The Holiness of God
1 Samuel 6:1–7:2
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #029
October 13, 2015
“Our Father, it is such a great time that we have to be able to get together as believers, to be with likeminded believers who look to Your Word for truth, for guidance, as 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us—that we are to receive instruction in righteousness. Father, we pray that we might be willing to submit ourselves to the teaching of Your Word and come to understand the truth of Your Word that we might recognize that the only way to come to Your Word is in humility, recognizing that You are teaching and instructing us, and that we are to submit to Your Word. It is through God the Holy Spirit that we are enabled to walk in the truth, walk in the light, and abide in Christ. It is through our walk by the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit in our lives.
“Father, we pray that we might be continuously mindful of this throughout everyday. As we study this text tonight, may we come to a greater appreciation of just how distinct You are. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
As we come to 1 Samuel 6, I am hoping I can make it all the way through the chapter. This is really an integrated whole.
Sometimes when you get into certain episodes, certain narratives, and certain stories in the Old Testament, even though they may take a lot of verses, it is an integrated narrative. It is an integrated story. We need to look at the whole story because we need to treat it as a whole and not just break it up into parts.
Sometimes it is necessary to come back and break it apart in order to further explore some of the doctrinal elements within it.
As we look at this chapter, you will see that I have titled this
“The Holiness of God.”
You might think at first blush, so I want you to think about what has been happening in 1 Samuel 5, even going back to 1 Samuel 4, with the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines, how they brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ashdod.
In 1 Samuel 5, we saw that they put the Ark of the Covenant into the temple of Dagon as a sign that Dagon has conquered Yahweh, and that Yahweh is now subservient to Dagon and is a servant of Dagon.
We get these humorous scenes as God is fully capable of taking care of Himself. What we saw, as we put those last two lessons together, is that when it looks like God has been defeated, when it looks like it is too much for God, for whatever the problem is that we are facing, God is not defeated, and God never fails.
God is always greater than the problem that we are facing. We can always depend upon Him.
The way God faces and handles those problems is not always the way we think they should be handled. And this is what happens here—God allowed Israel to be defeated, over 34,000 Israelites to be killed in battle and to be captured. He was teaching Israel a lesson, but now He is going to teach the Philistines a lesson.
When the Philistines wake up the first morning, Dagon is bowing down in worship before the Ark of the Covenant. That stone statute of Dagon is bowing down. They set it up, and the next morning they came in early to see what took place during the night. Dagon is down and God is going to keep it down.
He has decapitated it. He has cut off its hands. He has put its hands on the threshold as if Dagon is seeking rescue, seeking help. This goes back to an image we see with that interesting story about the Levites’ concubine in Judges 19.
God takes care of Himself. There is this plague that comes upon the Philistines that is quite humorous.
The Philistines develop tumors. Or, the King James translated it hemorrhoids. We looked at the Hebrew word for it last week, ofel-l. This is a word that very likely means anal tumors.
The Philistines are plagued with this plague, but they are also plagued with the plague of mice and rats. That is significant because rats and mice would destroy the grain. Dagon is the god of grain.
God once again is not only poking fun at Dagon, but God is also not politically correct. He does not treat other peoples’ religions with any manner of respect at all. He pokes fun at them to show that they’re inconsequential. They are worthless. They do not work.
The Philistines have to figure out what in the world they are going to do to solve this problem. Finally they say, we are over run with rats, everybody is suffering, God has become a real pain in the rear to all of them, literally, and every time they try to sit down they have problems.
Let us get Him out of town. So the Philistines went from there to Ekron. They are trying to get rid of God. This went on for seven months. God is going to continue to teach the Philistines and the Israelites a lesson.
The lesson we are learning is that God can solve the problem, even when He appears He is somewhat defeated. A couple of verses that we ought to be reminded of are:
- Mark 10:27, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
- That is restated by Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Whatever the problem is, God can solve it.
Today we live in a world where people turn to all kinds of alternative options, everything from medication to psychology, to counseling, to New Age therapies.
What Scripture is trying to tell us is the root problem is sin. And we have to deal with the root problem.
Too often what these other things do is give a counterfeit solution. We have to get back to a spiritual solution. Part of understanding this solution is to understand God, understand who He is as the unique God of the universe.
