I am conscious of God’s presence here in the room with me. His love and His Spirit fill the room around me. “I love you Jesus!”. But do I really love Him?
“You ask what is real love? How do you know whether you love Me fully? To start with love is not an emotion. It contains a huge emotional element but it is far more than that. It is a whole attitude of one towards another and that reflects in a number of ways. You cannot fake the real thing – you can pretend, but it quickly becomes apparent when you do that. Ultimately the attitude of one who loves is demonstrated by actions. That is why the sacrifice of my Son on the cross is such a clear and definite picture of the attitude I have towards you and My whole creation. Just because you are not filled with loving thoughts towards Me all the time it does not mean your love is deficient. your love for Me is reflected by your whole life and all your actions.”
Returning now to Samuel we reach ch 4 today. Last time we saw how Gods word had become rare in Israel because of her turning her back on Him and living their lives as they pleased without reference to Yahweh.. It represented a form of judgement by God towards His people, withdrawing His communication with them and effectively His presence. As the story here unfolds we see how God has raised up a new prophet, Samuel who would bring His word again as He prepared His people for a new phase when He would introduce His rule through His chosen kings.
Today we see another way God demonstrated that He had withdrawn His glory from His people, which runs parallel to His withdrawing His word. Can you remember how the Tabernacle was constructed. In the well-protected Holy of Holies was the golden Ark of the Covenant, with it’s Cherubim on top. The Ark contained the “Testimony” or the 10 words or commands God had given Moses on Mt Sinai. It represented the presence of God with His people and there were many instructions that reminded them of that.
Of course we recognize that it was only symbolic of His presence as was the cloud and the fire. God cannot be contained in a building never mind a box, but He wanted the people to have a continual visual reminder of His presence. At this time it was clear by the attitude of the people towards the Ark they had lost all respect and interest in God who had rescued their forefathers from Israel.
Now when faced with the setback in their ongoing war with the Philistines they conveniently remember that they needed God to fight on their side. The two evil sons of Eli are involved as they bring the physical ark to the Hebrew camp. There is a loud shout as the ark arrives. Are the Israelites glad that the presence of God is with them again? As the story unfolds it is clear that their joy is merely a selfish expression of the feeling that they would soon be on the side of victory. It had nothing to do with the reality of God’s presence and their recognition of how they had fallen away from Him.
God has a strong and unpleasant message for them. His ark is not a magic token which would give them victory. They were still under His judgement and the subsequent defeat in battle including the effect on Eli and His family demonstrates this. Not only are they heavily defeated but the ark itself is captured and now in Philistine hands. Could God not have protected Himself and His ark? We will see in the next section what the answer is to that question. The lesson here is clear. God cannot be manipulated or used. He desires an ongoing relationship with His people. In the OT this was represented by their keeping the Sabbath as a reminder of their covenant relationship with Him.
What is the message for us here today? It seems that it is exactly the same as to those people. God desires to have an ongoing relationship and fellowship with us. While He uses means to remind us of that eg taking communion, He will not be manipulated by our keeping memorabilia of Him as a means to obtain His blessing.
When I first met Sylvia, she was clinging to a tenuous connection she felt she had with God through a special bible her mother had given her many years before. A bible, no matter how precious it may be, carries God’s word to us. But it does not in itself represent God’s presence with us. There is no superstitious magic with God. Our interaction with Him is through Jesus and His Spirit and represents an ongoing relationship.
The other thing that we are reminded of through this passage is that God may carry out His judgement on His people or a person by withdrawing His presence and His fellowship so that they may experience the vicissitudes of life without Him.
More on the Ark next week. God bless you all.
- New Wine.
- Thy Kingdom Come.
- What fuels your service for Jesus?
- Rescue from the Storm.
- Ultimate Perfection at Mt Zion.
- Hannah’s Song.
- The Foolishness of Forgetting to Live by the Gospel.
- Did God Make a Mistake with the Old Covenant?
- The Nations Rage - but the Witness goes out.
- A Great Light in the Dark