INTERESTING FACTS : "I HAVE ALWAYS SAID THAT A STUDIOUS PERUSAL OF THE SACRED VOLUME WILL MAKE BETTER CITIZENS, BETTER FATHERS, AND BETTER HUSBANDS. "-- THOMAS JEFFERSON.
DAILY READING : 1 SAMUEL 4 - 8
TEXT : 1Sa 4:21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. 1Sa 4:22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken. 1Sa 7:2 And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. 1Sa 7:8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. 1Sa 8:4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 1Sa 8:5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 1Sa 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 1Sa 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
THEME : RITUALS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
The life of Samuel includes a watershed decision in one specific event in the history of Israel. It is their desire to have a king. Not satisfied with the reign of the invisible God any longer, they want a visible ruler in His place. God is specific in His statement to Samuel when He says - "they have rejected Me." In essence, it takes more faith to believe in God whom you cannot see than to touch flesh and blood that you can see. Still, God commanded His people to live by faith, and His rule has not changed. God insists His people believe Him as we read of Him in the Bible - the Word of God. However, Israel's record is one of continual denial and rebellion against the Lord and His Word. The same can be said of the Church in its history as well. Therefore, we must learn from history, specifically the history recorded in the Bible so we do not repeat the same sins as people in the past. We must come to terms with the words of Mexican born- American philosopher George Santayana who said - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Santayana's words concern us as individuals and as the Body of Christ.
When Israel lost their initial battle with the Philistines, they thought bringing the Ark of the Covenant to war would ensure a victory. They were wrong. We read in chapter 4 of 1 Samuel how the Philistines girded themselves - against their fears of the Lord, and routed Israel worse than before Israel brought the Ark with them. In addition, they lost the Ark for 20 years. Eli's two sons die on the battlefield in fulfillment of the prophecy given to Eli through Samuel. Further, Eli falls backward and dies when he hears of the Ark being taken, as does, his daughter-in-law giving while birth to her son. The child is named - "Ichabod," which means: "The Glory is Departed."
What the people of Israel did not know was even though the Ark had a physical presence in the Tabernacle, God had already departed from them - in a manner of speaking. As they strayed further from God, His promises to preserve, protect, and provide for them went with Him. However, it should be pointed out when God is distant it is certain God did not move, Man did. In other words, if God was far away, it was not He who moved but His people.
Therefore, the Ark of the Covenant was a mere form without substance. We find a parallel to this truth in the New Testament concerning the last days - presumably the days we live in. The Spirit of the Lord writes through the Apostle Paul -
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. [2 Tim 3: 1 - 5]
Notice men will have a look [form] of appearance of godliness, but not God's power. Men will have, and now have - prayer, singing, music [all called "worship"], reading of the Bible, devotions etc. all without God. How is this possible? Because without faith, it is impossible to please Him. [Heb 11:6]
This is what happened to Israel. They mistook rites and rituals - even God ordained traditions and ordinances, for godly living. The same mistake has been made over the years in Israel and in the Church. This is why we should heed the voice of God speaking to us through the Bible and history that we do not fall into the same mistakes. Form and formulas are not the same as faith. That is, they are not the same as Biblical faith. Biblical faith is obeying God. A form of faith is performing rites and rituals, following in the footsteps of traditions handed down to us - even Biblical traditions such as communion or baptism, yet it is without God and His presence and power, and the promises of God are canceled as well. It is frightening to learn you can act godly outwardly, as the Pharisees did, yet not have God inwardly. It is a fearful matter to go through the motions and not have God- at all!
After two decades, Israel regained the Ark. Samuel continues to judge Israel, but his own sons are not qualified to take his office. His sons - Joel and Abiah, are ungodly and make money their god instead of the Lord. This is when the people ask for a king. It proved to be a pivotal point in Israel's history. From this point on, there will be an ongoing cancer eating away at Israel's relationship with the Lord until in the end; they lose everything - their land, their kingdom, and their inheritance. Samuel is heartbroken when the people ask for a king. It is evident he took the request personal to some degree, since God had to console him it was He they were rejecting and not Samuel. Still, it is fascinating to read how God held Israel responsible for their rejection of Him as their King while it could be argued their decision was based on Samuel's sons not following the Lord. After all, someone had to lead them.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : WE MUST KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEARING THE BIBLE AND OBEYING GOD.
I am certain some in Israel blamed Samuel for the ungodly behavior of his sons. How can he be a good, or better - a godly father, if his sons turned out the way they did? Yet, this thinking reflects more of our age than Samuels. We are told if we try a little harder, do a little better, our children will be good and godly. In other words, "like father, like son." I once read a man state if Samuel had been home more and not involved with the work of the Lord his sons would not have turned out the way they did. Clearly, this is the deception of our age. That is, with love, education, proper environment, finances, Sunday School, Church services, homeschooling, and the family altar all will be well. Adam and Eve enjoyed all the amenities of a perfect world and a perfect Father, yet rebelled against God and His Word. To believe people change people - for better or worse, is arrant nonsense.
However, though we are commanded to teach our children God's ways [Deut. 6] we must also remind ourselves all men and women are free moral agents with the privilege and responsibility to choose for themselves whom they will follow. We read this in the Book of Joshua, as Joshua tells the nation to choose whom they will serve. Even Joshua's godly leadership and example was not equal to the grace of God for salvation. That is a matter to be settled by every individual for themselves. It is the prerogative of every man or woman to make up their minds individually concerning the truth and what they will do with it. No one can force the issue, and God allows man to choose. Therefore, to state the ungodly behavior of Samuel's sons or even of Israel's desire to have a king is a reflection on Samuel is Biblically absurd. God always holds everyone accountable for their own actions.
We must recognize the difference between instruction and information. The Bible is a Book of instruction that simultaneously imparts information. Instruction implies compliance, obedience. Information is merely an intellectual grasp of God and His Book. Information and "knowing" what the Bible says is not equal to obedience, which is instruction. Students are instructed and then they apply what they have learned to practice - a life of trials and errors as they master their subject. Those who are informed may hear the instructions, but it does not mean they will apply it.
"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. [Jas 1:22 - 25]
These verses from James sum up the situation for Israel and obviously, exhort us as professing followers of Christ. For Israel, they made the mistake of thinking form was substance, that the things that belong to God, or represent God is God. For this, they are badly stricken in battle, and have the brand of "Ichabod" placed on their nation. In addition, they would lose the Ark from the Holy of Holies for 20 years. How then could blood be sprinkled for an atonement if the Ark is not present? It seems until they lamented [1Sam 7:2], Israel did not care, and until they did call on the Lord, God stayed away.
In all of this, we learn not to mistake hearing for doing, and form for substance. We also learn not to have any King but Jesus Himself as we see Him in the Bible. Anything else is "Ichabod" and the glory will depart as it did with Israel. God help us not to repeat the mistakes of others and lean to the arm of the flesh. Let Christ - alone - be King!