1 Samuel 6: Religious Rituals Do Nothing to Grant Us Salvation

Yesterday, we left the Philistines trying to get rid of the Ark of the Covenant of God that they captured from the Israelites. God struck all their people with a plague of tumors. You’d think they’d want to get rid of it quicker! No, they had it for 7 months! Then, being so afraid of it, they sent it back to Israel with a guilt offering. However, the Israelites who found it, didn’t know how to handle it properly and suffered the consequences. Let’s dig in…

1 Samuel 6 – The Philistines Return the Ark

The Ark of the Lord remained in Philistine territory seven months in all. Then the Philistines called in their priests and diviners and asked them, “What should we do about the Ark of the Lord? Tell us how to return it to its own country.”

“Send the Ark of the God of Israel back with a gift,” they were told. “Send a guilt offering so the plague will stop. Then, if you are healed, you will know it was his hand that caused the plague.”

“What sort of guilt offering should we send?” they asked.

And they were told, “Since the plague has struck both you and your five rulers, make five gold tumors and five gold rats, just like those that have ravaged your land. Make these things to show honor to the God of Israel. Perhaps then he will stop afflicting you, your gods, and your land. Don’t be stubborn and rebellious as Pharaoh and the Egyptians were. By the time God was finished with them, they were eager to let Israel go.

“Now build a new cart, and find two cows that have just given birth to calves. Make sure the cows have never been yoked to a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but shut their calves away from them in a pen. Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart, and beside it place a chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors you are sending as a guilt offering. Then let the cows go wherever they want. If they cross the border of our land and go to Beth-shemesh, we will know it was the Lord who brought this great disaster upon us. If they don’t, we will know it was not his hand that caused the plague. It came simply by chance.”

10 So these instructions were carried out. Two cows were hitched to the cart, and their newborn calves were shut up in a pen. 11 Then the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors were placed on the cart. 12 And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went. The Philistine rulers followed them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.

13 The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they saw the Ark, they were overjoyed! 14 The cart came into the field of a man named Joshua and stopped beside a large rock. So the people broke up the wood of the cart for a fire and killed the cows and sacrificed them to the Lord as a burnt offering. 15 Several men of the tribe of Levi lifted the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors from the cart and placed them on the large rock. Many sacrifices and burnt offerings were offered to the Lord that day by the people of Beth-shemesh. 16 The five Philistine rulers watched all this and then returned to Ekron that same day.

17 The five gold tumors sent by the Philistines as a guilt offering to the Lord were gifts from the rulers of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 The five gold rats represented the five Philistine towns and their surrounding villages, which were controlled by the five rulers. The large rock at Beth-shemesh, where they set the Ark of the Lord, still stands in the field of Joshua as a witness to what happened there.

The Ark Moved to Kiriath-Jearim

19 But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. 20 “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” they cried out. “Where can we send the Ark from here?”

21 So they sent messengers to the people at Kiriath-jearim and told them, “The Philistines have returned the Ark of the Lord. Come here and get it!”

So the men of Kiriath-jearim came to get the Ark of the Lord. They took it to the hillside home of Abinadab and ordained Eleazar, his son, to be in charge of it. The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time—twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.

1 Samuel 6 – 7:1-2 NLT (bold emphasis mine)

Think About It

This devotional is by Andy Mason from the Free YouVersibion Bible App.

In these chapters of 1 Samuel we’re learning just how holy the God of Israel is: ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?’ (6:20). The Philistines are learning this to their cost. Their defeat of Israel in chapter 5 proved to be a very hollow victory, as God’s holy ark brought devastating judgment upon them. 

In verses 3–12 we see the Philistines’ sad confusion as they try to deal with a holy God. They recognize that they’re under judgment in some way (v. 3) and that God is holding them to account (v. 6), but they don’t know how their guilt should be dealt with (v. 4). The best they can do is to make an offering (v. 4) – one that God clearly doesn’t want with a vague hope that it might all work out in the end (v. 5). Human religion, to the extent that it knows God as holy, always tries to manage his holiness with its own efforts and offerings. Such religion can only see God as a Judge to be escaped from because it doesn’t know how to come before him. Reading this, we can’t help but see what a privilege it is to have had the gospel preached and explained to us! 

However, God’s holiness isn’t just a problem for the pagan Philistines. In verses 6:13 – 7:1 we see presumption amongst those who belong to God. Initially, the return of the ark brings an exciting revival as God’s people in Beth Shemesh offer him right worship. Notice, ironically, how it’s the accompanying cart and cattle, not the offered tumors and rats, that provide the right way of coming before a holy God. Yet, the people’s worship proves fatal as they too become casual with the holy ark in verse 19. This time it’s Israelites, not Philistines, who are struck down. 

So, as we come to our holy God, let’s make sure that we’re walking by faith in Christ’s death, and not with presumption. And, as we rejoice in having free access through Jesus, let’s respect and remember the awesome holiness of the God we worship.

Andy Mason

Religious Rituals Don’t Work!

Human religion can’t make us good enough to go before our Holy God! Rites and rituals are not what God wants! Plus, they do nothing to grant us salvation! Just because you go to church every week doesn’t mean you are saved. It doesn’t make you a Christian. Just like sitting in a bank doesn’t make you rich!

Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a Relationship with YOU! We must walk by faith in His sacrifice. We can never presume that we can, by ourselves, do enough to get us into Heaven. By the way, there is no such thing as purgatory, either! You have just 2 choices — Heaven or hell. And hell does exist!

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom — a peace that surpasses all understanding, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Born Again

Holy, Holy, Holy

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

Top image by Jack Foster of MrBibleHead.blogspot.com from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

2 thoughts on “1 Samuel 6: Religious Rituals Do Nothing to Grant Us Salvation”

  1. Pingback: 1 Samuel 7: Get Rid of Your Idols, Live Right, and Commit Fully to God – Seek the Truth

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