Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Taking God seriously ..."

Day #63

Scripture Reading:  I Samuel 1 - 5 ...

As you read through the Old Testament you will learn over and over the truth of what God spoke through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:8-9:  "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways ... As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  We often try to figure out what God is doing and why things are happening the way they are, and we may even be tempted to question His wisdom or His power or His love.  If you give into that temptation you may become frustrated or angry or depressed, and may even pull away from God. 

But for those who know God, it is enough to know that our God has a purpose and that He is working things according to His plan and for our good (Romans 8:28).  I hear people say that so often, but do we really believe it?  Do we LIVE as though we believe that?  Do most people understand that faith is built on the knowledge of God?  Do YOU know and understand the truth God has revealed, so that you can live by faith, with confidence that the conclusion of God's plan is always good for those who believe in Him and who trust in Him?  This is the very basis of faith for those who know God and who come to Him through Jesus Christ!  It has been this way since the beginning and will continue to be this way until Jesus returns.

During this time in the history of Israel God was at work establishing the nation of Israel in the land that He had promised to their forefathers, the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God would accomplish His purpose through these people for the next 1100 years, until the birth of Jesus Christ.  The Messiah would come through the line of Judah (as God had promised in Genesis 49:10).  We read at the end of the book of Judges, "in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 21:25).  Samuel would be the last "judge" over Israel.  This was a time of transition.

The worship of the Lord during this time centered around the Ark of the Covenant that was at Shiloh.  It was obvious that most within Israel had already made the worship of the one true God a mere ritual - an outward religion that was more like a means to an end, to get on God's good side - than it was worship.  The same was true of Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  The priests were allowed to take a portion of the offerings after they had been given, but these two demanded raw meat from those who brought offerings.  This was detestable to the Lord and He determined to put them to death.  God is holy and He is jealous for His Name.  God sees the acts of men and judges in His time and in His way.

Meanwhile, in a household unknown and unnoticed by the world, God was at work.  He heard Hannah's prayer and gave her a son, Samuel.  She had promised that if God gave her a son, she would give him back to the Lord.  God heard her prayer and she kept her promise.  "I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.  So now I give him to the LORD.  For His whole life he will be given over to the LORD" (1:27-28).  Hannah testifies, "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God" (2:2).  What a beautiful testimony of faith!

God protects and preserves for Himself a remnant of His people, even in the darkest spiritual times.  He never leaves Himself without a witness.  Nor does God long overlook evil among His people.  As evil grows in the world, God deals with evil among those who claim to be His because it brings dishonor to His name.  God had determined to judge the house of Eli because he knew the wicked things his sons were doing, but He did not stop them.  And God's judgment spilled over to all of Israel.  The army of Israel went out to fight against the Philistines and they were defeated and the Ark of the Covenant was captured.  Israel was treating the Ark of the Covenant like a good luck charm.  The Ark should have been in the Holy of Holies, inside the tabernacle, not out on the battlefield!  Israel was not worshiping God; they were attempting to “use” God for their own purposes, for their own comfort, for their own prosperity, to make a name for themselves rather than for Him!

How many today have a similar view of God?!  He's "there" when I need Him, but otherwise I'll put Him in a corner of my life and ignore Him.  And then when something bad happens, or something we don't understand takes place, many people cry out, "WHY is this happening?!  Oh God, where are you?" Many even turn away from God during the hard times, accusing God of “letting them down” and of being unfaithful. Such actions reveal a heart that is not set on loving God, on worshiping God or serving God.  It’s more about ME and less about HIM!!

Knowing God and worshiping God in a way that is pleasing to Him must arise from a heart like Samuel's and his parents' hearts.  He is to be praised and approached in sincerity and truth.  Few seem to know God in this way today.  Worship has become a "spectator sport" for many and is engaged in only as a brief time spent "in church," rather than a lifestyle devoted to service to Him.

What happened to Dagon, the "god" of the Philistines, and the towns where the Ark of the Covenant was taken, should serve as a reminder that you don't mess with God!  It seems almost humorous when you read Chapter 5, but it will be much worse when the "gods" of this world meet Jesus Christ when He returns.  What a privilege to be like Samuel ... chosen by God to serve Him.  Does that describe you?  Have you devoted your life to serving the Lord, realizing that YOU are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

We worship the same God, and we have received more of His revelation of Himself, especially through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Offer yourself to Him today and find your purpose in life in serving Him.  For the Lord is our Rock and there is no one besides Him!!

"O LORD, our God, great is Your name and greatly to be praised!  I join with the angels in worship around Your throne, giving You praise and honor and glory, for You alone are worthy.  Let my life display my love for You and my devotion to You, and let me live before You all my days until You call me home to Yourself.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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