Tuesday, July 6, 2010

1 Samuel 4-7: God's Presence, God's Power, God's Words

Those pesky Philistines.

They were a problem in the days of Samson, and they were a problem in the days of Samuel.  Apparently they were bigger and stronger than the Israelites, and our biblical protagonists, the Israelites, could only win if God intervened for them.

One day, after a particularly painful loss in which 4,000 of our heroes lost their lives, the elders had a brilliant idea.

"God's unhappy with us," they said.  "Let's take the Ark of the Covenant with us next time we go to battle."
Their forefathers used to do that, they thought, and then they won.

A brilliant idea.  We can honor God by taking his presence with us into battle.  It worked before so it will work again.

Except it didn't.  And those pesky Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant.  Which didn't work out so well for them either.  And so they finally gave it back.  (It's kind of funny, really.  If you haven't read it, you really need to take a look.)

Wouldn't it be convenient if we could program God's presence?  Develop a formula? Predict what he will do next?

Except that God's ways are beyond figuring out.  (Romans 11:33-36, Isaiah 55:8-9)

We honor him by obeying him.  Worshiping him.  Putting him first.  Instead of our own purposes.
Setting aside other gods.

Something the Israelites weren't willing to do.  It was easier to pull out the Ark of the Covenant.

It's easier to remember how God worked in the past and try to manipulate him into working again by doing the same thing.  Or what someone else has done.

Ultimately there are no shortcuts.

We will experience God's presence and power when we humble ourselves before him and surrender our lives.  We will hear his words when we stop listening to competing voices.

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