As we review this a little bit, I want you to look at the next to the last verse, 1 Samuel 6:20. This is why this chapter must be dealt with as a unified whole because we do not learn God’s point in all of this until we get down to 1 Samuel 6:20.
“And the men of Beth Shemesh,” which is where the Ark ends up when it first comes back to Israel because they messed up when they handled the Ark when it returned—“the men of Beth Shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?’ ”
That is the issue in this whole chapter. The bottom line is stated by the men of Beth Shemesh: who is able to stand before God? What problem is able to stand before God? What situation is able to stand before God? The emphasis here is on the fact that it is this “holy Lord God.”
Just by way of review, the problem we have in Israel has been this problem of syncretism and assimilation to the cultures around them. God is going to deliver them from this, but to deliver them from this problem He has got to take them through some judgment, some divine discipline, before they will be willing to accept His solution. And God’s solution is always radical.
The sufficiency of God is a radical doctrine. Since I have taught this, I have had a few people say, well you cannot really mean what you are saying. No, I do mean what I am saying.
For 1900 years, in Christianity the doctrine of the sufficiency of Christ has been understood that no matter what problem you are facing in life you can solve it through the Word of God. It is sufficient.
But now that we have the advent of Freud, Jung, Maslow, and all kinds of medications. do you not understand that there is a chemical component to our problem? Sure there is a chemical component, but that is not the cause. The cause is sin.
Sin certainly can have a chemical impact, but the solution has to go back to solving the sin problem, not just treating some sort of secondary chemical reality.
You have to be careful how you do that if you have been trying to handle spiritual problems with medication. You cannot just quit the medication tomorrow, because this medication, just like sin, has changed the make up of your brain.
It has changed the chemical construction of the brain, but not inevitably. It can be reversed. That is the grace of God. It just goes back to whether you understand chemical reactions or any of that.
Remember, the soul is immaterial. Our lives ultimately go back to volition, is what Scripture says. It does not really matter what the secondary effects of sin are in our lives.
The solution, Scripture says, always goes back to trusting in Almighty, omnipotent, gracious, loving God, and the solutions He gives in the Scripture.
That is what happens here. God has to straighten out Israel. Israel’s problem is more relativism- the same problem we have in our culture.
As we saw this in the map, just to give us a background, the Ark is lost at Aphek. It is first taken to Ashdod. Then it is going to move to Gath. Then up to Ekron. Then the Philistines are going to send it to Beth Shemesh. That is when it goes via the cart that we are going to see in this chapter.
The Ark represents the throne of God upon the earth.
What we have to do is understand what holiness is. That is the focal point that God the Holy Spirit wants us to understand. What God is doing in bringing judgment on Israel is because they have forgotten the holiness of God. The problem with the Philistines is they never had a clue about the holiness of God. They are going to get a lesson on the holiness of God, that God is God. Yahweh is God and there is no other. Dagon is just a statue of stone.
We have to understand what holiness is because holiness is really a misunderstood concept by a lot of evangelical Christians.
One of the ways I first learned that I had a few misunderstandings on holiness is when I got into the second year of Hebrew. We started learning how to do word studies. The first word study we had to do was on the Hebrew verb qadash, which means holy. We had to come to understand what that means.
You ask most people what holy means in English, and they think it means to be morally or ethically pure. They think that somehow righteousness and justice make up holiness. This has been true of a lot of theology.
I have taught that before, but I think it is more than that. I have been doing some more thinking on this recently, and I just want to take you through about four or five points of introduction before we get into the story.
This is a story that if we are teaching in prep school—you prep school teachers listen—if you are teaching the holiness of God, this is one of the stories you tell. I bet you get a few laughs too, because this is such a good humorous story with the mice and the hemorrhoids and everything.
- Holiness is the English word that translates a group of Hebrew words that are based on the three consonants qdsh. Remember, in Hebrew they did not have any vowels.
The verb is qadash. You have the noun qadosh. In Greek you have the words HAGIOS, HAGIAZO, and HAGIASMOS. Usually you translate it sanctification or consecration.
The Greek words reflect the meaning of the Hebrew because those are the words that were used in the Septuagint. Whenever you study certain words that are critical words in the New Testament that are critical words in the Old Testament, the definition comes out of the Old Testament.
