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“God's judgment against the house of Eli resulted in a victory for the Philistines over Israel in which the ark of the testimony was captured. When God's people corrupt and despise His appointed worship, His holy presence is withdrawn from them. Yet the Philistines experienced nothing but disaster from the ark of God in their midst, and after seven months they decided to return it to Israel. At the advice of their priests and diviners, they determined to send the ark along with a trespass offering, consisting of golden replicas of the tumors and mice with which God had chastised them. In God's providence the ark was taken to the town of Beth Shemesh, a city of priests. It was here that the story took a dreadful turn.

The men of Beth Shemesh boldly decided to ‘look into the ark of the Lord.’ As a result, the Lord struck down a great number of them in judgment. Matthew Henry comments ‘that which made this looking into the ark a great sin was that it proceeded from a very low and mean opinion of the ark. The familiarity they had with it upon this occasion bred contempt and irreverence.’ Perhaps they thought their priestly office or the care they had taken with the ark, or the fact that God had blessed them with a special ‘visit’ excused them from the ordinary reverence due to the ark. Whatever reasons they had to justify their boldness, the message was clear. ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy.’

This is an aspect of worship which is sadly lacking in this age of seeking ‘familiarity’ with God. Let us never forget that the God we approach in worship is holy, and is to be approached with the utmost reverence. Nor let it be imagined that God is less concerned that His people revere Him and regard Him as holy in the New Covenant era than He was in the Old. “Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.’ (Hebrews 12:28)”
(Comin, 80-81)

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