There is a certain ache that comes with extended periods of waiting. From time to time, I travel away from my family to teach. The first day that I’m away, it’s no big deal, but by the end of the week, I miss Kimberlee and the kids so much that I’m aching to get back home. The more time that goes by the more heartache it causes. Have you perhaps dreamed for many years for a loved one to be saved? Or maybe you have longed for a spouse, for children, for a particular job or even for a home of your own, but you’re still in a rental, single, working at the five-and-dime and without children. You want to be homesteading, but you are still living in an apartment. If you think that’s hard, think about longing and waiting for five generations for your dream to come true. After Nashon’s generation died, Salmon’s generation did finally enter the Promised Land. All the tribes settled into their allotted areas, and everyone had their spot. But God did not yet have His. Sadly, the One who was the Source of all the victories, as Israel took possession of the land bit by bit, was now the only one left out. We can see that it was high on God’s list of priorities to be brought into the place of His habitation, but five generations passed, and He was still waiting. For God, the ache of time would have set in. All of the events of the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth transpired. Salmon married Rahab, the woman who dropped the scarlet rope from her house in Jericho. They had a son named Boaz, who married Ruth from Moab. Boaz and Ruth had a child named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse, and he was the father of David, the little shepherd boy. All of this came and went, and God was yet to be in His desired home. During those many years the Ark of the Covenant — God’s Presence manifest on the earth — had a storied history with the people of Israel. It traveled across the Jordan River in front of the Israelites as they moved into the Promised Land. It was out front and led the circling of Jericho until the walls of that famous city fell down. Joshua fell on his face before it when Israel was defeated in their second battle (this one at Ai) because of Achan’s sin. After they finally took Ai, the Ark again took center stage as the people of Israel renewed their covenant with God on Mt. Ebal. It’s hard for me to use the pronoun it when referring to the Ark, because the Ark was the very embodiment of the Presence of God Himself with Israel. The Ark was God’s Presence with them. The Ark was important, but after Mt. Ebal, we hear little of it until the events of Judges 20, where we find it in Bethel with Phinehas the priest, grandson of Aaron. After virtual silence about the Ark in a great part of the book of Judges, it comes booming back into the biblical narrative in 1 Samuel with the young boy Samuel living in the Temple with the Ark during the ministry of Eli. Eli’s sons were wicked, and the Ark was taken into battle as more of a good-luck charm rather than in the fear of the Lord. The Israelites thought they would automatically win if they just took the Ark along, but this time they did not. The Philistines defeated Israel and stole the Ark. God was now not only homeless; He was also kidnapped. The Philistines transferred the Ark from Ebenezer to Ashdod, and there the Philistine lords put it in the same room with the idol they served. His name was Dagon. But God Almighty didn’t make a good roommate for a demonic ruler. The statue of Dagon fell over a couple of nights consecutively and eventually broke into pieces, and the Philistine lords were forced to gather to try to decide what to do with this Ark thing. They now sent the Ark on to a place called Gath, but there tumors broke out on the bodies of the people, and the place was attacked by a severe panic. A plague of rodents also began ravaging the local fields, so the people of Gath, in turn, sent the Ark on to Ekron. After all of this, the people of Ekron wanted nothing to do with the Ark, and a great panic fell over their city. Again, the Philistine lords held council and decided to send the Ark back to Israel. The men among them who hadn’t died were struck with tumors, and the hand of the Lord was clearly against them. The Philistines had tolerated this constant tumor-filled, rat-infested panic attack for seven months now. It seems that God didn’t like being homeless and held hostage. Next the Philistine lords sent the Ark back on a cart with five gold tumors and five gold mice as a guilt offering. Two cows pulled the Ark to an Israelite field near Beth-Shemesh. The people rejoiced, but God struck seventy of them down simply because they had looked upon the Ark. The men of Beth-Shemesh contacted the men of Kiriath-Jearim, and they came and took the Ark off their hands. They took it to the house of a man named Abinadab who lived on a hill, and they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of it. And there the Ark remained for the next twenty years. During the reign of Saul, the Ark “went at that time with the people” (1 Samuel 14:18). We have no further explanation. But the Ark certainly had not yet found a place to rest. Saul sent for it during battle. We don’t know all the places the Ark went in those days. Somehow, though, it ended up back at Abinadab’s house in Kiriath-Jearim. The Ark of God remained homeless, moving around from place to place, from the time Israel crossed the Jordan until David — five generations. By this time, all of the people were homesteading in their Promised Land, but God was still homeless. Saul was now king, and he reigned for the next forty-two years. The people of Israel had rejected God as their King, and at their request He had delegated the supreme authority over the land to an earthly king. God, who teaches us to honor authority, also honors authority Himself. If He delegates authority, He then honors that decision and chooses to work through those to whom He has given the authority. This is why Jesus had to come to earth as a man, because God had given man authority over the earth. Jesus worked within that authority structure (Genesis 1:28-30). God will not violate His own nature and character by breaking His word. This is also why Jesus can’t just come and take over your life with His sheer power without your permission. He has chosen, instead, to win us with His mercy. When we are overwhelmed with His kindness, we invite Him onto the throne of our hearts and lives.
Jesus, You’ve given me the authority to decide who will rule my life. I choose You and Your desires, even over my own.