The Signs of the Times


January 19, 1882

The Ark Restored


When it was proposed among the Philistines to return the ark to its own land, there were some who stood ready to oppose the plan. Such an acknowledgment of the power of Israel's God would be deeply humiliating to the pride of Philistia; some way to evade it was eagerly sought. Many urged that none would dare risk their lives in removing that which had brought such destruction upon the land. Still others denied that their calamities had been caused by the ark, and protested against surrendering so famed a trophy. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 1

The “priests and diviners,” whose counsel had been sought on this occasion, admonished the people not to imitate the stubbornness of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and thus bring upon themselves still greater afflictions. A plan in which all concurred, was now proposed, and immediately put in execution. The ark, with the golden trespass-offering, was placed upon a new cart, thus precluding all danger of defilement; to this cart, or car, were attached two kine, upon whose necks a yoke had never before been placed. Then, their calves having been tied up at home, the cows were left free to go wherever they pleased. If the ark should thus be returned to the Israelites by the way of Beth-shemesh, the nearest city of the Levites, “then,” said the Philistines, “the God of Israel hath done unto us this great evil; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.” ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 2

No sooner were the kine set free than they turned from their young, and, lowing as they went, took the straight road to Beth-shemesh. Guided by no human hand, the patient animals kept on their way. The Divine Presence accompanied the ark, and it passed safely on to the very place designated. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 3

It was now the time of wheat harvest, and the men of Beth-shemesh were reaping in the valley. With great joy they beheld the ark approaching; and when the kine of their own accord stopped near a great stone, some of the Levites present offered them up as a sacrifice to the Lord, the cart itself being used as fuel for the burnt-offering. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 4

The lords of the Philistines, who had followed the ark to the border of Beth-shemesh, and had witnessed its reception, now returned to Ekron. The plague had ceased, and they were convinced that their calamities had been a judgment from the God of Israel. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 5

The men of Beth-shemesh quickly spread the glad tidings that the ark was in their possession, and the people from all the surrounding country flocked to welcome its return. The ark had been placed upon the stone which first served for an altar, and before it additional sacrifices were offered unto the Lord. Had the worshipers, with penitence and humiliation, put away their sins, the divine blessing would have attended them. But they were not faithfully obeying the law of God; hence, while they rejoiced at the return of the ark as a harbinger of good, they could have no true sense of its sacredness as the repository of that law. Instead of preparing a suitable place for the reception of the ark, they permitted it to remain in the harvest-field. As they continued to gaze upon the sacred chest, and to talk of the wonderful manner in which it had been restored, they began to conjecture wherein lay its peculiar power. At last, overcome by curiosity, they removed the coverings and ventured to open it. Their joy was quickly changed to mourning. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 6

All Israel had been taught to regard the ark with awe and reverence. When required to remove it from place to place, the Levites were not to so much as look upon it. Only once a year was the high priest permitted to behold the ark of God. The heathen Philistines had not dared even to remove its coverings. Angels of Heaven, unseen, ever attended it in all its journeyings. The irreverent daring of the people at Beth-shemesh aroused the anger of the Lord, and a great number were instantly destroyed. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 7

The terror of the survivors was equaled only by their former presumption. Yet they were not led by this judgment to repent of their sin, but only to regard the ark with superstitious fear. Eager to be freed from its presence, yet not daring to remove it, the Bethshemites sent a message to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, inviting them to take it away. They consented, and the ark was accordingly removed. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 8

The spirit of irreverent curiosity still exists among the children of men. Many are eager to investigate those mysteries which infinite wisdom has seen fit to leave unrevealed. Having no reliable evidence from which to reason, they base their theories on conjecture. The Lord has wrought for his servants and for the upbuilding of his cause at the present day as verily as he wrought in behalf of ancient Israel; but vain philosophy, “science falsely so called,” has sought to destroy faith in the direct interposition of Providence, attributing all such manifestations to natural causes. This is the sophistry of Satan. He is asserting his authority by mighty signs and wonders in the earth. Those who ignore or deny the special evidences of God's power, are preparing the way for the arch-deceiver to exalt himself before the people as superior to the God of Israel. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 9

Many accept the reasoning of these would-be wise men as truth, when in fact it undermines the very foundations which God has laid. Such teachers are the ones described by inspiration, who must become fools in their own estimation, that they may be wise. God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. By those who are guided only by human wisdom, the simplicity of his mighty workings is called foolishness. They think themselves wiser than their Creator, when in fact they are victims of finite ignorance and childish conceit. It is this that holds them in the darkness of unbelief, so that they do not discern the power of God, and tremble before him. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 10

Though the ark had brought judgments both upon the inhabitants of Philistia and of Beth-shemesh, yet the men of Kirjath-jearim welcomed it with joy. They knew that while it was a precursor of wrath to the transgressor of God's law, it was the pledge of divine favor to the obedient and faithful. With solemn gladness they brought it to their city, and placed it in the house of Abinadab, a Levite. This man appointed his son Eleazar to take charge of it, to see that it was kept from injury or pollution. Thus it remained for many years. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 11

The Israelites as a nation still continued in a state of irreligion and idolatry, and as a punishment they remained in subjection to the Philistines. During this time Samuel, who was already recognized as a prophet, visited cities and villages throughout the land, seeking to turn the hearts of the people to the God of their fathers. He faithfully set before them the claims of the divine law and their sin in transgressing its precepts, the long-suffering and mercy of God, and his assurance of favor to those who confess and forsake their sins. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 12

These efforts were not without good results. The hearts of the faithful were encouraged, and apostates were led to return to the Lord. The mirror of God's law, held up before the sinner, gives him a correct view of his own character. The greater the reverence felt for that law, the keener will be the sense of condemnation on account of sin. Every willful transgression is an act of rebellion against its Author. Every one who assumes this attitude, is by his practice saying to the people, “The requirements of God are exacting and severe, a yoke of bondage. Let us break this yoke from off our necks, and be at liberty.” ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 13

The law of God was not given to the Jews alone. It is of world-wide and perpetual obligation. “He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all.” Its ten precepts are like a chain of ten links. If one link is broken, the chain becomes worthless. Not a single precept can be revoked or changed to save the transgressor. While families and nations exist; while property, life, and character must be guarded; while good and evil are antagonistic, and a blessing or a curse must follow the acts of men—so long must the divine law control us. When God no longer requires men to love him supremely, to reverence his name, and to keep holy the Sabbath; when he permits them to disregard the rights of their fellow-men, to hate and injure one another—then and not till then, will the moral law lose its force. ST January 19, 1882, Art. A, par. 14