It does not come out of Greek. It does not come out of 5th century BC Greek. It does not come out of anything that the Greeks ever did.
That may help us with a little flavor or color, but the meaning comes usually from Moses. Secondary meanings come from David and the Psalms.
Holiness comes from these words (qadash and qadosh in Hebrew and HAGIOS, HAGIAZO, and HAGIASMOS in the Greek). We have to understand what holiness means. There is a lot of debate over this today, a lot more than there was 30–40 years ago.
- Though holy in English is usually thought to be moral purity or a synonym for righteousness and justice, it is actually a lot more than that.
This is an extremely robust term in the Hebrew. It is a lot more than the way we have simplified it into righteousness and justice.
- We have access to a lot of other languages.
We have access to Samarian. We have access to Acadian, which was the language of the Assyrians. We have access to a northwest Canaanite dialect, which was spoken of in an area called Ugarit that is up in the country now that is formally known as Syria.
These cognate words in these other Semitic languages indicate that the main idea is something that pertains to, or belongs to, the realm or the use of the divine.
Think about that. It is something that pertains to God. It is something that is related to God. It is something that has to do with God’s special use.
In Samarian studies, scholars have come to understand that the concept is to be focused on something to do with God.
One writer says, “When a Samarian priest said ‘I am holy’, he was emphasizing his citizenship in the divine realm,” that he was being used by God and he served God.
That is what he meant by being holy. It did not have anything to do with his morality or his ethics or his righteousness, but that he was serving God. He is focusing on the fact that as a priest, he is a citizen of God’s realm.
In Acadian, the emphasis moves a little bit towards consecration—being set apart to the use of God.
In Ugaritic it also has that same idea—something that is related to God, that is related to the service of God. And it is applied to objects, to people, to offerings, and to deities.
One of the things we ought to think about is that when this is applied to a temple, when a temple is said to be holy, when the tabernacle is said to be holy, when the bowls, the altars are said to be holy, how can an object be morally pure? How can an object be righteous or just? It cannot. Those are personal qualities.
But the word holy is very frequently applied to temples, to objects used in worship—everything that is set apart to the service of God. It is consecrated in that sense. That is very much a major part of the idea of the word.
- In the New Testament, all the uses of the word are built on the Septuagint.
Remember, the Septuagint was the translation of Jewish rabbis in Egypt, in Alexandria, in about 200–250 BC. The Jewish people who had migrated had left back in 586 BC. They had established a very strong colony and a very strong base in Egypt, but they could no longer read or speak Hebrew. They were completely divorced from their Scriptures. They got the rabbis to translate the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek so that they could read it. That is the Septuagint.
The Septuagint is the Old Testament. It is about 200–250 years before Christ. It is a great witness to messianic interpretations because it is not impacted by the coming of Christ. It is about 200 years before Christ.
The Greek words that are used to translate those Old Testament words are very important because they are the same words that are used when you get into the New Testament studies.
- The main idea of holiness is extremely robust. This is a powerful word. It is much more than (and in some ways it would possibly include) moral and ethical purity. But it probably combines the ideas of separateness, distinctiveness, transcendence, and it would encompass the totality of who God is.
This is one of those words where God says, “I Am Holy.” It defines God in all of His attributes if you are talking about these ideas of being distinct and transcendent.
When we think of transcendent we think of what attribute? His omnipresence, He is everywhere present to all of His creation. He is transcendent.
Holiness is not restricted to righteousness and justice. It would relate to His transcendence, His omnipresence. It would relate to His uniqueness in that that He is immutable. He never changes. He is omnipotent. He is all powerful.
It would also relate to His sovereignty, because He is the Creator God who rules over all of His Creation.
We can see that holiness is a word that goes far beyond any one or two attributes of God, but probably encompasses the wholeness, the totality of who God is.
Does that mean that it excludes righteousness? Certainly not. Righteousness and justice are part of who God is. Being righteous experientially is a part of what is expected of any believer.
We are to live a life that is set apart to God. Part of what that encompasses from other passages and other words in Scripture is that we are to be experientially righteous.
We are to have moral excellence, or as 2 Peter 1 says, “virtue”, which is the Greek word ARETE, which is another extremely robust word. All of this is the result of walking by the Spirit. We have Scripture passages. I want to highlight a couple of verses.
Romans 6:13, where Paul says we are to be alive to righteousness and our members are to be “instruments of righteousness.”
1 Corinthians 15:34 we are to be “awake to righteousness, and do not sin,” Paul says. He does not say do not sin when it is bad. He says categorically, “do not sin.” The only way that can happen is when we are walking by the Spirit.
Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Ephesians 5:9 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is goodness, righteousness, and truth.” This is important.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given (or breathed out) by God, and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
We are definitely to live an experientially righteous life. That can only occur if we are walking by the Spirit.
The final part, as we are summarizing what the Bible says about the holiness of God:
- The believers in the Old Testament, the priests of Israel, and the believers were to live distinctive lives. Part of that distinctive life was their spiritual ethics.
In the Old Testament they did not walk by the Spirit, so it was just obedience to the Law. But in the New Testament, we are to walk by the Spirit. There is a spiritually distinct element there.
We are to live distinctive lives that are a lot more than just being obedient and having an element of spiritual morality. There is an element there of radically trusting in God, walking by Him, trusting in the sufficiency of the power of God to sustain us no matter what the problem, no matter what the difficulty might be.
We have various commands that are given. I am going to give you one set of passages from the Old Testament and another from the New Testament. There are dozens of passages in the Old Testament where God says you “be holy, because I am holy.”
Leviticus 11:45, God says, “I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
There is this correspondence between if God is distinctive and unique, then we are to be distinctive and unique in terms of that relationship with Him.
Leviticus 19:2 says it again, “… ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’ ”
Leviticus 20:26, “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.”
That transfers over to us in 1 Peter 1:15–16 where Peter says, “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” That means be distinct in all your conduct. Serve the Lord. Be separated unto Him in all your conduct, “because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ ”
In 1 Samuel 6, God has brought the Philistines through these tumors and this infestation of rats to a position where they are absolutely miserable. We know from 1 Samuel 6:1 that this took seven months.
God has gotten the Philistines’ attention. They are trying to get rid of Him now. I want you to look at this first verse. “The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.”
Notice the writer speaking from a Jewish perspective recognizes it is the Ark of Yahweh and uses the personal name of God as it relates to Israel.
In 1 Samuel 6:2 the Philistines call for the priests and diviners saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord?”
Notice, they are calling it the Ark of Yahweh now. They are getting the point. That does not mean that they have accepted Him. They have come to have an empirical understanding of the reality of who God is, but that is not enough to be saved. They have enough recognition to know that they have been decimated for the last seven months, and that this is real.
The first thing that we note is that this has gone on for seven months. Seven in the Scriptures is the number for completion. It is a number that has a symbolic value, but it has to also be taken to be literally true. It is literal.
God designed it this way because it would have certain symbolic overtones. He is directing these events to fit a specific chronology. God is still very much in control.
A significance of the seven months might be that they had reached their maximum level of suffering. One reason we might say that is because in Exodus 7:25, with the first plague in Egypt, where the water was turned to blood, it lasted seven days. This would indicate a period of fullness, a maximum level of suffering that God has brought on them.
The text says that the Ark was in the country, literally in the field of the Philistines. That does not mean that they took it out of the city and stuck it out in the fields in order to somehow alleviate their suffering.
This is also just a general way of talking about a region or a territory that would include both the rural, as well as the urban areas. During this time they have moved the Ark around from Ashdod to Gath to Ekron in order to try to get away from its horrendous power.
Then we come to 1 Samuel 6:2, “The Philistines called for the priests and the diviners.” When they called for the priests and the diviners it is because it indicates a couple of things are going on:
They recognize, unlike a lot of people in our materialistic culture, that the real problem is a spiritual problem, but they go in the wrong direction.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s when the New Age Movement was real popular, people would jump to a spiritual solution, but it was a wrong spiritual solution. It always involved some kind of mysticism. That was what they were doing.
They were going to a spiritual solution, but they misunderstood what spiritual means. They are going to a pagan spiritual solution. They are going to a religious solution.
We have a lot of that going on today. There are a lot of well meaning sincere people in our country who think we need to bring God back into the classroom. But their concept of God and Christianity is not necessarily a biblical view of God and Christianity.
