Distinguishing The Holy From The Common

Q. I would like to get your comment on 1 Samuel 6:19-20, why did the Lord smite all those people for looking into the Ark? And what lesson can we garner from these verses, like is there a type of grace or the forthcoming of grace (I hope I am making sense)?

A. 1 Samuel 4-5 tells of the time the philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and brought such affliction upon themselves that they returned it to Israel (1 Sam. 6:1-12). Out of curiosity some Israelites looked inside the Ark and 70 of them were struck dead (1 Sam. 6:19).

The Ark of the covenant was holy. Only the descendants of Kohath, a son of Levi, were allowed to handle the Ark and even then there were strict procedures for doing so (Num. 4:4-6,15). Anyone else who came near the Ark or touched it had to die so they wouldn’t defile it. In Exodus 19:12-13 God made all of Mt. Sinai holy when He came down to give them the Law saying anyone who touched the mountain would have to die. And when David was having the ark moved to Jerusalem, the oxen pulling the cart it was riding on stumbled. When a soldier instinctively reached out to steady the ark, he was struck dead. (2 Sam. 6:6-7)

God’s point is that things that are holy must not be contaminated by things that are not. One of His primary complaints against Israel’s leaders at the time of the Babylonian judgment was that they didn’t distinguish between the holy and the common (Ezek. 22:26) And one of His first assignments to the priests after He returns in the Millennium will be for them to teach that principle to the people. (Ezek. 44:23)

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