Sermon delivered May 9, 1998

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Qotations from the Bible are from the New International Version.

David: Raider of the Lost Ark

The Ark of the covenants was deep back in the far interior recesses of a great pagan stone temple. There among the golden idols of the Philistines sat the golden ark of God. This lost ark had been looted from Israel. This theft was considered to be the greatest calamity that could afflict Israel.

To understand this amazing story of robbery and recovery we need to start at the beginning. The ark is a special chest constructed in Moses day - about 1441 BC. It is made of wood overlaid with gold. A rectangular box 52" long and 31" wide and 31" tall. The lid is solid gold which supports two golden Cherubims on top.

This holy cabinet contains the 10 commandments and two symbols of God's miraculous power, a jar of manna and Aaron's rod that budded. On the outside in a side pocket is a complete copy of the laws of Moses.

The normal home for this piece of holy furniture was the Most Holy place of the tabernacle. When God's people needed guidance from Heaven the high priest sometimes went before the ark with a question. The Lord answered yes by focusing sacred laser-like beams of glory on the right hand cherubim or angel. If the answer was "no" a cloud would rest over the left angel. (See EG White - Story of Redemption, page 184 by EG White.) Between these angels was the Shekinah glory of God. This great glorious light indicated God's presence. It was the holiest spot on the earth.

The ark traveled like a gypsy 40 years in the dessert. Carried by holy priests it led the way into the Jordan river as the waters parted. Four angels always accompanied the ark wherever it went - EG White - The Story of Redemption, p. 184. The ark was likewise carried around Jericho 7 days after which the walls came tumbling down. The ark stayed in Shiloh for 300 years inside a tent-like tabernacle. Saul later moved the tab to Gibeon.

One day, because of Eli's evil sons, God allowed the ark to be taken onto the battleground like a good luck charm. Saul lost the battle with the Philistines. (I Samuel 4) We must never use religion like a rabbit's foot. Only a daily connection will save us.

When priest Eli learned that the Philistines had slaughtered 30,000 men, killed his sons and captured the holy ark, this heavy 98 year old blind man fell backward and broke his neck and died. And his pregnant daughter-in-law went into labor and gave birth to a boy that she named Ichabod (which means "The glory has departed from Israel".) The ark was gone. God's presence vanished.

The ark belonged in the most holy place of the tabernacle. The central house of worship was void of God's presence. Could you worship here knowing that God skipped church today? I wonder how God feels about worship when we lay out.?.?

The Philistines took the hallowed ark back to their heathen empire placing it deep inside the great idolatrous temple of DAGON. With the combined power of the ark & Dagon they would be invincible.

I Samuel 5:1,2 - "After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon."

The angels of God who always attended the ark pulled a good one. Sometime in the night they pushed over the great Philistine idol, Dagon. The next day revealed old Dagon face down worshiping the symbol of the true God! Samson had pulled down the first temple to Dagon, (the father of Baal) and now there was trouble in the second one.

The second morning revealed Angel activity again! This time the angels had mutilated the idol. They decapitated its head and limbs. (EG White, The Story of Redemption, p.188.) Since it was a fish below the waist and a man above the waist this god was dead in the water!

God's presence exhibited in the Ark was a blessing to God's people and a curse to His enemies because of the response of each to the law it contained.

For seven long months the Philistines monkeyed around with the ark. Every town it entered was cursed. A wailing was heard all over the land because of the twin plagues it caused. There were hordes of mice and the bubonic plague with its cancerous tumors. I Samuel 6 tells how they finally got rid of the ark. The Philistines made Solid Gold MODELS: verse 5- "Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and pay honor to Israel's god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you.."

So they crafted 5 models each of the rats and tumors. They built a new cart and hitched it to two cows that had never been yoked. These cows had nursing calves who were tied up. Off, the cows went, crying for their calves, and yet following the Angels of God who led the ark back to Israel.

The mice and the tumors vanished like hailstones. The poor Philistines, like some of us, just kept rejecting the true God. 10,000 heavenly mercies silently fell upon them every day unnoticed and unappreciated.

II Samuel 6:13 - "Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight." You never know what will appear over the horizon. Their ship came in! God's blessing born by the cow and cart transportation service.

But notice how they handled this windfall. These irreverent folk started to remove the coverings and look inside the ark. Even the Levite ministers were not allowed to look. Only the High Priest. Even the heathen Philistines had not dared to remove its coverings. II Samuel 6:19 - Seventy disrespectful people died on the spot.

So the ark was placed in the house of Abinadab the Levite. For decades his house reaped a blessing. When God is in your house you benefit!

When David became King there was no central place of worship. Spirituality was at an all time low. The old tabernacle of Moses was still in Shiloh and the forgotten ark in someone's house ten miles from Jerusalem.

As soon as David acquired a capital city he wanted God in it. As soon as you establish a home, you must enthrone God in it. I believe moving the ark to Jerusalem was one of the greatest deeds David ever did. Eleven psalms were composed around this great event. Great leaders lead us to God.

