The Philistines and The Ark of the Covenant and all Believers

was reading the event in I Samuel, where the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. Now there is no doubt the Philistines had confiscated many idols or sacred artifacts from an enemy they conquered and brought it home to set in submission to its own gods whom they were sure weren’t only superior, but also provided them with their victory; but this time, something was going terribly wrong.

What happened is that in the 5th Chapter, the foolish and apostate leadership of Israel, secular and priestly, had (without consulting the Lord) decided to take on the Philistines in battle and were soundly thumped, losing 4000 soldiers. Figuring they could reverse their fortunes and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a more direct route by involving their Israelite God, Yehoveh, they ordered the Ark of the Covenant be brought to the site of the battle. The presence of the Ark brought shouts of joy from the worried Israelite soldiers and moans of doom from the formerly confident Philistines who figured that with the unexpected arrival of the God of Israel the battle was as good as won for the Hebrews. They were all proved to be wrong.

Now there is something that has really been bugging me about this story (and others like it). I have been wondering how the Philistines were able to handle the Ark of the Covenant and not be instantly killed by God. The reason this bugs 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 will 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 lot of digging (and much praying) for me to understand it, but what I discovered is an important God-principle that every Christian must understand. And that is that 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. As I’ve said many times, the Torah, the Law, Jesus Christ (and all the covenants of God with humans) are only for those who He has covenanted with. And the only people He has ever created a covenant with were the Hebrews. 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: Jesus admitted that He didn’t come into the world to judge it. Why? Because it has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son (John 3:18). 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 of all of his or her days. A pagan isn’t automatically assumed to expect a worse earthly future than a worshipper 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.

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 at 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, when the Philistines returned the Ark, it wasn’t a requirement of God or the result of any commandment of God; it was simply an intelligent and pragmatic choice to end God’s oppression on them.

Believers, worshippers 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.

And . . . there in lies our reason for rejoicing!

Doulos Studies

(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.

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