written by: Alan Stewart
Have you ever lost or misplaced something? If you are like me, you are filled with unrest until you locate it. Several years ago, I was standing at the front doors of a church greeting members at the close of a revival meeting. On that night, it appeared that every person who shook my hand nearly broke my fingers around my class ring. I casually removed the ring and dropped it into a pocket that was filled with a few things I was going to throw away. After everyone had passed by, I stopped by a garbage can and unloaded my pocket. Within 15 minutes, I realized the ring was gone. In a frantic frenzy, I was searching the van, the church parking lot, and the vestibule trying to retrace my steps and actions. Then it hit me, and I remembered what I had done. Fortunately, I was able to recover what I had lost.
What has happened to the presence and glory of God? Some of the most disturbing words in all of Scripture are these found in I Samuel 4:17; “..and the ark of God is taken.” The ark was a token of God’s presence with His people, and the means by which His people communed with Him. Yet, now it was gone. Stolen. Captured. This loss was the fulfillment of a prophecy against the house of Eli. Eli receives the news that Israel had been defeated in battle, and that his sons had been killed in the battle, but it was the news of the ark being taken that caused him to fall off the gate backwards “and his neck brake.” His heart was broken before his neck was broken.
As sad as it is to imagine the presence of God being removed from His people, it is even more alarming to consider it took nearly 60 years before someone was concerned enough to bring it back to its rightful home. Imagine that; 60 years without the presence of God!! Where were the priests, who were given responsibility to care for it, yelling for its return? Did they not miss the ark in the midst of a worship service? Could they have even hoped to be successful without it? Are we living in such times today? If so, how do we get the ark into its rightful place?
It must be desired. The priests were content with altars without an ark! Something was missing in God’s house, but no one seemed to care. Have we substituted “goose-bumps” for real glory? Programs for Presence? Shouts for Shekinah? It is interesting to note, on occasion, the priests could not stand on their feet for His glorious presence. Who is willing to see their “neck break” to have the “ark” back in glory like that? Anytime the “ark” is displaced, you can mark it down, the church will spend an extended time in the wilderness.
It must be displayed. Twenty years after the ark was taken, it was recovered. However, it was “stored” in a private residence. Overlooked in obscurity. Tossed aside as a neglected thing for years. Is it any wonder Israel faced such difficulty and defeat for so many years? The most tragic words ever penned about God’s people are found in Mark 9:18: “..and they could not.” Without the “ark,” we are helpless, defeated, ineffective, and cowards.
It must be delivered. As David’s men returned the ark, they placed it upon a cart to move it. Mistake number one: they were to bear it on their shoulders. Over the nearly 60 years of time with the ark in obscurity, reverence and respect were lost, and the ark was treated like a common object. The longer the ark remains displaced, the less people there are who remember and understand the value, purpose, and power of the ark. The oxen pulling the load, then kicked and shook the load causing Uzzah to touch the ark which led to his immediate death. Mistake number two: God did not need man’s help to hold Him up. “Oxen” may still kick at and shake His “ark,” but God can take care of Himself.
Who is searching today? Will it be found in our generation? I am resolved to find it. I cannot rest until I do. The question was once asked, “who has finished his task?” To which the answer came, “he who has left the world a better place than he found it.” Oh God, bring back your glory!!”
©2004 Alan Stewart
2ProphetU is an online magazine/website, started by Warren Wiersbe and Michael Catt, to build up the church, seek revival, and encourage pastors.