A lot of pop Christianity, and this is true in any culture at any time, there is a certain popular level of belief that is not necessarily biblical. There is a lot of religious Christianity.
I am using the term religious in the sense that they are thinking that we do something to gain God’s approval.
Biblical Christianity says no, we can do nothing to gain God’s approval. God in His grace has given us everything that we need. God has provided everything. God only expects us to depend upon Him in faith and He will provide for us. He is not saying you need to clean up your life and then I will provide for you.
God does not say you meet me half way and I will give you salvation. You go to church. You commit yourself to cleaning up your life. You go through repentance and emotional reactions and I will provide for you.
No. God says there is not one thing you can do to make yourself savable. There is not one thing that can make you any less obnoxious to Me than you already are because you are a spiritually depraved corrupt sinner. You are spiritually dead.
I have already done everything for you. I sent My Son to enter into human history, to become a human being, to go to the Cross, and to pay the penalty for sin. I did it all. All you have to do is accept it.
That is what grace is. But we have all kinds of religions in this world. Satan is the architect of all these religions because what he does is he co-ops Christian terminology to try to put a veneer of Christianity on a works concept of salvation.
2 Corinthians 11 talks about the fact that Satan’s ministers go about like angels of righteousness. They disguise themselves as being good and as being angels of light in order to deceive and distract.
This happened in the Old Testament as well. One of the greatest deceptions we see in the Old Testament is the role that human religions played in pulling the Israelites away from God.
The Israelites opted for this human viewpoint pagan solution many times during this period that we are studying, during the period of the Judges, as well as later on.
Turn to Micah. Micah is written about the same time as Isaiah. There are some great prophecies about the Messiah in Micah.
I want to look at Micah 3:6. This is a real indictment from God. God is blasting the Israelites because they have succumbed to false religion. They have succumbed to the idolatry of the Canaanites around them.
We saw incidents of this when Moses is up on Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights getting the tablets. What happens? The people get restless. They convince Aaron to take all the gold that they took from the Egyptians to make a golden calf. What did they call that golden calf? “This is the god that brought you out of Egypt.”
It is a half truth. There is a God who brought them out of Egypt, but now they are going to assign His name to this golden calf.
Jeroboam I did the same thing about 500 years later. He made golden calves and set one up in Bethel and one up in Dan. He said this is the god who brought you out. It is a false religious system.
This is the indictment that God is bringing against them. Micah 3:5 says, “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who make my people stray; who chant ‘Peace’ while they chew with their teeth, but who prepare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.”
Israel’s prophets were giving them false information.
Micah 3:6–7, “Therefore you shall have night without vision, and you shall have darkness without divination.”
Divination was a tool of these false religions in the Old Testament. It is an occult tool. “then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded; yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer from God.” God is going to embarrass them.
Micah 3:8–9, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. Now hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity.”
The culture has come totally apart at the seams. It is a culture of injustice, corruption, and the people are not being taken care of. The only ones that are being taken care of are the aristocracy. They are basically taking the people’s money and using it for their own desires.
Micah 3:10–11, “Who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity. Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay.”
This is where I am going with this. This is false religion. The priests are teaching for pay. It is prosperity theology in the ancient world. Okay? The ministry is being perverted for the sake of monetary gain.
“And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord.” They claim to lean on the Lord, but they are teaching falsehood. This is the same kind of thing we have in this situation in 1 Samuel 6.
In the New Testament, Paul says that they held to “a form of godliness” but denied “its power.” A lot of people who talk about the Bible:
- We are going to do Bible study.
- We are going to talk about the Bible.
- We have a great church.
- We do all kinds of wonderful good things.
But they are doing it in the power of the flesh. They are not being biblical in their approach to ministry. They have compromised at the very core of their religion. It makes people feel good. They get motivated to do what? To go live a better life.
But they are not being taught the true grace of salvation. They are not being taught how to walk by the Spirit to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the problem we see. We see this today. In the ancient world the Jews assimilated to pagan religion. We have seen this in modern America, where they have adopted false ideas, brought it into Christianity, and changed the nature of Christianity. It is no longer biblical Christianity.
