I gave up caffiene last Wednesday and this is the first morning I woke up without that wretched caffiene headache. I woke up very refreshed and awake too but when my dad’s coffee started brewing it smelled SO good. Funny how I hadn’t noticed the aroma at all for the past five mornings when I was fighting that splitting pain that was a hollow ache from my top of my head through my neck. Then, the headache is gone for one day and I felt like a cartoon character floating just above my tippy toes, nose in the air following the smell wafting in from the kitchen.
But I did not partake, not even one sip. My friend Norlin told me last night that if I can make it 21 days, I will have made not drinking coffee a habit. So, here’s to new habits! Five and half days down, fifteen and a half days to go. *grin*
Have you ever wanted the Lord to do something for you? Have you ever made promises to the Lord (keepable or ridiculous) to get Him to do something?
One of the more ridiculous times in my own life I can think of goes all the way back to the seventh grade. I was one of those kids who went through puberty early, so I was one of the taller girls in my class until sixth grade. The thing was, everyone else kept growing. Five foot two and a half is a decent height for a sixth grade girl, but if you never grow any taller (and I didn’t) then you’re sure to never be called “tall” again.
I can remember during basketball season sincerely praying and asking God to grow me to be very tall. I promised Him repeatedly that I was use my height (and mad basketball skills that would follow the height) for His glory. I believe it went something like, If You will just make me a tall, famous basketball star, I will tell everyone about You! I swear!
This morning I was reading about the last judge God gave Israel, a prophet and priest named Samuel. As you might remember, Samuel was a product of the broken-hearted cry of a barren woman named Hannah. She sought the Lord for a child and God heard her cries and gave her a son. Understanding that the child was really the Lord’s, she kept him until he was weaned and then took him to the temple, where he was left to serve alonside Eli, the current priest.
Early on Samuel was called of the Lord and in one fell swoop, Eli and his two sons would be killed just as God said. It was the story of that troubled day that reminded me of my young prayers for height and of many of the other times I have attempted to bargain with the God of the Universe, as if I have any collateral.
Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Although Eli loved the Lord and served Him, his sons were wicked. They perverted the priesthood by not following the guidelines for sacrifices and by extorting the people. Eli knew about what his sons were doing and failed to stop them. So the Lord told Samuel that the whole household of Eli would be wiped out in a day to purge Israel of this abomination.
And the day came because God is not a liar.
So the Israelites went out in battle against the Philistines and Israel got owned. The Philistines chased them back into their camp and the people were not sure what to make of it. Because of all that the Lord had done on Israel’s behalf and all of the many battles that had be won and because of the infamy of the plagues that had taken place in Egypt through Moses, Israel had a reputation. And that reputation was that THE LORD was their GOD. Period. The mere thought of them had made many a mighty people melt in fear.
But on this day, Israel was slaughtered.
So the Israelites who come back to camp were confused. They had not seen that coming. So, here’s what they thought was the best solution:
“Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh”
The ark of the convenant had great significance because it was the place where the Presence of God rested. You can read all about it in the last few chapters of Exodus.
While I can see why the people would’ve come to that conclusion, it also strikes me kind of oddly that they thought they could just wheel out a cart with the ark on it and somehow God would make them victorious… like, the proximity of His resting place was the key? like, He wasn’t able to help them from Shiloh? like, somehow a bunch of men could just wheel around the very Presence of God and change the game?
But that’s what they do and the outcome was that Israel was badly beaten by the Philistines, that both of Eli’s sons and he himself were killed that day, and that the ark of the covenant was abducted by the Philistines.
hmmm..so that didn’t work out so well.
I am going to digress just a moment before getting back to the point, because I don’t want you to be left worrying about what happened to the abducted Presence of God, ok?
Well, as it turns out God can handle Himself pretty good. Eli was so worried about the ark that he fainted, fell backward, broke his neck and died. But, yeah, as it turns out God can handle Himself.
The Philistines thought they could just wheel that cart in and place it right next to one of their many gods, dagon. But when they returned in the morning, poor old dead dagon (it was an idol) was lying face down in front of the ark of the covenant, in an apparent position of worship. They must’ve chalked it up to conincidence, because those Philistines just lifted him right back up. The next morning they found dagon back in that position only his head and hands were severed.
With coincidence out the window as a valid explanation, the people in that village begged for the leaders to send away the ark of the covenant and that same scenario played out numerous times with numerous villages until the Philistines called their own priests and asked what to do. Their advice? Load that ark up onto two cows and send with it golden figures as a guilt offering to THE LORD.
And wouldn’t you know it? Those two cows just went like it was their job carrying the ark back to God’s people.
Don’t you love it? Read the whole story… 1 Samuel 4-6. Whoever said the Bible was boring never read it.
So the ark of the covenant that had been skillfully put together just as God designed was okay, returned unhurt and carrying gifts to boot. And the unknown God, YAHWEH, who chose to lend His Presence to that man-made ark, was just fine too.
But He wasn’t going to be a rabbit’s foot or a lucky charm that could be rubbed for good luck. He wasn’t going to just be wheeled out into a battle like some dog and pony show or a magic trick that saves the day.
Later on King Saul learns this lesson when he disregards the commandments of the Lord and then tries to casually blame it on the people. Samuel powerfully tells him,
“Has the LORD as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams”
To obey is better than to sacrifice. In the New Testament it is said this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” These two statements are really one in the same since faith is believing God not casually, but to the point of obedience.
So, no, God wasn’t going to be pushed out onto the battlefield to honor a people whose hearts were far from Him. He wasn’t going to overlook the perversion of His holy laws and the sin that was rampant and succumb to their wrong assumptions about Him.
He’s wasn’t Israel’s good luck charm. He was their GOD. Mighty large difference. He was their king, though only a short time later they’d go on asking for one as if He had not been all that and more to them all along. They got their king too, and he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be.
He’s not a rabbit foot’s in the pocket of the Church, either. He is our LORD; our MASTER; our GOD. We cannot live out the week as we see fit, acknowleding Him when it’s comfortable, casually making reference to Him, running our own lives and then rub that rabbit’s foot when we’re in a tight spot and expect God to act like a genie who appears to grant us our wishes.
If we try that, we will only find that we are running from the battlefields of our lives, defeated and beaten and worst of all, shocked at the outcome. Now, GOD, He will be just fine… don’t you worry about Him, He can handle Himself.
I may have joked about praying for a taller stature, but I am not laughing as the Lord brings to mind the many times I have tried to bargain with Him for the things I wanted, ignoring the rebellion in my heart. The words that King Saul said to Samuel that day are haunting to me this morning, “…I have sinned,; yet honor me now…”
Haunting because I have said them. Haunting because of the depth of selfish ambition and foolish pride and disdain for the King’s position that those words reveal.
God will not be mocked. What a man sows, that will he also reap. If we sow to the flesh, thinking that at the last minute we can shallowly call on God to keep us suffering at our own hands… if we think He will ignore sin for the right bargaining chip… if we think that He’d rather us sacrifice than obey… well, then we will be shocked when the battle- our battle- is lost.
King Saul was annointed of God, chosen, hand picked and yet his disobedience caused him to lose the position God had given him. Samuel says to Saul,
“When you were small in your own sight, were you not made head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord annointed you king over Israel…
Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?…why then did you do evil in the sight of the Lord?”
Without the Lord, aren’t we all small in our own sight? We must keep that perspective then. He is GOD…KING…LORD…MASTER. It is not my role to pick and choose opportunities for obedience, for faith.
Church, may we not be found thinking God little more than a good luck charm. May we not treat His Lordship flippantly. May we learn what it means to please the Lord by honoring His commands.