As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines . . .learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid. . . . And they said, ". . . Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, . . . So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, . . . And the ark of God was captured. . . . 1 Samuel 4:4ff (excerpts)
According to a Reuter's news story, Tom Higgins, Irish entrepreneur, has snagged a real bargain.
Of course your idea of a bargain and Tom's idea of a bargain might be two very different things. Last week, Tom bought the desk at which Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations and composed his final correspondence on the night he died.
Mr. Higgins' bargain cost $850,000. $850,000 for a desk.
Mr. Higgins explained the reason he was excited to have bought the historical piece of furniture: "It's a part of Charles Dickens, so I'm delighted to be its owner." Mr. Higgins is right, of course, it is an historical desk, but it's still a desk.
Just like God's ark was still an ark. It was special, yes, but magical, no. Magical, that's the way the children of Israel thought of their ark. That's why one day when they went into battle against their enemies, the Philistines, they brought the ark along - - like a mighty good-luck charm.
Our text says what happened. The Israelites got clobbered and the ark was captured. It took a bit before God's people learned their protection came from the Lord, not a metal-covered, adorned-with-angels ark.
It's a lesson God's people need to remember. In the Middle Ages, God's people put their trust in the "true cross" which had been discovered by Constantine's mother, Helena. They thought the cross was so special and brought so many blessings, the church ended up selling slivers of that cross to faithful and gullible believers.
It was faith in slivers of the cross, and many other sacred relics that caused some degree of spiritual discomfort to a monk by the name of Martin Luther. By God's grace he came to believe it is faith in Jesus, the sinless Son of God and Redeemer of sinful souls, which brings forgiveness and salvation. Only Jesus can rescue.
Not His cross, not His robe, not His tears can save us. Nor can all the relics of all the saints and sacred spots of Scripture, make a difference when it comes to getting us forgiveness.
Our salvation, which comes to us freely by the grace of God, is that which saves. It is a free salvation for those who believe. Christ's redemption is the best bargain there will ever be.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, I give thanks for my salvation, which You have procured. There are many wonderful things in this world, but let none of them ever become more precious to me than the gift of eternal life which Your grace gives. In Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries