Posts Tagged ‘Ark of the Covenant’

Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part I 

James Tissot: Saul Meets Samuel

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Finding the Servant

The Old Testament readings in last week’s liturgies reminded us of the story of Samuel, Saul and David. There is so much to ponder that we are easily lost in the story. Samuel is born of a woman thought barren and then lives his childhood at the Temple with the priest Eli. In 1 Samuel 3, when The word of the Lord was rare in those days, visions were not widespread, we read the familiar words in the familiar story, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. If we can make time today, we will want to linger with this chapter as we consider Psalm 89 and all it might mean to us. How and when do we hear God’s voice?

Jan Victors: Hannah Giving her Son to the Priest

In the following chapters of 1 Samuel, the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant; panic and conflict ensue. The Ark returns, Samuel begins a ceremony of gratitude, and when the Philistines attack again, the Lord intervenes on Israel’s behalf. The people are grateful and so Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. Again, we consider our role as servants to God’s people. When and with whom do we share our gratitude that God is present in our lives?

In Chapter 8, Samuel prays to the Lord when the people demand a king of this world and God replies, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them . . . Listen to their voice and set a king over them. In tenderness and compassion, the Lord assures Samuel that he has done nothing wrong. With authority and kindness, the Lord works with Samuel as he moves forward in service to both God and God’s people. And we consider, are we willing to do as God asks of us, even when the plan does not appear to make sense?

When we use the scripture links and the drop-down menus to explore these verses, we discover that national turmoil when the word of the Lord is rare and visions are scarce is an ancient story. 

Tomorrow, God always abides. 

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Exodus 40: Seek the Word

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Claiming the Word

I am thinking of how careful Moses is as he prepares a place for the Lord’s word to rest.  The tablets of the Ten Commandments are contained in the Ark of the Covenant along with a jar of manna that fed the Hebrews in the desert, and Aaron’s rod which blossomed and performed miracles in Egypt.  This special ark was adorned with gold and placed in a special tent, and the tent later became a temple. The children of Israel – led by Moses – took care to set aside these emblems of the covenant in a special place.  We too, are called to prepare the temple of ourselves in which the Holy Spirit might take up residence.  Several times in this chapter we read: Moses did exactly as the Lord had commanded him.  We – like Moses – must prepare our hearts for the in-dwelling of God’s spirit just as God asks.

In his letters, St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are the New Testament temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19, Ephesians 2:21-22) replacing the temple in Jerusalem.  In Romans 10, Paul tells us where to find this word of God, and also how to claim it as our own: The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith, the faith which we preach, that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.  It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved. 

Belief that God creates, that Jesus saves and that the Holy Spirit comforts does not make us followers of Christ in and of itself; we must also proclaim this story to others with our own lips and our own actions.   Yet, even this declaring alone does not bring us into full participation in Christ’s body.  We must, as James tells us in his letter, be doers of the words and not sayers only.  (1:22-23) When we claim this word with our lips and hearts, and when we act on this word, we enter into full partnership with Christ.

The prophet Jeremiah predicted that there would come a day when the word of God would no longer be contained by tablets but would be written on our hearts (31:31), and it is with this writing that God claims us as his own.  It is this stepping forward on our part that designates us as the faithful.  We who come willingly and openly to sing God’s praise and to claim God’s word . . . also join our hearts with God’s.

A Favorite from November 23, 2009.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

1 Chronicles 13


Philistine Ox Cart

Philistine Ox Cart

The Ark of the Covenant was an itinerant house for Yahweh. It was the traveling temple which housed the God who dwelt with his chosen people. In today’s reading we see something happen which can be frightening to us . . . if we see ourselves as Uzzah.

One week in our scripture class we held a lively discussion about this reading. After studying commentaries and listening to scholars, we decided that we understood what had happened to Uzzah . . . but that it seemed to be a harsh consequence. Perhaps the real lessons here are that sometimes our well-intended actions miss the mark, that we must be prepared to be misunderstood, that sometimes the consequences of our actions will be the reverse of what we expected . . . and that ultimately, these consequences may be brutal and irredeemable.

