Have you ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark? It’s a great story. There’s mystery, intrigue…and there’s the Ark. The Ark is dangerous. It’s not something to handle lightly….
It melts Nazi’s faces..
Now, that’s fictional…but, is it?
Here’s the story behind that story.
In the days of Samuel, the Philistines captured the Ark (I Samuel 4).
While they had the ark, a few things happened (I Samuel 5).
- Their idol was toppled and destroyed.
- They developed tumors (one translation has hemorrhoids).
- There were mice.
Now, their faces didn’t melt, but it was pretty scary. So much so that they decided to send it back with a special offering of gold.
Here’s the lesson:
God is to be feared.
The same God whose ark topples idols and sends terrible tumors is the same God who sent the 10 plagues (Exodus 7-11). This is God who sent fire on the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18). This is the God of fire on the mountain (Mount Sinai, Exodus 19).
Of course, this is the same God of whom we speak at Christmas when we talk about sweet baby Jesus, But, we forget that this same sweet baby would later overturn the tables of the swindlers at the temple (John 2:14-16). We forget that sweet baby Jesus would become our Redeemer through enduring terrible suffering, and that the cross shows the scary wrath of God. And we forget that one day, people will hide themselves “in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’ ” Revelation 6:15-17.
So, how is it that God is full of grace and love and also a God of holiness and wrath?
He hates sin. He is angry at sin. He is holy, and that means that he is separate from sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). So, how can this holy have anything to do with sinners? How can he in mercy welcome us into his presence? The answer is the cross. In the cross we see grace, but we also see wrath. Jesus bore the terrible wrath of God so that God’s justice would be satisfied. He satisfied that requirements (I John 2:2). That’s how God can hate sin and love the sinner. He took the sin on himself. But, he’s still the God of holiness, and his wrath is as real as his love. By the way, when we come to Christ in faith, we are allowed to be clothed in Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:26-28). This means that when God looks at us, he sees not our filthy wickedness, but his own holiness. That’s why we call it amazing grace!
What happens when we forget that?
What happens when we forget the price that Jesus paid? What happens when we forget that grace isn’t cheap? Well, we might just have the situation that Paul addressed in Romans. Here’s what people might say..“.Since there is this thing called grace, why don’t we just go on sinning and grace will just cover it all? Whopppee! Time to let loose and sin, sin, sin!!” No!!!! If that’s what you think, then you missed the whole point. You missed the point of your baptism, and you missed who God is, and what following Christ means. You missed the story. That’s what Romans 6 says (Justin’s interpretation). And, when you miss all of that…bad things happen.
I think that can be seen in Eli’s sons.
There’s this story of some really bad things happening. Eli was the priest. His sons had missed the first lesson: the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Because of that, they went astray. They turned God’s service into a mockery. And, just as Jesus drove the swindlers out of the temple, God drove this family totally out of the temple. There was death on top of death. The sons were killed in battle. The father died upon hearing the news. They were done. But, God had a plan, he had a replacement. He had a new priest (Samuel) that would serve him from the heart. This priest was a the son of a woman (Hannah) who had no doubt shown the fear of the Lord and the grace of the Lord.
Now, back to the ark. Back to the fear. What do you do, when you realize that you should be killed, but you are spared? What do you do when God gives you a gift you just don’t deserve? Well, you do what Hannah (Samuel’s mother) did. You serve. You give. And, you praise.
And, when you do…God can do more with your praise and your service that you ever imagined. Just think..did Hannah know that her son would become THE priest and prophet in Israel? Did she know that he would anoint the first king and then the greatest king of Israel? Did she know that her son would help pave the way for the coming of the Messiah who would save all mankind, not just Israel, and would be the greatest King of all Kings, and would be God himself among us…more than we can ever hope or imagine. Did she know all of that? No! But, she knew that God was great, and he loved her, and that she loved him.
Be like Hannah. God can do more than you ever think or imagine with your gift, with your service, and with your praise.
I leave you with Hannah’s prayer of praise:
And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Now, I think I’ll go listen to a little Praise and Harmony, Our God is an Awesome God:
Bible Class Questions:
- Had you ever heard the story about the hemorrhoids, mice, and tumors. Why not?
- How do we sometimes try to make the Bible stories into children’s stories?
- What does it mean to fear the Lord?
- What was the ark all about? What would it have to do with us today?
- Should we fear the Lord now that Christ has come?
- What do you think “cheap grace” means? How do we cheapen grace in our minds?
- How does Romans 6 tie in to the discussion of Hophni and Phinehas?
- Why does it seem that God takes people abusing the temple so seriously? What is the temple nowadays? Who are the priests? Has God changed?
- What do you think of Hannah’s prayer life?
- How can we pray like Hannah?
- What does it mean to encounter the God of grace and wrath?
- Where do we encounter the God of grace and wrath?