Life is full of things that are good and useful when used in the correct manner and place. Many of these same things can wreak havoc on an individual, group, or society when used in ways and places contradictory to their intended purpose. Lesson 6 of the study I am leading through 1 Samuel looks at this very thing as the Philistines capture the Ark of the LORD from the Israelites. They believed that simple possession of this “right thing” would ensure God’s presence among them and His departure from the Israelites.
The Ark definitely was the right thing — it was to represent the very presence of God in the midst of the Israelite nation. It was built according to the design and instruction of God Himself. The directions from God for its care and treatment were very specific. The very mention among the Philistines that the Israelites were bringing it to the battle front caused great fear and trembling among all the soldiers. So when victory came to the Philistines they took the ark with them and set it up in the temple of their God, Dagon.
In 1 Samuel chapter 5, we see the results of the Philistines having the “right thing” in the wrong place. As they arrive at their temple they discover their God, Dagon, lying face-down on the floor. They set him back up only to find him on the floor again the next day missing his head and hands! The area around the city was filled with devastation and the people were afflicted with tumors. Yet rather than recognize they had the right thing in the wrong place, they passed the ark on to another city with the same results there. So they in turn pass it on to a third city with similar results. You might say the third time is charm because it is here that the people cry out to have the ark sent back to where it belongs.
So, I’m guessing that Harrison Ford’s search for the lost ark didn’t result in you obtaining the ark and keeping it in a place and manner contrary to its intended purpose. 😉 What, then, is the lesson in this scripture text that God would have for us? The answer to that comes down to an understanding of right things, wrong places, and the connection between the two. In talking about the freedom we have in Christ, Paul writes that “all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial”. Through even a casual reading of Paul’s writings, it is obvious he is not dismissing the “thou shalt not’s” of scripture but is writing about matters of opinion and preference. He is writing about doing things that are right, but doing them in ways and places that are wrong because of the negative influence it would have on a brother or sister in Christ.
In connection with the 1 Samuel text, the question that begs an answer is “what do I do with the sacred things — the meaningful symbols — of my relationship with God?”. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus instructs his listeners to not give what is sacred to the dogs nor cast their pearls to the swine. He indicates that doing so not only destroys what is valuable, but it puts us in danger as well. Paul writes in reference to our participation in the Lord’s Supper that there is a wrong place, or way, to do a very right thing. Some were making a mockery out of the communion elements — eating and drinking to satisfy their own stomachs while ignoring the needs and the people surrounding them. Paul writes that these individuals were not eating and drinking fellowship with Jesus Christ, they were eating and drinking judgment unto themselves. He goes on to say that it is for this reason that some of them are sick and have even died.
The command is for each person to examine themselves so that they are spiritually in the right place to do the right thing. I pray that you and I would make good use of the opportunity that God has given us through the remembrance meal of the Lord’s Supper. May our communion with Jesus Christ help us to do the right things and to do them in the right places and ways.