For the past several years I have been slowly going through each book of the Old Testament. As I was going through I Samuel, I was moved by the sixth chapter and I wanted to share some thoughts on what I’ve learned, here.
You see, in chapter 5 the Philistines attacked and conquered Israel, and took the Ark of the Covenant as it’s prize. At the end of the fifth chapter, the Philistines were still in possession of the precious Israelite Ark; but by now they wished they had never laid eyes on it.
No doubt the Philistines had confiscated many idols and sacred artifacts from an enemy they conquered and brought it home to set it in submission to its own gods whom they were sure were not only superior, but also provided them with their victory; but this time something was going terribly wrong.
Now as I was reading this story, something was really bugging me. How were the Philistines able to handle the Ark of the Covenant and not be instantly killed by God? The reason this bug me is because in Leviticus Israel is told that only a certain clan of Levites is authorized to carry the Ark and only certain Priests are authorized to pack and unpack the Ark. Otherwise the violator would be instantly struck down dead and of course in a later story concerning the Ark and King David, that is exactly what happens. So how were the Philistines able to handle it and live?
It took a little digging (and much praying) for me to understand it, but what I discovered is an important God-principle that every Christian must understand. You see only those who are joined to Israel’s covenants, are subject to the terms of those covenants. In other words, the curses and the blessings that come with our membership in the Kingdom of God are only for the members of God’s Kingdom and not for outsiders. Huh? That’s right. The relationship between Yehoveh and His people is established through His covenants; for those who have never signed on to those covenants, have no relationship with the Lord and as a result, the terms of those covenants (both positive and negative terms) don’t apply to them.
Now this might rattle your cage a bit, but here’s one of the greatest of all Biblical principles: God’s Laws are only for God’s elect. There is (generally speaking) no requirement for a pagan to live by the 10 Commandments. There is no requirement (and no outstanding penalty) for the heathen to avoid worshiping the heavenly bodies; in fact, the Bible makes it clear that the Lord put those luminaries in the sky just for that purpose. As I’ve said many times, the Torah, and the Law, and Jesus Christ (and all the covenants of God with humans) are only for those He has covenanted with. And the only people He has ever created a covenant with were the Hebrews.
I bet this messes with your thinking. However, and this is important, He did make provision that any gentile (foreigners, ger) who wanted to join themselves to Israel’s covenants made with Israel’s God would be accepted into the Kingdom of God. The invitation has always been made, but until a person was willing to submit themselves to Yehoveh, they weren’t subject to the demands of that Covenant. Now, until Yeshua came, that joining had to be a physical commitment which was usually accompanied with a pledge of national allegiance to Israel, even involving circumcision if the foreign convert was a male. But ever since Messiah arrived and was crucified and then arose, the joining with Israel’s covenants by an outsider is a better joining, a spiritual joining, by means of faith in the Jewish Messiah (Yeshua of Nazareth).
Yes! Without a doubt there is a universal curse placed on all mankind that has nothing to do with any covenant: the curse of physical death is due to mankind’s inherent sin nature as originally caused by our common father Adam. That is something every man shares without exception. But, when it comes to eternity and spiritual death, there is only one way out, and that is by means of God’s covenants.
You know: a non-Believer isn’t automatically plagued by the Lord all of his or her days. A pagan isn’t automatically assumed to expect a worse earthly future than a worshiper of the God of Israel. The rain falls on the wicked and the good. There is no earthly penalty per se, for remaining a pagan . . . except first, your spiritual destiny is one of assured destruction and secondly, you will have no relationship with the Godhead and you won’t be eligible for the special blessings, comfort, direction, protection, and wisdom that such an invaluable relationship brings with it.
Now, the Philistines by definition were pagans and not party to God’s covenants with Israel. They weren’t among those who were prohibited on pain of death from touching or looking on the Ark; but the Israelites were. The Philistines weren’t subject to the curses and penalties God ordained for violators of His Law. Why? Because they had never agreed to abide by His Torah. In fact, what the Philistines were about to do in returning the Ark wasn’t a requirement of God resulting from any commandment of God; it was simply an intelligent and pragmatic choice to end God’s oppression on them.
Believers, worshipers of Yehoveh, hear me: you have been joined to God’s covenants with Israel (even if you never realized it) so you do have obligations to the Lord. If you begin to be disobedient and it is causing harm to yourself or your relationship with God, you will be divinely disciplined (partly to try to get you back on track) because you are violating the covenant you signed on to. You will suffer consequences for violating His Law, because violating His Law was, is, and will always be called “sin.” What else is a sin than violating God’s commands?
Now as Believers, you and I have the benefit of having a Messiah who pays the price for our violations of God’s commands, but that doesn’t mean it has no effect on us. The point is that a penalty is always due (and is always extracted) when a Believer trespasses (sins) against God; it’s just that Yeshua takes our stripes instead of us so many times we don’t even feel it.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.