Functioning as God’s Priests: Part 2

(Photo: Unsplash)

The function of a priest is to stand against the ungodly choices God’s people are making. So when a priest or minister fails, everyone suffers.

A Terrible Battle Plan

After losing the first Philistine encounter, Hophni, Phineas and the elders believed taking the Ark of the Covenant into battle was the winning strategy. Neither Moses nor Joshua ever considered doing so. When Joshua lost a battle to his enemies, he and the elders fasted and prayed. Each time the Israelites lost, they discovered their problem: sin. Repentance became the key to victory. Unfortunately, the two sons of Eli lived sinful lives, angering the Lord with their corrupt behavior. Both treated the Lord with contempt.

And He noticed.

Their father Eli worried about taking the ark into battle. But his ability to control his sons’ actions was non-existent. They’d ignored his warnings for years. Then the unthinkable happened. The Philistines triumphed in war again. Israel’s enemies captured the Jews’ sacred Ark of the Covenant. Hophni, Phineas and Eli all died that same day. Phineas’ wife went into labor and named her son Ichabod, which means “no glory.”

22 She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”   (1 Samuel 4:22 NIV)

But that’s not the end of the story. Because of course, the Almighty can take care of Himself.

Acquiring the Wrong God

In those days, people believed that if one army defeated another, it was because their deity was more powerful than the conquered foe’s deity. But the Philistines learned how wrong that belief Five brown rats outside a wooden door of a temple in India.was. Because Yahweh has always been the Living God, the One who created them. But Dagon their idol? Just a hunk of useless rock. 1 Samuel 5:1 – 6:16 is one of my favorite Bible stories. Ashdod became the 1st Philistine city to host the ark. Then the citizens of Gath took their turn and after that, the people of Ekron. Rats and tumors plagued each city, wherever the ark resided.

After seven months the Philistines hastily sent the Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites. Two cows, who had never been yoked, pulled the cart containing the Ark of the Covenant straight back to Israel’s territory, without human guidance.

The Philistines never worshipped the Jewish God, but they learned to fear Him.

The Sacredness of the Ark

Strangely enough, the Philistines treated the Ark of the Covenant more sacredly than the Jews who received it back. Think about the history:

  • The Ark of the Covenant rested out of sight, within the Holy of Holies.
  • Only Moses placed items before the ark or inside it, in obedience to God’s command.
  • No one else ever touched the ark.
  • When breaking camp, the priests would take down the inner curtain and cover it completely (Numbers 4:5.)
  • The Levites then carried the ark on their shoulders, suspended between two poles.
  • Residing in Shiloh, God’s ark hadn’t been moved in years and stayed hidden.
  • All the ordinary Israelites, elders and their leaders never saw it.
Profaning the Holy

When the ark returned from the Philistines, the Israelites rejoiced.

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. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord.16 The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron. (1 Samuel 6:13-16 NIV)

Four different drawings of what the Ark of the Covenant may have looked like.The Levites and the priests were guardians of everything sacred. Nothing was holier than the Ark of the Covenant. Yet 70 men from Beth Shemesh lifted the ark’s lid and peaked inside. Why? Curiosity and a lack of reverence. God tested the people’s hearts. One man dared to look and nothing happened. So another thought he’d glance inside. Soon the Jews formed into a line, until the last person who wanted to look inside did. Only then did God’s wrath fall and 70 men died. For a small community it would have been devastating

Why did it happen?

Did the Levites go home to sleep? Or fail to post a guard? Did they forbid the people to touch the Ark of the Covenant and then leave? Or worse, did they shrug their shoulders and stand aside, letting every man do what he wanted to do?

No one would have died if the Levites had revered God and treated their duty as sacred.

But they didn’t.

My Spiritual Point

I don’t want to spend my life doing my will, when I could make a eternal difference doing His.

So I’m I fighting His battles or my own?

Because some causes I’m passionate about are actually distractions.

Strong-willed, Hophni and Phineas lost the Ark of the Covenant and died in battle, because God would not be manipulated. When the ark returned, the regional Levites misplaced their priorities. They neglected to set a guard and 70 people died.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

What is my Lord calling me to pour my time, resources and energy into? How do I find out?

There’s only one way to know.

The more time I spend in God’s presence, the more I will share His heart and become like Him. Then His priorities will become my own.

These images came from


For the full story of the ark’s capture and miraculous return to Israel, crack open your Bible and read 1 Samuel chapters 4-6. The 3 earlier chapters tell of the corruption of Eli’s sons and how Samuel became a prophet.

There is actually a temple sacred to rats in India. But only the rats within the temple are considered reincarnated souls. The rats outside are seen as just rodents. My rat image is from that temple.



Republished with permission from Maureen Hall Puccini from her blog

Related Blogs