What I’ve noticed is that the longer I read the bible, the less it becomes, ah, how shall I put it – a “spectator” sport. I used to read what happened to the Israelites, viewed it from a distance, shook my head in disgust and wondered, “How could they mess up again?”
Now? Instead of a comfortable distance, the bible is right there, more “in your face.” I can’t judge the Israelites’ actions from the comfort of my chair as readily because God is showing me a lot of similarities between their actions and mine. It’s a tad painful at times. Case in point ~
Today’s reading is on 1 Samuel 4-8 where we read about Israel going to battle with the Philistines; and the ensuing disastrous results. Not only did Israel lose the battle but they also lost the ark! Oh boy.
From the days of Moses, the ark has been the visible sign of the presence and power of God. Imagine losing that to the enemy.
After a disastrous defeat by the Philistines, the elders of Israel realize that the defeat was the work of the Lord, but there is no indication that they seek to know how they have sinned. Instead, they decide that their own action of bringing the ark to the battlefield will save them, almost as if they were forcing the Lord to do their will. But the ark is not a charm. Israel is defeated, the ark is captured by the Philistines, and Eli and his sons die. “ ESV Study Bible Notes
I can’t just shake my head now and quip, “Tsk, tsk. Oh, those Israelites, when are they ever going to learn?”
I can’t because I’ve done the very same thing. What about you? Did you ever try to force God to bless what you are doing without seeking Him first? Just moving forward thinking you know what’s best without stopping and patiently waiting for His answer? Just forging ahead, expecting God to come along because after all, it is for His church? Trusting in your flesh and your own strength instead of God’s. Then all of a sudden, you turn around and discover you don’t feel God’s presence anymore. Yeah, I’ve been there, too. Is there anything more disconcerting? Or frightening?
Pastor Charles Stanley says there are times when we feel distant from God. It could be either the work of God as He brings us closer to Himself or work of the enemy just because he wants to make us miserable . Those two instances, we have no control over. But there’s a third one wherein we have some semblance of control. Pastor Stanley refers to it as the need to do some inner “housecleaning.” He said that “nothing can make us more distant from God than our own unconfessed sin. While our stumbles don’t make God love us one bit less, they do drive a wedge between us and Him. Many times when our hearts become entangled with sin and the things of this world, God allows us to experience a feeling of distance between Him and us. This is exactly what Israel felt in those dark days.”
He further added, “When we realize our error and cry out to God, He comes to us. He never comes, however, as if being summoned by a superior. He comes when our hearts have been broken and when at last we realize our need for Him. When we humble confess our sins and our dependence on Him, He hears our prayers and brings deliverance from sin.”
The ark was eventually (supernaturally) returned to Israel. God even showed the Philistines that their god, Dagon, has no power over the one true God. God can really use everything for His glory.
Today, the day after Resurrection Day, aren’t you glad that even when we fall time and time again, grace is always available?
Father, thank you for grace and Your willingness to forgive us over and over again. Forgive us during those times when we forget to wait upon You, when our pride keeps us from being still and seeking You first. When we rely upon ourselves instead of You. We turn our hearts to You. Please show us any sins that are lurking inside, the ones we acknowledge and especially the ones that are buried deep down. Help us to turn away from these things that are not pleasing to You. Help us to abide in You until the day we see You face to face. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[Reading from Blue Letter Bible – Chronological Plan]