The Bible in a Year – 18 September

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

18 September. 1 Chronicles chapters 13-15

These chapters tell of the two-stage journey of the Ark of the Covenant from its previous resting place to a new home in David’s new capital of Jerusalem.  The capture of Jerusalem had been the last major objective in the occupation of the Holy Land (Canaan), and it had been many generations, perhaps a few hundred years, since the people of Israel had first crossed the Jordan to being the process.

So it is understandable that David wanted to consolidate this victory. When one tribe or ethnic group overcomes another and establishes control if its territory, capturing its strongholds, it is usual to strengthen defences, build a palace and so on.  David certainly built his “house” which was no doubt a luxury compared with the dwellings of ordinary people, but probably nowhere near as large as Solomon’s later palace.  Likewise, it was to be another generation before Solomon built the Temple; yet David thought it important that his new capital should house the Ark, as a symbol of God’s presence, even if for the time being it had to be kept in a tent.

This Ark (not to be confused with Noah’s floating zoo) reputedly held nothing other than the stones inscribed with the Law of Moses, plus Aaron’s staff, and a sample of the miraculous manna from the desert.  These represented, in terms of what we would now call the sociology of religion, the relationship between God and his people being expressed through ethical standards, organised worship and shared meals.

But there was also the element of the miraculous: God had given the laws to Moses in a series of awesome appearances; Aaron’s staff had produced buds from a dry stick and even turned into a snake; and the manna had appeared from heaven every morning (apart from the Sabbath) for years. Any community can be identified and sustained by certain standards, rituals and meals, but what set the Israelites apart was that they believed theirs were all given by God.


The Bible in a Year – 27 March

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

27 March. 1 Samuel chapters 4-8

These chapters tell of how Israel fought unsuccessfully against the Philistines (their enemies to the west), falsely trusting in the ark of the covenant as assuring God’s presence with them for victory; of the plagues on the Philistines as a result of them capturing the ark, until they sent it back to Israel; and of Samuel’s reign of peace following the death of Eli from shock.


Rather than find a lesson in these ‘big picture’ stories I will pick on one word – Ebenezer (4:1 and 7:12). Just yesterday I saw a Baptist church called Ebenezer Chapel and wondered where the name came from, as I have seen other 19th century chapels of the same name. Now I know.  The footnotes translate it as “Stone of Help”. Presumably the chapel builders, looking for a suitable Biblical name, thought that this would do, partly as their church would be built of stone (actually this one had brick walls, but on a stone foundation).  The other reference may be to one of the names of God, “Rock of Ages”, or perhaps Jesus as the “Cornerstone of the Church”, both of which were popular images in Victorian times, and sometimes still today.


Jesus also told a parable of the men who built their houses, one on sand and the other on rock, and of course when floods came the one on the rock stood firm.  The existence of the rock is not enough though: it still takes work to build on.  Having a personal faith in God, not his mere existence, is what gives a sense of purpose to life that can resist its storms.  The builders of the several Ebenezer churches must have hoped by their labours in building them to inspire a rock-like faith in God in those who would worship there.  Rock of Ages, Stone of Help, help me today when my life seems insecure.