On its own, the ark was little more than an interesting piece of furniture. But the ark held the Ten Commandments and symbolized God’s presence. Any attempt to see power in the ark itself (as in the popular Indiana Jones films) is tantamount to idolatry. The people of Israel made this mistake frequently. They assumed that possession of such a powerful instrument as the ark gave them some control over God Himself, since God was obligated to guarantee the success of anyone (or any group of people) possessing it.
But the ark was not the covenant. It was only a conduit, not the reality. God had promised blessing to the people and demanded compliance with certain essentials of worship and conduct, of which the ark was a tangible reminder and symbol. The people’s disobedience brought punishment, including the capture of their most treasured reminder of God’s promise. God allowed the ark to be taken in order to get Israel’s attention. It was a stunning wake-up call for Israel to clarify its relationship to God. When covenant promises and duties were reaffirmed, the ark came home. In the meantime, however, the fate of the ark was never out of God’s control.
NOTE: Please read 1 Samuel 6