Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Whoever Insults His Brother

Lift up your heads, O gates!  And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. – Psalm 24:7

The Ark of the Covenant had been carried into battle by Hophni and Phinehas, the apostate sons of the high priest, Eli.  They had been killed and the Ark captured by the Philistines, who were, in turn, so afflicted with plagues due to its presence that they sent it back on a cart drawn by bawling milk cows (1 Samuel 4-7).  Some of the Israelites who were present to receive the Ark as it returned dropped dead when they attempted to examine it a little too closely. 

Thus we learn that the presence of the Lord, as represented by the Ark, will not be of benefit to a person who is, toward God, dismissive, disrespectful or antagonistic.  In fact, such a person, if it were possible, would be better off getting and staying as far from God as he could get.  It is not possible, not even in hell, to avoid God, as too many find out too late. 

So the Ark was left out in somebody’s field for decades.  When David became king of Israel, it was in his heart to bring the Ark to Jerusalem which, by that time, he had established as his royal city (2 Samuel 6).  Not without difficulty was it done for, initially, he attempted to carry it up on a cart, resulting in the death of a man named Uzzah who touched the Ark trying to steady it.  The next effort, however, followed the instructions given to Moses:  that the Ark should be borne on the shoulders of the priests.  It was successful.  David danced for joy before the Ark all the way up to the Tabernacle of David situated somewhere on the heights in the city. 

Our verse above reflects the joy that David felt, written by him or as if by him as he brought that symbol of God’s presence into ancient Jerusalem.  In Solomon’s time, the singers might have sung this psalm as the Ark solemnly entered its resting place in that newly finished and beautiful temple. 

The Ark itself was a glorious thing to behold, covered in gold, with golden cherubim on the top forming the mercy seat.  It’s funny, though, the gold was just a covering.  The Ark was made out of wood.  As impressive and potent as this container was, it was never more than a means of conveying to us the truth about ourselves.    

God does not dwell in temples.  His presence is not confined to ornate, golden boxes.  We have this treasure, Paul says, in earthen vessels – jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7).  By His Spirit, the Lord makes His home in the hearts of men.  Though unimaginable power is His, He will not force His way into our lives.  He will stand at the door of a person’s heart and knock (Revelation 3:20).  He waits.  All anyone has to do is lift the bar on the gate, the latch on the door. 

If the presence of God upon the inanimate, symbolic Ark was awe-inspiring, how much more deserving of respect and even reverence is His presence in the hearts of living men and women?  Be wise; be careful.        

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