Today my pastor preached a message which has burned in my heart all day. It was taken from the seventh chapter of 1 Samuel. The preceding chapters tell the story of how Israel "lost" Ark of the Covenant. The people were not serving God and the priesthood was corrupt. After losing a battle against the Philistines, the Israelites decide to carry the Ark of the Covenant right into the battle under the belief that this would force God into giving them the victory. They were wrong.
The Bible tells us that 30,000 men died that day. Not only did they lose the battle but God's judgment fell upon the house of Eli the high priest (he and his two sons died) and the Ark was captured by the Philistines that day. Eli's daughter-in-law gave birth prematurely that day. The child lived but as the mother lay dying, she named her baby boy Ichabod which means "no glory" for she said with the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, the glory of God had departed from Israel.
If you want to know what happened to the Ark of the Covenant while it was with the Philistines, read 1 Samuel chapters 5 and 6. Suffice it to say, they were cursed the entire time the Ark abode in their land and they put it in a cart and sent it driverless back to Israel where it was stored in the home of a man named Abinadab. Fast forward 20 years.
The people of Israel were mourning and once again seeking God. They needed a deliverer! Samuel instructed them to get rid of their false gods. The people obeyed. This time they were going to do things God's way. They gathered at Mizpah as directed by Samuel, repented of their sins and Samuel made intercession for them before the Lord.
Now, the Philistines had learned all of Israel was gathered at Mizpah. Perfect! What a setting for a magnificent massacre! Wait a minute...what is going on here? The people are acting in obedience, they're renounced their false gods, they've repented of their sins and now they're being attacked by the enemy? What's with that?
Remember, whenever we are acting in obedience to God, whenever we fall down before the Lord and seek His forgiveness, whenever we start going God's way instead of our way, the enemy will attack. It's a given. This is the last thing the enemy wants you to do and he certainly is not going to stand by idly, wringing his hands and say "Oh dear, they're talking to God again. Oh well, I think I'll go have a bit of lunch and then take a nap." No! The enemy screams and attempts to drive us away from God by frightening us.
I have to tell you, I'm tired of this happening in my life and I am tired of it happening in yours! Until we make the decision to listen to God rather than ourselves or the enemy, we will continue to face defeat time and time again. There are some who will say, "But at least I'll make it into heaven." Are you listening to what you are saying? If this is true, do you really want to drag yourself into the throne room in exhaustion by the skin of your teeth? Is that a testimony of the power of God in your life? God's victories are not by-the-skin-of-your-teeth victories! They are glorious, overpowering, explosive victories which leave the enemy fleeing in terror and you jumping up and down with joy unspeakable! You don't have to live with defeat and fear. The choice is yours.
That day, the Israelites made their choice. Instead of running in terror, they ran to God.
They said to Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines." 1 Samuel 7:8 (NIV)Now of course we don't cry out to Samuel, we cry out to our advocate Jesus Christ who is at the right hand of the Father.
Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him. 1 Samuel 7:9 (NIV)Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, slain for the world cries out to God on ourbehalf and what happens? The LORD answers.
The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy. Psalm 145:18-20
The next part is important to remember. Even as Samuel was actually offering the sacrifice, the Philistines drew near. It is important to understand that even as the enemy is upon us we must not stop being obedient to God. We must not let the enemy deter us in anyway. Sacrifice and praise go hand in hand as do praise and victory. Keep your focus on God at all times and recognize Him for who He is!
I love the next part.
But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 1 Samuel 7:10b.Wouldn't you just love to see some of God's home movies? Wouldn't it be great to see this? The enemy marching down upon the Israelites. Samuel praying and offering up the sacrifice, the people hanging onto God with everything they've got and suddenly, BOOM, CRACK, BAM! The enemy flees screaming in confusion. It would be great to see.
Do you know this is exactly what happens when you trust in God to deliver you? Oh, you might not physically see it but this is what is happening in the spiritual realm. The enemy is being routed, you're stunned for a moment perhaps but then you're rejoicing. God gets all the glory. It's great!
We do not serve a weak god or a half-hearted god. We serve GOD! May we all begin to live like it.