Thursday, 10 April 2014

(101) April 11: 1 Samuel 4-6 & Luke 12:35-59

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note what we are reminded about God here.

To ponder:
We see why Samuel is so needed. Although his “word came to all Israel” they did not consult the LORD through him in their actions. No doubt if they had asked Samuel “why” the LORD brought defeat on them (4v3), they would have learnt it was because of their faithlessness (see Ps 78v56-64). It’s a reminder we should not act without first consulting God’s word and seeking him in prayer.
            Instead, Israel bring the ark into their camp, presuming on God to give them victory without considering their prior need of obedience. So they are defeated again, the ark is captured, and Eli’s sons killed. Eli, however, displays greater concern for the ark, which is probably to be seen as commendable, just as Christ calls us to love him more than our family (Lk 14v26). The ark’s capture leads Eli to fall off his chair and die, and his daughter-in-law, hearing about him and Phinehas, to die in premature child-birth. 4v21-22 are key. Her heir to Eli’s priesthood is ironically named “the glory has departed from Israel,” in the sense that the ark of his presence is in exile. Ichabod therefore effectively has no role. These events show God’s word of judgement will always come to pass. But they would have spoken acutely to later Israel when exiled from the land because God removed his protecting presence. Only God could rectify such a situation, as he now does.
            The Philistines put the ark in Dagon’s temple and the LORD twice displays his supremacy as they find Dagon on his face before the ark, and even broken. Repeatedly we also read “the LORD’s hand was heavy” on those in the three places the ark was then situated, afflicted them with tumours. Without godliness and a priesthood, his holy presence must break out at sin, and here at that of the Philistines. Intriguingly however, we read their “outcry…went up to heaven.” Through this, it seems, they start to acknowledge the LORD.
So it is that after seven months the Philistines consult their “diviners” who instruct them to return the ark with a “guilt offering” of five gold rats and tumours, and “pay honour to Israel’s god.” By leading to their healing, they say this will also reveal “why” God’s hand has not been lifted from you. It will prove that it was because of the Philistine’s guilt. So they are more perceptive to the question in 4v3 than Israel are! Despite the clarity of scripture, Christians also persist in sin without realising this will mean God leaves them And so they never come to repentance.
A striking theme is the remembrance of the Exodus by the Philistines (4v8), and the diviners’ encouragement they do not “harden” their “hearts” as “the Egyptians and Pharoah did.” This is not only another rebuke of Israel’s hardness, but also shows God’s purpose of the nations knowing he is the LORD continues to be fulfilled, even in the midst of his judgement against them (Ex 15v14-16).
 That everything the Philistines suffered was from the LORD was seen by the cart going the way it did, not turning “to the right or to the left.” The Israelites who received the ark with joy, dealt with it appropriately, offering sacrifices and getting Levites to handle it. However seventy were struck down for looking into it – a shocking sign that they had no fear of God's holiness. Indeed, the whole story brings home the conclusion: “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God?” (6v20). So Abinadab’s son Eleazar (possibly from the priestly line) is “consecrated” to “guard” the ark at his house. After the end of Eli’s priestly line, we’re learning a faithful priesthood is needed to ensure Israel are not struck down by God’s presence, looking us again to Christ.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his patience with us and his provision of Christ who ensures it. Pray that you and other Christians would live in reverent fear of God’s holiness.

Thinking further:
None today.

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