|But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, 20 and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?" (1Samuel6:19 -20)|
When the ark was returned to Israel by driverless cart, it arrived at the border-town of Beth Shemesh. The Israelites rejoiced at the return of the Ark and offered up a sacrifice. But the sacrifice cost them nothing, because they sacrificed the two Philistine cows and used the Philistine cart for firewood.
Then curiosity got the better of them and they opened up the ark to see what was inside.
This illustrates the pendulum swing that we often go through when it comes to the things of God:
On the right-hand side of the pendulum swing, the Israelites started with seeing the Ark as more than a symbol of God's presence, but as something that bound Him to act to defend His symbol. It was with this idea that they took the ark into battle as a "remote control" to "force" God to fight for them.
Then, after the ark was captured and then returned, the Israelites swung to the far left, to a place where the ark was treated as even less than a symbol of God's presence and could be opened up for curiosity.
These two sides of the pendulum could be described as fundamentalism on the right and liberalism on the left. Fundamentalists focus so much on symbols that they forget about the God the symbols point to. While they appear to be deeply religious and respectful, fundamentalists are guilty of obsessing on symbols to the extent that their picture of God shrinks and they attempt to control God by their devotion to the symbols.
Liberalism emphasises the human mind and its "right" to have curiosity satisfied and mysteries explained. There is little room for the miraculous and forces greater than rationalism. While they appear to be open-minded and free-thinking, liberals are self-referencing and self-justified and they disrespect forces and mysteries greater than themselves with great arrogance.
Both ends of the pendulum can have tragic results.
Between the extremes of liberalism and fundamentalism we must find middle ground - I believe this middle ground is humility.
We'll look at this more next week...