Footnotes will point out that this unsuccessful transfer is balanced by the successful one in 15:1-16:6. They will also tell us that the Chronicler (the writer of this Book) wishes to describe this event as a religious one in order to contrast it with its description in 2 Samuel 6:1-11 where it is seen as a military incident. In either case, one thing is clear: Uzzah intends one thing . . . the outcome, for him, is another . . . and it is a stark outcome. Even the brave king David is shaken, and the ark goes not to its intended place but to a temporary stop on its journey.

We have no way of knowing what ripples our actions set into motion, ripples that bound and rebound off of countless obstacles. Sometimes these ripples come back to disturb us and to lift our little boats a bit to knock against the pier where we are harbored. Other times they go off into what seems like a limitless universe. But one thing is certain . . . each time we speak, each time we move toward another . . . our words and our gestures are open to interpretation. And for this interpretation . . . we will want to prepare.

First written on July 22, 2008.

For more information on transport in ancient times, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/philistines-ox-cart.html

For more about Uzzah, go to: http://legacy.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/Matthew-Henry/2Sam/Uzzah-Smitten-Touching-Ark


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fragments from Solomon templeFriday, June 13, 2014

1 Chronicles 22

Material for the Temple

David understands that he is to leave the building of God’s dwelling place to his son, Solomon; yet he remains engaged in the process of leaving a strong foundation so that the next generation might continue in this covenant relationship with their creator, saver and lover. David comprehends and acts on the belief that what makes a community strong is not words but deeds. He has a keen appreciation for the fact that the past we come from and the future we envision are both wound tightly into the manner in which we live the present. For David, the past is not merely a receptacle of memories to be sorted by our desire to either erase or celebrate them; it a corpus of experiences – both collective and individual – in which we might discover our true motivations. Likewise, the future is not something to be dreamt and wished for; it is a tangible presence in our daily lives in that our hopes are evidenced in what we presently do.

David does not rest on past success, nor does he conveniently forget his failures. He does not charge head long into his aspirations because he has learned the important lesson that ultimately God is in charge. David knows that when we come to God with our list of petitions that we show our understanding of our proper place with him – that of a child asking a patient parent for help – by asking him for assistance and protection. David understands through his own past experiences that no matter how much he wish for something he cannot make something happen from his own will power or authority. David also knows that no matter how much he might try to avoid God’s plans for him, he cannot run away from an action that God is asking of him. In today’s reading, David is not self-serving; rather he looks to work in the kingdom building that God has in mind for him.

Jerusalem Temple Foundation Stones

Jerusalem Foundation Stones

And so David searches for the best, stockpiles for the future, exercises prudence and discernment, and charges the next generation of leaders who will challenge the world in their love of Yahweh. We might take to heart his words: Devote your hearts and souls to seeking the Lord your God. Proceed to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, that the ark of the covenant of the Lord and God’s sacred vessels may be brought into the house built in honor of the Lord.

And so today we consider: What are the materials we bring forward from our lives with which to build our own temple for God? What might we carry in the ark of ourselves that honors our maker and helps to build his kingdom? What have we stockpiled? What do we save up? What do we value and how is it appropriate in service to God? What do we hope to pass on to our children and our children’s children? What gift do we offer up to God each day of our present lives?

Adapted from a reflection written on September 19, 2009.

To learn more about the structure and building of the Jerusalem Temple, click on the images above or go to: http://www.crystalinks.com/solomonstemple.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_stone

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Temple Mount in Jesus' Time

Temple Mount in Jesus’ Time

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mark 13:1-2


As he was making his way out of the temple area one of his disciples said to him, “Look, teacher, what stones and what buildings!” Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down”.

