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The Ark Is Returned (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 1, 2022 3:00 am

The Ark Is Returned (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 1, 2022 3:00 am

While the Philistines defeated Israel and seized the ark of God, they couldn’t capture or conquer the Lord. Find out what happens when God’s holiness is taken for granted—whether by His enemies or His own people. Listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Music playing Second question that comes in the text is in verse 4. They said, What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him? And they recognized that they were guilty. Woodhouse has a wonderful sentence when he says, Well, how do you pay a debt you cannot assess to a God you do not know? And that's what they were going to have to do. And so they're told, Well, this is what we suggest you do.

The answer comes there, and now we're in a world that is very different from our own. Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the lords of the Philistines, and so on. And we suggest that you make them in gold, because it's not wise in these circumstances to appear to be stingy. We don't want little plastic mice or little paper-mashy mice. We're going to do nice golden mice, because, after all, we're trying to explain, and we're trying to, by our own efforts, deal with the predicament. How are we going to deal with God? What will I offer God if I'm indebted to God?

What would I possibly produce? It's pathetic, isn't it? But it's understandable in the timeframe. What they were doing—and this was standard pro forma—they would take that which represented the predicament, which in this case was plagues, and express the tumors, and then they would make forms of those tumors, and then they would present them to the deity. In this way, they were providing an image of what their problem was, and they were also pleading for the removal of their problem. That's why they're doing what they're doing. Here, we know what our problem is, and we made these in the hope that you'll fix this for us.

It's pathetic, actually. I mean, who modeled for the tumors? You know? They had, like, I'm trying to do the database, you know? So we're having on Monday, if you'll all come and show your tumors, we're looking for some nice tumors that we can… It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And who knows where the tumors were?

But we'll leave that to the medical people. Notice that there is no indication—there's no indication that they thought that this was going to be foolproof. Perhaps, they said. Perhaps. Perhaps.

No guarantee, but it's worth a try. What do we have to lose? And then the next question, verse 6. Why should you harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh harden their hearts? Now, in the background to this story here, both in chapter 5 and chapter 6—in fact, all the way into chapter 4—the background picture, if you like—if there was a movie running in the background, as this unfolds in real time, it would be the picture of the exodus from Egypt, and it would be the picture of the people of God being set free from Egypt as a result of the plagues that were brought upon the nation, and so on. And that is the background to it.

And there are echoes of that all the way through. The defiance of Pharaoh and the people had brought the judgment of God, and only when God's judgment was executed were the people then free to go. And in the same way, now we're going to return the ark to its own place. It's only sensible to do this. So, just as you have the picture of the people being exited from Egypt, so now we're anticipating the ark being removed from the cities of the Philistines.

And how is it to be done? Well, this is where it gets exciting. I mean, this is some wonderful stuff to read with your children. Here we have the record of a new cart and two milk cows. They had prepared the gold contents for the box which the cart was going to carry, and the cows were going to pull it. Is it significant though that it was a new cart? Well, surely, otherwise it wouldn't be described as a new cart—that they didn't simply go and bring out one of their old claptrap vehicles in order to get rid of this thing.

No. If you think about that, it may make you think forward. And Jesus said, And if you go, you will find the fall of a donkey on which no one has ever ridden. It's a brand-new donkey. And the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, in which they laid Jesus, was a tomb in which no one had ever been laid. These people are clever enough to realize that it is at least a matter of respect to do as they've done. But it was more than that. As you see—I hope as you read it you picked this up—they were setting this up as a test to see whether the events that had just unfolded in chapter 5—whether in those events they were really dealing with the heavy hand of the God of Israel or whether they were dealing with coincidence. In words, it was said they were trying to determine, was this providence or was this coincidence?

And the test that they've set up is pretty straightforward, and it is stacked against its showing that God is in charge. It's a bit like 1 Kings 18 in the encounter with the prophets of Baal. Remember when God says—he says to Elijah, Cover it, they're gonna light a fire now. We'll see if the prophets of Baal can light it or if God will light it. And God says, Cover the whole thing with water. Drench it in water.

Make it such that there is no possible way of this turning into flame unless I am God. That's what they're doing here. We'll take a new cart, and we'll take two milk cows—cows that have never been yoked and cows that have an understandable maternal instinct—to look after their calves. The calves now have been sequestered, and the cows are yoked up to the front of the cart.

The test is very simple. The greater the difficulty, the greater the clarity, the greater the certainty. They thought that the God of Israel was responsible, but they weren't certain, so why admit it without checking? Well, what are the chances, then, of this happening?

That's the question that you have to ask yourself. You may not know a lot about cows, and neither do I, but I understand what I'm told here—that cows… Actually, I spent a month—I spent three weeks one summer as a boy on a farm on the Isle of Bute. It was a dairy farm. We spent three weeks instead of four, because it rained for every single day, and eventually we decided, we've had enough, let's go home. But I remember the sound of those cows. Twice a day. They were making what is described as the lowing noise, the moo-moo-moo.

It's like nothing else. That wasn't a very good rendition, I understand. So they made those noises because they're saying, Take care of this. Relieve me of this burden. I have produced all of this milk, and I need to get to the calves here who will then be fed by this milk. So let's take two that are in a situation that they almost inevitably will want to turn around and go back. And let's take two that have never, ever led a cart anywhere at all. And so they do. And the question is, if they go straight, then we'll know.

And if they don't, then we'll know this was just coincidence, a chance universe. Verse 10, the men did so, took the two milk cows, yoked them to the cart, shut up the calves, put the ark on the cart, the box in the thing, and the cows—look at this—and the cows went straight in the direction of Beth Shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. And then to make the point, they turned neither to the right nor to the left. Can you imagine when they set them off? There's a guy who said to his friend, he says, This is gonna be amazing. Wait till you see this. They will turn around—I guarantee you they will turn around—within fifty feet.

And then he watches. Well, I'll tell you, they will not make it a hundred… There's something going on here that I don't quite get. And what I find quite wonderful is that they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh. Now, this is a seven-mile journey. They will eventually get to the foothills of the central mountain range, and the lords of the Philistines have the ignominy of having a walk behind this procession. Two calves, a new cart, an ark, their tumors, and off they go.

What are you doing? Well, we think it's coincidence. We're not sure. But I mean, we'll find out eventually. Well, they found out, didn't they?

Because look what happened. Straight as a die it went. Like the exodus, like the people coming out of Egypt, the ark emerges from the lands of the Philistines. And the cart came into the field of Joshua.

That's verse 14. Joshua's a famous name. Joshua, remember, led the people into the land after the exodus.

And a great stone was there—obviously significant, because that's mentioned again later on. And then look at what they did. They split up the wood of the cart, and they offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. Who are these people? Well, they're the people in verse 13.

They were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw the ark, and they rejoiced to see it. Because, you see, seven months previously, Phinehas's widow had declared that the glory of God was gone.

Ichabod. It's over. You can see that at the end of chapter 4, verse 22. The glory has departed from Israel. The ark of God has been captured. We're finished! Sometimes when you move around Christian people, they've got a kind of Ichabodian mentality. You'll meet them. They're always, Oh, you should have been around in the fifties.

Oh, you should have read the such-and-such in the era. The whole thing is over. Look at us. Look at our predicament.

We're so small, we're so ineffective, and so on. The glory of God is… Listen! God may just take two milk cows and a brand-new cart and do something significant. That's the kind of God he is.

He's able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or even imagine. And the cart stopped. How did it stop?

This isn't GPS. It just stopped. How did the cows know when to stop?

They stopped. I guess we're here. Yes. Sacrifice. The reapers rejoiced? Of course they rejoiced!

And actually, we're talking about it looking back to Egypt, it also looks forward to the exit after the exile, remember? When they had been taken away in the Babylonian captivity, and all the people of God sat down and they said, you know, there's no point in singing or doing any rejoicing, because we're in a foreign land, it looks like the glory is gone, everything is finished. And then, in the Psalms of Ascent, you have that wonderful 126 Psalm. When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing.

He frustrates the plans of the people. And so, verse 16, the five lords of the Philistines saw it, and they returned that day to Ekron. Unlike Ruth, remember, the Moabites, who didn't return? You remember Naomi said to her, Go back. Go back to the land where you came from. You're not from here. You've had enough sadness in your life.

No, she said, I won't go back. I'll go on with you. Your God will be my God. Your people will be my people.

Where you die, I will die. But the five lords of the Philistines returned. I wonder, did they talk on the way? They had to have talked on the way.

One said to the other, We captured the ark, we destroyed Shiloh, but we haven't conquered God. Maybe there's something in this. You may be here today, and that's exactly what you're saying. I haven't resolved this.

But maybe there's something in this. One final question. Incidentally, verses 17 and 18 give to us the details of the tumors and so on. And then in verse 19, it just comes right out of the blue, doesn't it? Just when, if we were writing this story, we would say, And the reapers all rejoiced, and then they had a big celebration party, and all the Israelites said sorry to God and lived happily ever after.

No. Verse 19, And he that is God struck some of the men of Beth Shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the LORD. You see, you don't escape the judgment of God because you're an Israelite. You don't escape the judgment of God because of your heritage. There's only one way in which we escape the judgment of God, and that is because he has poured his judgment out on his dearly beloved Son.

Now, at this point, people get very concerned. We have the same conversation as last time. Well, I don't like the Old Testament God.

I like the New Testament God, to which we have to say it is the same God, it's the same holiness, it's the same law, it's the same pattern. We don't know just in what way these characters looked at this ark. Commentators spent a long time on it, but they don't really get you anywhere at all. Was it simply arrogance, indifference, irreverence? We don't know.

But the consequences are clear. And seventy men of them were struck down, and the people mourned, because the LORD had struck the people with a great blow. And then they said, Well, who is able to stand before the LORD, the holy God?

