Summary: A look at the story of how the Ark of the Covenant was returned to the people of Israel and how they worshipped God because of it.

-so here’s what we’re going to do, for the next two weeks we’re mellowing out a little, no powerpoints, no notes sheets, if you really want to take notes there’s paper we can give you, but we’re going to take things easy. We’re going to have story time.

-we’re going to look at stories that talk about worship. Next week will be stories from the New Testament, but today will be a story from the Old Testament.

-it concerns the Ark of the Covenant. Do you remember that thing? Indiana Jones. The Ark was consecrated by God, it was thought to be God on earth. Where the Ark was was a representation of God being there. When Israel went to battle, the Ark went first, like in the battle of Jericho, the Ark went first. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, the Ark went first and the waters parted, the people crossed on dry ground.

-well our story starts in I Samuel 4. Eli is judge over Israel, he’s just gotten a new protégé named Samuel, but right now he’s in charge with his two sons. And the Philistines are the new guys on the block starting wars and trying to take over Israel.

-Israel goes to war with the Philistines, and they lose. So the people try to figure out why and what they can do and they come up with a plan. They decide to bring the Ark into the camp. They decide to let the Ark lead them to battle. When the Ark enters the camp with Eli’s two sons the Bible says they let out a great shout and the ground shook.

-now the Philistines, a little ways away, they hear this, feel the ground shake and think, O crap. They brought in God. Not just any God, the Hebrew God who caused all the plagues in Egypt. God is physically in the camp, we are screwed. But the captains say, no, we have to fight, we have to win, gives some inspirational war movie speech in Philistinian and off to war they go. And they win. They capture the Ark. The capture God.

-so the Philistines take the Ark and they take it to their religious center of Ashdod. They carry the Ark into the temple of Dagon, their god, and set the Ark at his feet as an offering, basically saying their god is over the Hebrew God.

-the next day they come into the temple of Dagon, and Dagon’s down. Their god was on the floor facedown before the Ark of the Covenant. So they pick Dagon back up, put him back where he should be.

-the next day the priests come in and Dagon’s on the floor again, fallen in front of the Ark of the Lord. Except this time, Dagon’s hands and his head broke off. Israel’s God just killed their god. Then all the people in the city of Ashdod begin to get tumors and rats appear and spread disease that starts killing people.

-so the leaders of the Philistines get together and ask what should we do? The Hebrew God is killing us. They decide to take it out of Dagon’s city and take it to the city of Gath.

-the Ark comes to the city of Gath, and so do tumors and disease and rats and death. The people are dying and in torment there. So they meet and try to figure out what to do again. And the leaders decide to move the Ark further away to the Philistine city of Ekron.

-the problem is, now word has spread. The people of Ekron see it coming and cry out thinking their leaders are trying to kill them, that’s why the Ark is coming. And people are dying and tumors and finally the rulers say we have to get rid of this thing, we have to give it back to Israel.

-so the leaders call their priests and ask what to do, how do we give Israel their God back and not make it angry. So the priests say to make sure not to send it away empty-handed. They suggest making tumors and rats out of gold as a sign acknowledging they knew the problems were from the Hebrew God. So they make five gold tumors and five gold rats and put them in a chest.

-then they get a new cart, hook up two cows to pull it. They put the Ark in, they put the treasure in, then they point it towards Israel. They have some guys follow it to the border to make sure it keeps going straight, which it does, when it hits the border they go home.

-so on this day in the little Israelite town of Beth Shemesh, the people are out in the valley harvesting wheat, they look up and see something shiny in the distance walking towards them. The cart keeps coming until it hits a rock and stops. The people are so excited, they get some Levites, the tribe of priests, and have them take Ark off the cart. They break the cart and turn it into firewood and offer burnt offerings and sacrifices to God.

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