Read verses 1-4
Q: What does the ark always first and foremost represent?
A: The Word of God. Hence what is returning to Israel is not just a “thing” or icon, but is the greater representation of the Word having been absent from their lives and now returning to them.
Q: Why do you suppose the ark is not returning to Shiloh where it had previously resided for hundreds of years?
A: It’s probably symbolic of the fact that God’s Word had been rejected in that place and so it is returning to a new physical location reflecting the new spiritual position God’s Word is once again being given.
Q: What might be considered very strange about who has been entrusted with the ark and by whom?
A: There is no mention of the Tabernacle itself being moved to Kiriath-jeraim and placed around the ark. In fact, there is no mention of the priesthood or Levites doing anything at all. They seem to continue to operate everything else separate from the ark at Shiloh the whole time the ark is in Kiriath-jearim. It is the local residents of Judah who “consecrated Eleazar” Abinadab’s son to “keep the ark”.
Application: What lesson is probably being taught here that God is more concerned about the heart than earthly things like lineage, etc.? What happens when those God has called fail to carry out their God-given duties?
Q: What does it mean that “all the house of Israel lamented after the lord”?
A: It indicates a prolonged period where the people sought the Lord with fasting, prayer, and tears. They were not merely seeking God with the words of their mouth but sincerely from the heart.
Q: How do Samuel’s instructions reflect what is ALWAYS the very first step towards spiritual revival?
A: He instructs them to “return to the lord with all your heart”. (v.3) Revival always begins not just with a return to God’s Word, but accompanied by sincere repentance of sins.
Q: What is the specific sin that must be dealt with?
A: “…remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you”. (v.3) They must rid themselves of all false spiritual influences and “direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone”. Repentance is followed closely by the pursuit of sanctification, to be exclusively devoted to God’s Word and ways alone.
Q: What is the conditional promise God makes through Samuel?
A: “If you return to the Lord with all your heart…He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines”. (v.3) Deliverance is predicated on the biblical definition of repentance, which is to renounce one’s sins and strive to never revisit them again. That is, to live a changed life going forward. But earthly bondage is never addressed until spiritual bondage is first taken care of.
Q: What is significant about Samuel’s specifically mentioning that “Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtaroth and served the Lord alone”?
A: These represented both a father-figure (Baals) and a mother-figure (Ashtaroth) which they had previously substituted for God. It’s a picture of God’s children being reunited with God the Father.
Application: What substitutes for God might you need to address in order to effect a real return to Christ? How might these verses help us in how we pray for revival?