Recently, I have been captivated by an Old Testament story about the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark is the significant symbol of the covenant relationship between God and the Israelite people. In 1 Samuel, there is a story about the Ark and its significance during a battle between the Philistines and the Israelites. After the initial battle, the Israelites brought the Ark into their camp and stated that it will “save us from the power of our enemies.” Briefly, the Philistines routed the Israelites twice and took the Ark of the Covenant back to their territory as spoils of war.
Having possession of the Ark of the Covenant turned out not to be beneficial to the Philistines. The presence of the Ark in the Philistines’ temple ended in disaster. Their god, an idol named Dagon, fell over and its arms and head fell off, leaving the body down in the dirt.
Soon thereafter, the people became afflicted all over their body with tumors. Something needed to be done.
The Ark was returned to the Israelites along with a “guilt offering.” The Ark, carried on a cart pulled by two cows, was sent back and “let it go on its own way.” This is significant because it was allowed to make its own way rather than by the desires of either the Philistines or the Israelites.
It is not so much the presence of the Ark that makes the difference. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that God is the one in control. One commentator said about this Scripture: “Placing trust in religious symbols alone is a misplaced trust. It is a form of idolatry. We must take care not to take our tendency to think we are in control to the point of not first placing our trust in God.”
To complete the idea of placing our trust in God, we have only to look at the life and commitment of Jesus. Jesus placed complete trust in God, even to the very end. When he was tempted in the wilderness, he resisted all of the enticements that were placed in front of him.
He relied solely on God for his strength and for guidance. At the end of his life, he prayed, “not my will but thy will be done.” His life represents the new covenant that God has made with us. His life and commitments are the epitome of a covenant relationship, both with God and with and for us.
To take this to a more personal level, here are two questions for us to ponder. First of all, in our own life in church, what might be in our “Ark of the Covenant” that we have let become symbols of our need for control? One that comes to mind is worship styles. Contemporary or traditional or both? I am sure you have some “sacred cows” that come to mind. The second question is more personal. Are there some things or an event for which you need to relinquish control and turn to God for direction?
The point for us, just as it was in the Old Testament times, is that the hand that makes the difference between life and death in the world belongs to God. What we do must be in the light of this central truth.
So, go on, take the first step. Let go and let the cows come home on their own accord.
Guaranteed, letting go and letting God is the best plan ever.
Cindy Ehlke is a pastor at Calvary Presbyterian.