The disciple in this story is not named but his words are recorded. Clearly the temple and surrounding buildings strike him with awe. This is what King Solomon foresaw when planning the temple complex.  It housed the Ark of the Covenant and was meant as a suitable abode for God on earth, a place where the faithful might come to offer sacrifice, to atone, to be in the presence of the Living God. The disciple in today’s story is walking and talking with Jesus – the Living God’s living presence – and yet he focuses on the old order and sees not the presence of God beside him but the stationary temple that no longer wanders with her pilgrim people. Jesus re-directs his disciple’s attention and he also reminds us that these stones, this temple cannot stand eternally.

God says: You worry about your structures, your titles, your possessions and your awards. Turn from them and turn to me. Put aside the power you believe you have consolidated. Put down the tools you use to create your little empires and come to the living one who brings you eternal peace. There is no need for the status and goods you amass. They do not really protect you. They cannot really save you. I am the Living Presence among you. This has been foretold. Heed these words and show that you believe them in every waking moment of every day.

Consider the stones of our thinking that weigh us down. Consider the great buildings to ourselves that will tumble in time. Consider the eternal rest and security that Jesus foretells.

For more information on the Temple Mount in Jesus’ time, or to see the detail in the image above, click on the image or go to: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/12/esv-study-bible-artwork-now-available/temple-mount-in-jesus-time-2/

Tomorrow, a reflection on signs of the end. 

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Thursday, November 3, 2011 – Jeremiah 47 – Coping With the Philistines

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Capture of the Ark by the Philistines

Jeremiah’s title is Prophet of the Nations and in chapters 46 to 51 we read the Oracles to the Nations.  In this portion of his prophecy, Jeremiah describes the coming judgment of Yahweh.  “Why Philistia is included at all in the list of enemies is not clear . . . What is certain is that the attack ultimately comes from warrior YHWH . . . The poem provides no clear reason for the attack, but it ends with “the song of the sword”.  In a poignant personification of YHWH’s weapon, an unidentified speaker begs the sword to be still but recognizes that the sword is unable to countermand YHWH’s plans for it”.  (Barton 523)

This commentary points out in the previous page that today we have an aversion to “the theological themes of vengeance, anger and retribution” (522); yet these images are meant to call Israel back to Yahweh, and to lay out a kind of case here in which God’s justice is seen for what it is. . . the natural playing out of the covenant conditions. 

A few weeks ago we looked at Ezekiel’s song of the harvesting sword which held out a similar promise to the faithful: God’s justice is swift, God’s love is healing.   Today the object of this “Justice Sword” is the Philistines, a tribe of people whose history is intertwined with that of the Hebrew tribes.  More can be read about them at: http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/P/PHILISTINES/   Several weeks ago we read about the Philistines’ dilemma with the Ark of the Covenant which they had taken from the Jewish people (1 Samuel 6).  They believed that once they had physical control of this “magic” box that they could manipulate God and have him wait on them.  This, they found out, is not how God operates, and so they looked for a quick and clever way to return the Ark – the presence of God whom they did not understand.

Philistines Entering the Levant

Today we look at the prophecy Jeremiah pronounces for this Philistine people . . . and it is bleak.  When we take in all that is predicted, we realize that there is only one way to interact with Philistines: We must call on God alone for guidance and protection, and as New Testament people we will want to intercede for the Philistines in our own lives.  We will want to consider how the old covenant with Moses as mediator is fulfilled and superseded by the new covenant with Christ, the new mediator.  And so we will want to ask Christ to redeem and heal the modern Philistines . . . and the many faithful that they injure.  As we consider the implications of all of this for us today, let us pray . . .

Just and Merciful God, You know that we live side by side with those who do not revere you, and with those who believe they revere you when they do not.  Help us to step away from our anxieties and fears when we come up against the Philistines in our lives.  Teach us to take our large and small problems to you, and to trust in you alone to find the best solutions.  Encourage us as we look for ways to be faithful to you.  Help us to persevere as we place all hope in you alone.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, the New Mediator of your eternal covenant with the faithful.  Amen. 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 522-523. Print.

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