1 Samuel 3
Well, I continue to ache for Eli as I read through these early chapters of 1 Samuel. Spiritual leaders, parents, and fathers in particular bear such huge responsibilities. We’ve emphasized 5 aspects of biblical masculinity at Generations over the last few years, the first of which is to Reject Passivity. That was Eli’s failure. He allowed his sons to persist in open sin, rebellion and blasphemy as fellow ministers. In fact, they utilized the platform of ministry to flaunt their brazen irreverence. May Eli was preoccupied with the priestly ministry himself. Maybe he was overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear or uncertainty in how to respond. Whatever the case, the did nothing and it cost him and his household everything. God even made clear to Samuel that their would be no atonement for Eli’s household. This is a reminder of how our sins of omission are every bit as devastating as our sins of commission.
I’m also struck by v. 1… that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” That is a bleak reality indeed. I am so grateful that we do not live at a time or in a climate where the word of the Lord is rare. We have the word of the Lord readily available at any time through the Scriptures. We live on the other side of the cross and resurrection when God continually speaks by his Son. And we live at a time when the Spirit has been poured out and is speaking continually to comfort, convict, lead, guide and disclose the mysteries of God to God’s people. It is a glorious time, even if still broken and dark time, to live.
Christ has come and he is still here making himself visible so that we might find redemption and salvation and freedom in him. And even this week, moving toward Easter, I can’t help but rejoice in the fact that whatever atonement was not available to Eli or his household has been made available to us. Christ has atoned for every sin, no matter how devastating it’s effects. Like Eli, we have all been distracted by things that matter from things that matter more. We have all winked at sin in ourselves and in others. We have been detached and shirked responsibility for things we are responsible for. We have been paralyzed in fear. We have been blasphemers ourselves and complicit in the blasphemy of others by our silence. And Christ has atoned for every bit of it. That’s awesome and comforting and a source of great hope. I’m no better than Eli. My household is certainly not more significant. But I’ve had a measure of grace find me and my household that is very humbling and sobering.
Just meditate today and this week on these realities… give thoughtful attention to Christ and his atonement. See Jesus high and lifted up, bloodied and beaten, humiliated and suffering… see him long enough this week to be sobered by it and savor the grace that is yours in him.
1 Samuel 4:1-11
I am challenged by Israel’s mindset in this passage. They clearly saw the presence of the Lord, which the Ark of the Covenant represented, as their key to victory. They foolishly went into battle initially without the presence of the Lord there to undergird them. They were defeated and then remembered their need for Him. And when the ark came into the camp their was rejoicing and celebrating and a new hope and confidence awaken within God’s people.
The presence of the Lord is curious thing. It is certainly something we seek after and long for, but it is also something we take for granted, assume and sometimes abuse. The presence of the Lord does bring a security and hope and confidence. He brings new life and strength and courage. That’s real. But if we assume that his presence can be leveraged for the victories we want without letting him bring the brokenness and repentance we need, we will be sadly disappointed. God’s presence wasn’t imagined by the Israelites. It was real. He was with them.
I can’t help but wonder how often God’s presence among his people gathered and with his people sent on mission has been real, but did not lead to our victory. Is it possible that we take God’s presence with us to mean he is affirming of us? Could it be that we use God’s presence as a way of or reason to conceal our need and our sin? Could it be that God’s presence is first intended to reveal our need and bring us to humility, dependence and repentance? And when we get swept up in the emotional high of God’s nearness and ignore our guilt and unworthiness, it’s his mercy to let us suffer defeat? Might defeat and pain and loss be the only way we begin to respond rightly to his presence?
I want the presence of the Lord in greater frequency and in greater measure, but today, I’m mindful that he gives his presence for the sake of our repentance. We when respond rightly, there should be great rejoicing and hope because he is glad to turn a contrite hear into a rejoicing heart. God’s presence is experienced most powerfully, and victory is imparted to us, when we respond to his presence by putting sin to death and pursuing holiness.