What we learn about this is that these false religious ideas come out of the devil. They are the devil’s doctrines.
You get into places like Leviticus 19:26. Divination is brought up in the passage because the people go to the spiritual leaders, the diviners, to find out what the solution is to their problem.
Who are the Israelites ultimately going to? The Philistines are seeking answers from the devil.
Leviticus 19:26 prohibits divination and soothsaying. Why? Because it is demonic.
Deuteronomy 18:14, “For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners.”
This is demonic religion. We went over this last time just to remind you.
These false religions are not just neutral statues of stone and wood and metal, but there is something demonic behind it.
In Psalm 106:36–37 we are told they “served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and daughters to the demons.”
In Psalm 106:38 these demons are the “idols of Canaan.”
Behind Islam, behind Hinduism, behind Mormonism, behind Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is a demonic influence. That is false religion. There are different degrees of demonic influence, but all false religion is the result of demonic influence.
In 1 Corinthians 10:20 Paul says that the gods that the Gentiles sacrifice to are demons. They are not God.
Deuteronomy 32:17 says, “They sacrificed to demons who were not God.”
Ephesians 6: 11-12. There is this hidden invisible spiritual warfare. The only solution for us as Christians is to put on the whole armor of God, to understand the solutions that God has given us—that we can put on this whole armor of God to stand against the wiles of the devil.
What has happened is the Philistines, the pagans, are turning to a demonic source to get an answer to their question. They go to the diviners and they say two things in 1 Samuel 6:2:
- “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord?”
- “Tell us how we should send it to its place.”
What are we going to do to it? That implies that they already know that they are going to send it back. What are we going to do, and how do we do it? How do we get this back? What is the mechanism?
Then we come to 1 Samuel 6:3. It is particularly interesting to look at this dialog that is going on between the Philistines and these religious leaders because they are given to us in Scripture to demonstrate the spiritual darkness of the Philistines—how they are so divorced from truth, but they have elements of truth in what they say.
That is the way any false religion is. There are elements of truth there. You can read about Mormonism. You can read about Islam. You can read about other world religions, and you can find certain good things that are there because they are living in the real world that God created, but the framework is totally false.
You would never encourage anybody to go read the Koran or read the Bhagavad-Gita or read the Book of Mormon just to find a few kernels that are there that reflect some form of truth. This is why the Bible, the Torah, warned completely against being involved at all with divination, soothsayers or witches.
We come to 1 Samuel 6:3, and we start looking at the answer that is there. “So they said” that is the false religious leaders. “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but by all means return it to Him with a trespass offering.”
Where did they get the idea of a trespass offering? See, that shows that the Philistines have some knowledge of what is in the Torah of the Jews, but they have perverted it and converted it to their use within their demonic system.
It sounds really harsh to a lot of modern ears if you say that all of the non-biblical world philosophies and world religions are demonic, but what the Bible presents is that we only have two options.
When Adam and Eve were created and God was instructing them, the only worldview was a God-centered, Yahweh-centered, worldview.
But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it was because they were listening to whom? They were listening to this serpent, to Satan, who came into the garden. That is a counter worldview, a wrong worldview.
The very first sin is a result of listening to Satan’s ideas of how the Creation ought to run.
Once Adam disobeyed God and ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and became spiritually dead, then what Genesis shows in the next eleven chapters is how that depraved, fallen heart of man generates all these different false ideas.
Those false ideas ultimately have their root in Satan because Satan, as Jesus said, “is the father of all lies.”
That means that all these false systems, whether it is Aristotelians, Platonism, Cartesianism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Mormonism, whatever the false idea is, any kind of works salvation comes from the devil. That is his whole idea.
That is what you have here —the Philistines are promoting to one degree or another demonic ideas.
We have to recognize that the Bible says that every human being, every one of us, is demon influenced to the degree that we absorb the ideas of the world, which is Satan’s cosmic system. We are influenced by Satan.
Part of that mix is that there is establishment principles from the Word of God. There is morality. There are wisdom principles. What I am going to call establishment wisdom that is reflected in Proverbs—that if you do things a certain way, if you are moral, if you are chaste, if you live in a monogamous marriage, if you are responsible with your use of money, invest it wisely—as Proverbs says, even if you are not a believer, you will experience a certain stability and blessing in your life.
The further you get away from Biblical truth, the more that is at risk; and that stability will fall apart. Some people have imbibed less deeply and some more deeply of the devil’s doctrines, but the more you reject establishment wisdom, it is going to create a greater and greater divide and fragment in the culture.
As we get into this next section, we see that the Philistines, as we saw earlier in 1 Samuel 4, when they said, Oh, the Ark of God is coming to the battle, we are going to lose, they knew enough about history that they had come to understand that there were some things that were true about this God. They are accepting that, but they are not accepting God Himself.
The Philistines say, well, this is what you need to do. There needs to be some kind of an offering there, and then God is going to release us from this judgment. God is going to release us from this particular curse. They are asking these two questions:
- What shall we do with the ark?
- How are we going to get it there?
This is their response in 1 Samuel 6:4. They use their pagan ideas that you have to have some sort of offering that relates to the problem in order to mollify the god. This is always a characteristic of some kind of paganism. But the Philistines do recognize that there has to be some sort of offering or propitiation to God.
The Philistines offer the five tumors. If you ever want to know what a golden hemorrhoid looks like, I thought I would find a picture of it for you, and a golden rat.
The number five is significant because it represents the five lords of the Philistines, the five cities of the Philistines, and they all come together in order to placate God. But their paganism shows through:
- They are trying to buy off God with gold. That is not biblical.
- They are making an offering out of unclean animals, the rodents, the mice, the rats. Those are unclean animals, and that is not acceptable to God to make an offering of an unclean animal.
- The anal tumors are in one of the most unclean areas of the human body. It just shows that the mix of paganism is making it up as they go along.
The Philistines are trying to buy God off, but they come up with an idea. They are not really sure yet that this is God’s doing, the God of the Israelites doing.
We are going to make them this empirical test just to make sure this is what is really going on. We are going to come up with a test. The test is that we are going to put together a cart.
We read about this in 1 Samuel 6:7–11. They are going to make this new cart. They are going to take two milch cows it says in the King James or two milk cows in the New King James. A milk cow is a cow that has just recently calved. It is still nourishing her calf. Momma does not want to be separated from her baby calf. That is one test, to see if the mother will go away from the calves.
The Philistines put the calves away in the barn. They take these two untrained mother cows. The cows have recently given birth and have never been trained to pull together as a team and to pull a cart. If you have ever tried to take two animals, two mules, two horses, two donkeys, or two cows and hook them up to a cart and immediately think they are going to pull together, they do not. You have to train them to do that.
- Test one is will they leave their calves?
- Test two is can they pull together?
- Test three is will they on their own take the ark to Beth Shemesh?
Three tests. And what happens is that the Philistines take these two cows that have never been yoked, hitch the cows to the cart, and take their calves away from them. They take the Ark. They put it on the cart. They put the articles of gold in a chest next to it on the back of the cart. Then they send it away.
The Philistines let it go to see what would happen. Those two milk cows took off straight. They did not turn to the left or to the right. They went straight to Beth Shemesh. The reason they are sending it to Beth Shemesh is Beth Shemesh was still under Philistine control. Even though it was not a part of Philistia—it was part of Israel’s territory.
Beth Shemesh was still under Philistine dominion, under their control. If something happened they could go. If it did not resolve itself they could go and recapture the Ark. The other interesting thing that we ought to know about Beth Shemesh is that Beth Shemesh was an area that had a large contingent of Levites.
You have a bunch of Levitical priests living in Beth Shemesh who should know the Law. What we are going to do now is shift back from Philistia to Israel. We are going to see how confused the Israelites are because they have not been reading their Bible. They have not been studying the Law. They are going to misuse and abuse the Ark and come under severe divine judgment.
Remember, the Israelites lost 34,000 at the battle of Aphek. They are going to lose, according to the Masoretic Text, 57,000 here because they treat God lightly. They abuse the holiness of God. They do not treat God with respect.
The Ark comes to Beth Shemesh. The cows headed straight there. The cows went along the highway lowing as they go. They are calling out to their calves, but the cows are not turning around and going back. The cows do not really want to go, but God is directing them. The cows are being followed by the lords of the Philistines.
