Read: 1 Samuel 6
Carrying off the Ark of the Covenant was an act of joyful triumph for the Philistines. They knew what it meant to the people of Israel. They knew what the loss of God’s presence would do to them. Placing it within the temple of their god, Dagan, was the icing on the victory cake. Until Dagan fell over and the Philistine people encountered Yahweh- God of Israel, God of power, God unrivaled. “What should we do with the ark?” they asked. “How do we send it to its place?”
After seven months of torture – tumors, oozing sores and complete devastation – the leaders agree that something must be done. What had been marched into the city as a symbol of victory was slowly becoming a burden the Philistine people could not and did not wish to carry. To give it up would be devastating, but to keep it would be their end.
As preparations are made to return the Ark, along with a guilt offering, to the Israelites, the diviners and priests remind the people of what happened in Egypt and the cost of a hardened heart. Verse six tells us that only when God had dealt “severely” with the Egyptians, did they yield and allow the Israelites to go. The diviners and priests weren’t willing to allow history to repeat itself. It was time to return the Ark to its rightful owners before it was too late.
The word “hardness” in verse six is the Hebrew word “kabad.” It means to be “heavy, dull (hindering the senses), sore, unresponsive and not easily moved.” Sadly, as I read this, I not only see the Egyptians in the book of Acts and the Philistines in 1 Samuel- I also see…me.
How many times has God called to me and I have refused to listen?
How many times have I chosen not respond to the nudge of the Holy Spirit when He prompts me to do something?
How many times have I become dull towards the Lord and stopped listening for His voice?
How many times have I chose my own way instead of His? Chose any other path but obedience?
How many times have I resisted when I should have yielded?
My children love playdough. On any given day, you can find them at the kitchen counter, dough in hand, creating masterpieces of the salty variety. They smash, roll, pound, knead, cut, twist, and shape – but they never put the lid back on when they are done. So, without fail, every single time they hope to play with playdough, they open the drawer only to find rocks where dough should be. No matter how hard my children press and pound, the dried remnants of playdough are never able to the make the masterpieces the soft dough can. Firm and “unresponsive,” it holds on to its shape for better or worse and they begin asking, “Mommy, can you make some more today?”
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” As I picture my children pressing their dimpled fingers into colorful dough, rolling pins and supplies laid across my countertop, I think of this verse. God desires a “heart of flesh.” A heart that is soft, open, unguarded, and easily molded. A heart that is pliable. Like the clay in a potter’s hand or dough between my children’s fingers, our hearts are to yield to His touch, not resist it.
The men of Beth-Shemesh end chapter six of 1 Samuel asking, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?” They are fully aware – there is no God like Jehovah and the only proper response to Him is to ”humble thyself” in His sight (James 4:10). Standing is impossible when you are kneeling. Pride is smothered by surrender.
So, listen for the Father’s voice today. Lean into it. And place your moldable heart in the capable hands of the faithful Potter. You won’t regret it.