“When the troops had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that He may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies’…Now (Eli’s) daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, about to be delivered. And when she heard that the ark of God was captured and that her father-in-law (Eli) and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Fear not, for you have borne a son.’ But she did not answer or notice. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, ‘The glory is departed from Israel!’ – because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, ‘The glory is gone from Israel, for the ark of God has been taken.'”
Have I ever “used” God to try and manipulate others around me into thinking I was more spiritual than I really knew I was?
In our current world, in what ways do I think Christians try and use God as a “gadget” to make certain societal statements?
“We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man (and woman) are blind to it. (We) may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness (we) cannot even imagine.” –A. W. Tozer
“There is nothing little in God”. –C. H. Spurgeon
If I had the opportunity to hear pastors from years past speak, the two favorites on my list would be Dwight L. Moody and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Having read a great deal that these men of God wrote, one comes away with the profound sense that the power of God had infiltrated their lives in a most unique manner. Committed as they were to the “salvation of souls,” their hearts beat in unison with the heart of heaven.
This is why I began this section of today’s devotional with the forceful words of C. H. Spurgeon: “There is nothing little in God.” And this is something I know I would do well to remember everyday in a commercially saturated world where the most glorious and holy is often demeaned into some earthly trinket or gadget that is supposed to remind us, in the few moments we take to contemplate those more important spiritual elements of life, that we are called to stand “holy before the Lord God.”
In practical terms, let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Since we now have daughters and sons of God coming to the Garden from over 170 countries around the world, I’m not certain how the words “trinket” or “gadget” translate in other languages. However, here in the United States, in the English language, a trinket is defined as, “a small ornament, a trivial thing, a trifle.” And a “gadget” is defined as, “a small specialized, mechanical contrivance.”
As sad as it makes me to say this, I feel as though, so often today, we as Christians take our “BIG” God and try to bring Him down to the small size of our trinkets and gadgets.
If you think I’m wrong, then let’s examine the story found in I Samuel 4 and see how it applies to life in the 21st century.
After God spoke to the young boy Samuel, Eli asked the child to reveal to him all God had said. To Eli’s credit, he knew full-well things were a mess. His sons who were priests were extorting money. Sexual immorality was ruling the day. And these were the sins found in God’s leaders and His children’s lives. Sound familiar?
We need to be reminded, the spiritual decline in Israel wasn’t the heathen’s problem nor did the worldly people cause it. God’s children got into trouble on their own. They disobeyed God by inter-marrying with godless people; they thought they could get rich quick by doing business with the heathen nations; and they “used” God and His sacred symbols as their fancy little souvenirs. Nowhere is this more evident than when, in I Samuel 4: 1, we are told that the Philistines encamped at Aphek. It seems the battle didn’t go well for Israel. In fact, the Philistines killed 4,000 Israelite men. So here’s when the Israelite elders decided to turn their “BIG” God into a “little” gadget. “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that He (the Lord) may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies,” (I Samuel 4: 3).
Here you go. “Get the trinket, the contrivance, the gadget and we’ll show them who is holy,” cried the elders. However, there was one big problem. I don’t find anywhere that it says in I Samuel 3 or 4 that God went along on this excursion. He wasn’t invited ahead of time because He wasn’t in the hearts of His people before the battle began. However, when calamity hit, out came the ark of the covenant that contained the tablets of God’s precepts which were totally ignored by His children. But now, they wanted to use this sacred, holy object like a magic trick to get them out of their trouble.
Oh, they were cheating, lying, stealing, and living immoral lives, but when things got bad, they hollered at the heathen, “We’ve got God on our side – see our ark!”
And we do the same when we take God’s holiness lightly and replace it with symbols, be they churches or trinkets on our walls or bodies.
Let me tell you, the problem and challenge in Dorothy’s life (that’s me!) is not that I don’t have enough pictures of the Ten Commandments hanging on the walls in my house or enough crosses around my neck, my greatest obstacle is the unholiness that stalks my sinful heart. And when I don’t deal with this internal problem, just like Eli who chose to ignore the problems in his home, it is futile and hypocritical for me to go around and call out the “heathen” or to try and force my “holy” symbols into their presence as I say, “See, these Ten commandments or this ark tells you who is running the show.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if whenever or wherever you and I enter a room, we don’t have to say one word, but instead, as when Moses had been in the mount with God, he so radiated his Father’s holiness when he came down from Sinai, that all Israel knew he had been with God, for the Father’s glory was reflected in him – from the inside out.
Tomorrow we will finish this story. God did come and reveal Himself, but not the way you and I might expect. Instead, God’s revelation came from a most unlikely source – a woman, no less!
“Perish each thought of human pride,
Let God alone be magnified;
His glory let the heavens resound,
Shouted from earth’s remotest bound.”
“O God, You are my God, early will I seek You. My flesh longs for You, my soul thirsts for You, in a barren and dry land where there is no water.”
Psalm 63: 1
“Holy Spirit dwell in me that I may become prayer, whether I sleep or wake, eat or drink, labour or rest, may the fragrance of prayer rise, without effort, in my heart.
Purify my soul and never leave me, so that the movements of my heart and mind may, with voices full of sweetness, sing to God.”
St. Isaac the Syrian