Guilt Offering — The Saga of the Lost Ark, Part 5

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How do you get square with God? The Philistines took the Ark of God from Israel, until God persuaded them to give it back. But is giving it back enough? We all know about things we did that can’t be fixed. If we can’t fix things here on earth, what chance do we have to get square with God? Pastor Luke preaches from 1 Samuel 6:1–12 in “Guilt Offering,” part 5 of his 7-part series “The Saga of the Lost Ark.”


OPEN. 1. What are a few special occasions in your community? Can you think of objects that are associated with them? (For examples, turkeys and Thanksgiving, fireworks and Independence Day, etc.)

UNPACK. 2. Read 1 Samuel 6: 1–12. How long was the Ark of the Lord in the land of the Philistines? Considering the troubles it caused them, why did they keep it so long?

3. The Philistines decide not simply to return the Ark but to make a ceremony of it. What is the ceremony? What ceremonial objects are used? How did they come up with this particular ceremony?

4. Suppose the Philistines used the ritual in Leviticus 5: 15–16 instead of the one they did use (above). What are some arguments that the Levitical ritual would have worked? —that it would not work?

5. Read Exodus 25: 10–15. What requirement concerning the Ark did the Philistines fail to observe? Read 2 Samuel 6: 3–7. How was David’s ritual similar to the Philistine’s ritual? How was it different?

APPLY. 6. Why would God overlook ceremonial errors committed by the Philistines but punish them when the Israelites made them?

7. In his translation of Psalm 130, Martin Luther adds the words: To wash away the crimson stain / Grace, grace alone avails us / Our works, alas, are all in vain / In much the best life fails us. How are our efforts to deserve God’s pardon like the rituals of the Philistines?

8. If our rituals only compound our faults, how can we obtain God’s forgiveness? Why is that difficult? What makes it good news?

Further Study

Divination Prohibited: Deuteronomy 18:10, 1 Samuel 15
The Commandment forbidding graven images: Exodus 20:4
Putting the LORD to the test: Deuteronomy 6:16