The people of Beth Shemesh—and remember, these are mostly Levites—are out in the fields at the wheat harvest. This would be late May, early June. “They raised their eyes and saw the ark” and started to rejoice.
“The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone; and the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices that day to the Lord.”
It is going to be described in 1 Samuel 6:14, “Then the cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there; a large stone was there. So they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.”
What did they do wrong?
- No sacrifice is a cow. All legitimate sacrifices are bulls, male animals. They do not know that. They are violating the Law. They are mishandling this.
- The second thing that is going wrong here is that after the Ark was built and went into the tabernacle, nobody saw it.
When they moved the Ark, brought the Ark out of the tabernacle, they covered the Ark in its covering. When the Ark led the way it was not uncovered. Nobody looked on the Ark. The Ark was to be kept with respect and kept hidden in the Holy of Holies. No one could approach God.
This is the throne of God. No one could approach God except for the high priest. They are treating God with disrespect. They do not know the Law. They are being disobedient. They are violating His holiness.
The people tear up the wood of the cart to use it to build a fire. They kill the cows and offer them as a burnt offering.
Then, 1 Samuel 6:15, “The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone … offered the burnt offerings and made sacrifices ...”
This is God’s response in 1 Samuel 6:19. You think “but they have worshiped God. Is this not wonderful?” But the picture that we see here, as always through the Bible, is that God says you come to Me on My terms, not on your terms.
You may feel like you worship, but that does not mean you worshipped.
If you are not in right relationship with God, if you have not confessed sin, if you are not walking by the Spirit, it is not worship.
Just because the music is uplifting, just because the sermon is motivating does not mean you have worshiped. If it is not according to the standards of Scripture, it is not worship.
Jesus told the woman at the well that “there will come a time when you will worship by means of the Spirit and by means of truth.” Both have to be true, or all you are doing is having a social club on Sunday morning. Unfortunately that is what happens in a lot of churches.
God looks down on “the men of Beth Shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter.”
The Bible says that if you do not do what God says to do, then God is not going to deliver you. This is salvation. This is why Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
There is only one way: to believe in Him, not to believe and do works because the works cancel out the faith. Just to believe in Christ alone, faith alone, not faith plus works, not faith plus sincerity, not faith plus anything. It is just believing it, just trusting in Christ alone.
1 Samuel 6:20 The response of the men in Beth Shemesh? “This is an evil god. Look at what he has done to us.” Is that what they said?
No. This is a holy God. We cannot stand before a holy God. Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? He is more than a product of our imagination. He is more than something we have created in our image. This God is bigger and greater than anything we can imagine, and we cannot control this God.
Where shall He go from us? They do not want it around either. 1 Samuel 6:21, “So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim.”
Those of you who have gone on trips to Israel with me, the last night we go to a little Arab restaurant in an Arab village called Abu Ghosh. That is Kirjath Jearim.
“They sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, ‘The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down and take it up with you.’ Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and they took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill.”
Notice, they are going to put it in seclusion so people cannot come and look at it. The men of Kirjath Jearim “consecrated Eleazar his son.” We do not know who this Abinadab is, but Eleazar is a priestly name. Eleazar was the name of one of the sons of Aaron. So it is probably a Levitical family.
The men of Kirjath Jearim “consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years.”
It was there 20 years. This is going to help us establish a chronology. “Twenty years. And the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.”
Does that surprise you? That last sentence? You think they rejoiced because God was back? What is the problem? God’s back.
There is judgment because of their assimilation to paganism. They have to straighten out. That is what is going to happen in the next couple of chapters. We will definitely talk about the problems that will come, because the root problem has not been resolved yet, which is their spiritual rebellion, their moral relativism, and their failure to deal honestly with the holiness of God in all of its dimensions.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word, and Father, we pray that You would help us to think more precisely about the fact that You are a holy God. We are called, as Peter says, to be holy because You are holy. At least that implies that we are not to treat You lightly, treat Your Word lightly, nor treat You with disrespect. That means that we are to take our relationship with You much more seriously, that You are to be the focal point of everything in our life, that we are to spend time with You every day in prayer, in the reading of Your Word, the study of Your Word, and learning to live consistently so that we might be what You have called us to be. That is a light shining in a dark and perverse world. We pray that You would challenge us with these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”