And, you know, to whom shall he go up away from us? In other words, they're doing what we saw three weeks ago when Terry preached about the demoniac in the land of the Gerasenes. And remember, they said, after Jesus had displayed his power and put the man all the way back together again in the dramatic evidence of his grace and goodness, they said, Get Jesus out of here. Get him out of here.

That's exactly what they're saying. Now, they're going to do with the ark what the Philistines were doing with the ark. They said, We've got to get the ark out of here. Move it to Gath. Move it. Send for the Kiriath-jearim people.

Let them come down and get it. Well, you see, we can't violate God's plans and patterns without dealing with his judgments. The reason that we stumble with this, as many of us do, is because we have a wrong view of God. We have a God of our own invention, a domesticated God, an easygoing God, tolerant God, helpful, more interested in our happiness than our holiness, a God who likes us. People always say, He likes me just the way I am.

Well, that's not strictly true. He doesn't love us as we are. He loves us despite what we are. Despite what we are. Says Matthew Henry, They that will not fear his goodness and reverently use the tokens of his grace shall be made to feel his justice and sink under the tokens of his displeasure.

Well, our time is gone. But what is the answer to this immense dilemma that is set up? Well, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to remind ourselves again that the Bible is a book about Jesus—that we lose our way around the Bible when we take our eyes off Jesus. How can we, as sinful men and women, as these were, end up in the eternal presence of the God who has made us for a relationship with himself?

Answer, Not on the strength of our being able to try and close the gap by our endeavors. Well, then, how? How could you ever be safe in the arms of Jesus? Well, how about the man on the cross next to Jesus, by his own testimony a mess, guilty, deserving of all that came his way? And yet he said, This man on the middle cross apparently does not deserve any of this.

We are getting what our sins deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. And the hands that should discard him hold wounds that bid him come. And so he says, Lord, would you remember me when you come into your kingdom?

And he says, Yeah. Not only then, but today you will be with me in paradise. There is no refuge from God except the refuge that is found in God—that refuge which is provided in his dearly beloved Son to all who come to him in penitence and in faith.

What shall we do? Why harden your hearts? Who can stand before a holy God? The answer, all the answer, is wrapped up in Jesus.

You're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg making it clear that the only way to stand before a holy God is by taking refuge in his Son. Alistair Begg returns to close the program with prayer in just a minute. If you want to know more about what it means to take refuge in God's Son, visit our website. There you can watch a helpful video that explains how Jesus' sacrifice on the cross frees us from sin and grants us salvation. God's saving grace is nothing we can earn on our own. It's a gift freely given to those who believe.

Visit truthforlife.org slash thestory to learn more. You can also listen to thousands of Alistair's messages for free on our website. Many of his online sermons are accompanied by a corresponding transcript, so if you lead a Bible study, the transcripts can be helpful to you as you prepare to discuss a particular topic.

Just click the word sermons in the top blue bar, then select the series you'd like to find, and you'll see the transcript icon associated with each of the messages in that series. If you are a regular listener to Truth for Life, you know it is our pattern to teach the Bible verse by verse. We know that the Bible is without error, that it is the authoritative Word of God. In fact, you'll often hear Alistair begin a program with the phrase, I invite you to open your Bible. This fits in with our mission, which is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance. Most importantly, we do this knowing that God works in the hearts of many who listen. He brings them to know and trust in the Lord Jesus, and as a result, local churches are built up and pastors are equipped and encouraged.

In addition to the daily teaching you here on Truth for Life, we carefully select books that support our mission. Today we're recommending a book titled Love Your Church. The author is Tony Morita, and he explores what church is, why being a part of church is exciting, and why it's worthy of our love and our commitment. Over the past couple of years, church has changed for a lot of people. Some have opted for reading the Bible at home and watching a church service online. Others aren't affiliated with a local church at all, but the New Testament teaches we are to be united together with fellow believers in the context of a local church. It's in the local church where community is formed, where we read God's Word together, we share the Lord's Supper, we teach God's Word to the next generation. COVID has certainly changed the landscape over the past couple years, and the way we attend church is no exception. Maybe online church has changed your involvement?

Maybe you feel like you've been more unconnected than you have in the past? If so, the book Love Your Church will offer some encouragement and help to get reconnected. This book gives three powerful motivations directly from Scripture to help you re-engage. You can request the book Love Your Church today when you donate to support the teaching you hear on Truth for Life. You'll find the book on our mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O.

Box 398000 Cleveland, Ohio 44139. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Gracious God, write your word on our hearts, grant that that which is helpful may be retained, anything that is unclear that it would be forgotten. May the words of my mouth, the meditation of our hearts, be found acceptable in your sight. May we take refuge in your dearly beloved Son, in whose name we pray. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Be sure to listen tomorrow as we'll find out what causes God's people to move from despondency and corruption to victory and consecration. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-28 17:40:36 / 2023-05-28 17:49:21 / 9

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