1 Samuel 4:12-22
This passage confronts us with the real impact of sin among God’s people, and particularly among leaders of God’s people. The presence of the Lord, the blessing of God and the glory of God will not be display where sin is not dealt with seriously. God takes sin in our lives very seriously. Seriously enough that he sent his Son to pay the penalty for it with his own life. If our response to that is to indulge our flesh, flaunt our sin, condone that which God condemns, and tolerate or even celebrate what should have no place among us, whether hidden or known, than God’s response is to remove his presence and allow us to sit in and walk in the darkness that we have preferred by our arrogance.
Is there anything in your life that you need to take more seriously today because God is? Is there anything you are tolerating or indulging that is keeping you from experiencing the presence of God and seeing the glory of God?
1 Samuel 5
So the ark of God which represents the presence of God and the glory of God is taken from Israel by the Philistines. And in every place and city they take the ark, harm comes upon those people. There are two things that come to mind within this chapter.
Dagon is a the principal god among the Philistines. He is the primary deity in whom they trust. And they feel in a position of strength because they have taken the God of their enemy, Israel, into their own hands. To take a nations god or gods was the ultimate show of strength and a sure symbol of having conquered a people. So the Philistines were in a great position… so they thought. So the ark is placed in front of Dagon as if to be submitted and under the authority of Dagon, except every morning the Philistines come in and Dagon is bowed prostrate before the ark of the Lord. An inanimate idol is bowing in worship and submission in the presence of Almighty God. I love this picture of the coming reality of Philippians 2:10-11 that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
The second thing here is how God’s presence brings such destruction on these cities of enemy nations. It seems that godless people are better off being brazenly godless than being fraudulently godless. It’s one thing to be an enemy of God outright. But to misuse, abuse, and make a mockery of the presence of God brings a different kind of opposition from God himself. The presence of God is not be taken lightly and treated cavalierly. As professing Christians we must guard against thinking too little about God’s presence, diminishing God’s glory, and taking to lightly God’s power. To have the presence of the Lord in our midst, and actually disregard it, diminish it, or manipulate it is to do harm to ourselves.
This should re-awaken an awe of God that I believe is sadly diluted in favor of a “Jesus is my home-boy” Christianity. We need to recover wonder, reverence and a fear of the Lord that enriches life and enhances wisdom. I need more of this beholding and the sense of weightiness that God’s presence brings. But it’s not to suck all the wind out of us and leave is in dread and terror. The presence of the Lord is actually intended to breathe life into us. In Acts 3:19, Peter tells us that we should “repent, therefore, and turn to God, that your sins may be blotted out and times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” God’s presence is given to bring repentance and refreshing. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence given to us to minister renewal and restoration, not retreat and ruin.
I pray that our yearning and longing for the presence of the Lord would increase all the more and that we would run toward repentance and faith gladly, willingly and eagerly.
1 Samuel 6 - 7:2
So the Philistines return the Ark of the Lord to Israel, having suffered with the Lord’s hand against them while they possessed it. Then even in it’s return, 70 Israelite people die for looking upon the ark. Chapter 6:20 asks the important question “for who is able to stand before the Lord, this Holy God?” The answer is clearly nobody. We are all of us unworthy, unholy, and unable to come before a perfect God because of the stain of sin. Our guilt has made a separation between us and God. Non can stand before the Lord, the Holy God…
That is until Jesus. Jesus is the Holy and Righteous One. He is the only one, who by his own sinless life is able stand justified before the Father. And by his identification with oppressed sufferer, by his substitution for guilty sinners, there is a way for us to be justified. Through faith in the finished work of Jesus we are both acquitted on the charges of sin, and judged holy and blameless on account of his perfect record given to us. The stain of sin has been washed away and we’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
In 1 Samuel 6, the answer to the question, “who can stand before the Lord, this Holy God?” is resounding, “absolutely nobody.” But the answer today is, “Jesus Christ can and anyone who identifies with him by repentance and faith.” Today, the answer, praise Christ, is “me.” I can stand before the Lord, the Holy God, because Jesus made it so. I can, in fact, come boldly and with confidence into the presence of the living God, knowing that I am accepted and loved because of the mercy and merits of Jesus. My standing before God is eternally secure because Jesus is eternally faithful!