A curious, strange story, though we could probably say that about most of these Old Testament stories. But let’s face it, the reality of God among us a curious and strange thing, indeed.
The Philistines beat the Israelites in battle. They capture the ark, and they add it to their collection of deities, as if it were a trophy.
And that’s when things start getting weird.
The Philistine idol/statue starts falling apart. The people start getting sick. So they start passing the ark around from city to city. The same thing happens in every city until somebody finally gets the idea they should probably send the ark back where they found it.
So what do we do with holiness?
The ark was a wooden box, housing the slabs of rock engraved with the contract made with God on Mount Sinai, along with a few other mementos from the time in the wilderness. It was covered in gold with gold angels sculpted on the cover. Kings of the ancient world had footstools that looked similar.
So the ark is where God’s feet rest. It’s the one place where heaven touches earth. The place where God dips his big toe in the grimy waters of earth. It’s a place where prayers are heard. It’s a place where promises are remembered. It’s a place where sin is forgiven. The only place.
The Israelites treated it like a lucky rabbit’s foot. A trinket to get what you want. A thing to manipulate the unseen deity to do what you want. The Philistines see a trophy to parade.
For Christians today, the presence of God is no longer limited to a gold box. According to the New Testament, the presence of God dwells in the gathered community of Christ-followers.
Like the ark, it’s still a holy place where we might wear a hazmat suit if we really knew what was going on. Just in case.
What about you? What do you see?