So Zealous David mustered 30,000 leading men and went to get the Lost Ark. They loaded it up on a new ox cart and UZZAH followed close behind while his brother led it down the road. The ark was top heavy. II Samuel 6:6 says that when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, there was trouble. I think the oxen pulled aside to get some grain to eat. The cart lurched and the ark tottered. Trying to be helpful, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark and (verse 7) - "The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God!"

The Ark was a dangerous box to be around. To touch it was like touching God. (Numbers 4:15) God had said: "they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die." They had a hot potato on their hands.

Standing there beside Uzzah's corpse made David think. He was upset at God when actually God was upset at David. Was David a man after God's own heart? Yes! Does that mean he is perfect? No. Neither are we. But our daily desire is to be like Jesus. Over the years we get more like Him.

Does Uzzah's death mean that God is more interested in external obedience than internal motives of the heart? No; God is interested in both. Actually Uzzah was angry with the oxen. Uzzah showed a lack of trust in God as though He who brought the ark from the land of the Philistines couldn't take care of it now. Angels who attended the ark struck down Uzzah for his rashness. His heart wasn't right.

Why didn't the Philistines die when they touched the ark? Because they didn't know any better. Light creates accountability.

There were several reasons for David's failure to move the ark home. I Chronicles 15:13 says that they did not even bother to inquire of the Lord! How often do we set out without consulting God? They learned that the ark was death to those who transgressed the laws it contained, but life to those whose hearts were set to obey them. When we begin to care about the things God cares about we become people after His heart.

I Chronicles 15:1 - "After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a (new) tent for it."

He had palatial Buildings for Himself but just a tent for God. Why? He was not allowed to build a building for the Ark because of His sins.

Trembling and afraid, they left the ark at the house of Obed-edom. God blessed poor Obed-edom greatly with happiness and peace. A tide of golden prosperity set in. - ( according to Josephus)

What does the ark represent? Christ! When you invite Jesus into your home, you will be blessed.

Meanwhile David studied the rule book to find out how to move the ark safely. David had not been doing His Daily Bible Study. When we neglect the Holy Word of God we have great personal loss.

The ark was to be moved on the shoulders of the holy priests. (Numbers 7:9). Poles must be inserted into the little ringlets. So often we don't want to take the time to get the poles. The details of the ringlets drive us insane. But God is a Person of detail. Small things are important to Him.

But if something is important to God it will be significant to His people. Find out what makes God happy and then ask for strength to get it going in your life. Obedience is the proof of your love to God. Pray for the fruit of obedience in your life.

The law was in the heart of the ark and in His heart. We bear Christ on our shoulders to the world.

After 3 months, David and all Israel came to properly move the ark to its new home. There was grand music, sacrifice, and joy. The gates of the holy city opened wide for the entrance of the holy ark. At this time singing was made a regular part of religious worship.

David's majestic recovery of the Ark resulted in the freeing of the nation from idolatry. The people turned to God. Friends, you must establish Jesus Christ in the center of your home. Do you need to be freed from idolatry or sin? Does your family pray together? Do you worship God in your home?

Because of David's sins he was not allowed to build a temple home for the ark. When God told Him he could not build the temple David did not pout and stomp. He received the words gratefully. Whatever God wanted was what David wanted.

Later, the ark rested in Solomon's new temple over 350 years. Just before Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 by the Babylonians, some of the remnant righteous still in the City of David were shown that the Holy City would be destroyed. These holy men secretly removed the sacred ark with mourning and sadness. They secreted the ark in a cave. That sacred ark is still there. It has not been disturbed since that day. (EG White - Prophets and Kings, p. 453)

Jerusalem burned on August 15, 586 BC. The great fire lasted 3 days. All was lost. All except that ark hidden in the cave.

"The precious law was placed in the ark of the testament and is still there, safely hidden from the human family. But in God's appointed time He will bring forth these tables of stone (in the ark)... The tables of stone are hidden by God, and will be produced in the great judgement day..." (Vol. 1 Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, p. 1109.)

Someday soon, before the end of the world, we will again see the ark of the covenant. This 3439 year old object will be exhumed. What a boost this will give to the Law of God. Again people will see the importance of the Sabbath and the other commands. The ten commandments in the ark are a copy of the originals that are safe in the archives of heaven inside the heavenly ark. That was the blueprint after which Moses patterned his ark.

David found the forgotten ark and set it in a prominent place in the heart of his kingdom. I urge you to set Jesus Christ in your heart. Just as this act was the catalyst to bring the whole nation from idolatry back to God, just so you must pray for wisdom that you may turn your family around. Make the ark, (Christ) the center of your home.

Hymn of Praise:   20   O praise ye the Lord
Scripture:    Psalm 19:7-10
Hymn of Dedication: 340 I will sing of My Redeemer

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