Joshua led them from the “wilderness” and they reconquered the Promised Land (1 Samuel 7:10–17).

We renew our covenant each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. The next time you gather with believers to celebrate that symbol of renewal, make a commitment to destroy the “idols” in your life. Commit to keeping God’s Law. Ask God to renew in you a reverent holy fear of Him.