Don’t Lift the Lid on Other People’s Sins
I spent twelve years in prison. During one of the programs I was participating in, there was an exercise involving the development of a detailed histogram of each member’s entire life, detailing all the past sins. Then a public presentation of the histogram with a critique by the entire group. I found this spiritually distasteful and paralleled the story of the men who looked into the Ark.
To understand the lesson being taught by God for looking into the Ark, we must first realize what is in the Ark; second, fathom the meaning of the Ark itself; and third, apprehend why it was so deadly inappropriate for the men of Beth-She-Mesh to look inside.
1) In Hebrews 9:4, the contents of the Ark are listed: the golden pot held manna gathered as food during the Israelites forty years wilderness journey; Aaron’s rod that had budded (Numbers 17); and the tables of the Covenant (the ten commandments – exodus 25:16). All three of these objects are physical reminders of the Israelite’s sins of their past.
Manna: Exodus 16, “The whole congregation…murmured against Moses…I will rain bread from heaven (manna), that I may prove them (prove they are sinners in need of Salvation), whether they will walk in my law or not…for the Lord heareth your murmuring against the Lord…and it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the Sabbath day to gather (manna), and they found none, and the Lord said unto Moses, how long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws…”
Aaron’s Rod: Numbers 17:10, “Bring Aaron’s rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels” (see Numbers 16).
The Tablets of the Covenant (the ten commandments): These are referred to in Scripture as “the law.” The book of Romans tells how “the law” is not only a reminder or our sins, but also manifests our bad deed as sin; “For by the law is the knowledge of sin…for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law…moreover the law entered, that the offense (sin) might abound…I had not known sin, but by the law.”
2) The Ark itself is one of the brightest physical parables God gives in His Word, of His Salvation plan: When God saves a person, He puts past sins into a closed box never to be brought to light again. He has put the “seat of His mercy” on top of the box – on top of our sins. And it is on this seat of mercy in which the high priest, on the Day of Atonement sprinkles the shed blood. The Ark is covered in a layer of gold, representing God’s brilliant righteousness.
3) It is now that it all comes together: our past sins are under the mercy of God, covered by the shed blood, wrapped in God’s cloak of righteousness, never to be seen or remembered again. How presumptuous, how disrespectful of the men of Beth-She-Mesh, to lift the lid of the Covenant and look upon the past sins of their forefathers, to look upon the past sins of someone else, which are their sins also. At the moment the lid opened, their past sins were no longer under the mercy (seat) of God, no longer under the shed blood of the Redeemer, no longer completely wrapped in the golden righteousness of God. In that moment those sins of the past were brought back into the light, forced again into the mind and remembrance of God; and in that moment deserving of God’s swift judgment. And judgement came.
So, with all this understood, why would I want to continue in a program whose main premise is to spend months lifting the lid not only on my past sins but on the past sins of fourteen other inmates. I left that program.
Note: Within six months of my termination from that program, God completely disassembled the whole group: two members died and so many others were terminated for various reasons, that the group was no longer viable and discontinued. The Lord works in mysterious ways.