June 27, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Becky Fong, Gracepoint Berkeley

1 Samuel 4:6-11

What might have been some expectations and calculations behind their decision to bring the ark into battle? They might have expected that bringing the ark into battle would cause God to forcefully eliminate their enemies, so that they would not have to fight the Philistines or suffer loss, that if they did this act of carrying the ark carefully into battle, God would be pleased and make them victorious.  Or they might have thought, if we bring the ark amongst us, God will make the Philistines flee and we will not have to fight at all.

Are there some ways in which I think of God in ways similar to the Israelites? I can think of God in ways similar to the Israelites in mistakenly expecting God to make life easy for me, or things to go smoothly, if I will just do a few things, without really surrendering to Him my entire life and heart.  I can think that if I try at Christian life, obey in a few areas, don’t live a flagrantly materialistic lifestyle, give up some time and energy, go to church, that God should and will respond by being pleased and making life easy for me, or at least changing/improving my character.  I see this in how I can get frustrated, disappointed, and self-pitying at my lack of change, immaturity, wickedness, and when I have responded to God or people pointing out areas of my life that are inconsistent with God’s commands with complaint, self-pity, even defensiveness, that at least I am trying and expecting God to give me some kind of credit for my efforts, some credit of “success” at Christian life or approval.  My attitude is so proud and ludicrous, like that of the Israelites, who thought that if they just did some action like bringing the ark amongst them while ignoring the rest of their lives, God would grant them victory over their enemies, because I too am thinking that if I just do certain things, just try, God should give me victory over my enemies, especially failure.

Reflect on Micah 6:8 in this light.

6 With what shall I come before the Lord

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

God is so relational.  He is love, and shows me what love really is.  Until I became a Christian, I thought I was a relational person, but through the years I have seen more and more how unrelational I am with God as well as with others.  This is because I am so selfish and sparing and proud, wanting to give the minimum, the expected standard, what I “should” do rather than just giving my whole heart in wild abandon.  God does demand our entire lives, but He is not so much about impressive actions and sacrifices as just that whole surrender of our hearts to Him.  Like in a love relationship, what matters is the day-to-day interaction, the commitment to be faithful and there through thick and thin, not the once in a while nice fancy dramatic deed.  It’s actually disdainful in a love relationship to bring some sacrifice, do some dramatic deed, and be self-congratulatory all the while ignoring the other parts of your life that are offensive or unsurrendered to the one you love.  I see this in my friend’s boyfriend, who does super-romantic dramatic things like planning a surprise birthday party for her on an island, but he is not willing to just commit and get married.  It is disdainful to me, and shows me he doesn’t really love her, or else he would commit.  In the same way, I am disdainful in treating God in this way, wanting and expecting His favor and blessing by doing a few things here and there, while holding back giving Him my entire heart and life, my desire for a sense of control, my self-preserving refusal to surrender it all, to give up this miserable project of me and my pride and comfort.  He just wants me to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.  He wants me to daily connect with Him honestly, to repent over my sins, to recognize He is the Lord of my life, not just check things off, do something here or there to curry favor with Him.  He doesn’t just want my attention once in a while, like on Sundays or Tuesdays or Fridays, or each morning when I do my DT, all the while otherwise me ignoring/rejecting Him and His authority.  I see how God too must be offended at my pride and arrogance when I feel justified or like I’m okay with Him because of a few things I do, or trying to check things off, instead of just approaching Him DAILY humbly, wanting to connect with Him personally in my DT, repenting quickly of my pettiness and sins.

Submitted by Bo Chen, Gracepoint Davis

1 Samuel 4:1-5

 

 

 

What are some ways in which people today might seek God’s presence or blessing while ignoring their lack of obedience to His word?   Some ways people do this to seek God’s presence/blessing without owning up to their sins against God and how they’ve disobeyed Him:

 

  • People think they can seek God’s presence by seeking to “fix” themselves. They quickly change behavior or do the right things, but never truly repented of their disobedience and sins against God.
  • They know that something isn’t right in their lives, either some things missing or not going well. And they feel the need to “go back to church” thinking that perhaps through this, life would be better. So people start going back to church merely for Sunday attendance, but not really interested in relating to God, listening to Him or obeying Him.
  • People may be into Christian religion and saying/doing all the right things that it is more like a clean, wholesome lifestyle and culture to feel good about themselves but not about God.
  • People may be into seeking the emotional aspect of feeling God’s presence without knowing God’s word and what He calls to obey.
  • People seek the blessings that God provide such as rich relationships, supportive community, future spouse, and meaningful work to engage in. Being surrounded by these blessings can make them feel that they’re relating to God okay, while ignoring their sins and God Himself.

How do I do this in my own life? It is tempting, when confronted with some issues or recurring sins, to want to quickly repent and seek God’s presence in order to be relieved of the discomfort and pain of struggling. I might do this by giving a quick realization, resolution or agreeing to the facts without really allowing the truth to personally impact me or owning up to the whole truth about my disobedience and sins. Or I seek the feeling of God’s presence by substituting with good work (busying myself) or affirmation from people. But what is most important is to own up to the lack of obedience to God’s word and how I’ve sinned against Him. God is not interested in right actions outwardly but true transformation in my heart through confession and repentance.

Why would people do this?

People do this because they wanted to quickly get over the bad things in their lives or want to ensure that the good blessings stay with them. Or they fear that bad things will happen so they need to bribe God to be on their side, thinking that God will be okay with that. Or it’s just simply easier to do the right things or go through the right formality than to actually deal with the heart issues and repent of the sins and disobedience.

 

1 Samuel 4:6-11

What might have been some expectations and calculations behind their decision to bring the ark into battle?  

They think that by having God physically there, His power will be on their side and they can win the battle and not suffer the loss to Philistines. Just like how God was there to deliver His people from the hands of Egyptians, they thought that somehow God would do the same if the ark was physically there. They limited God’s presence and power locally where the ark was. Not only so, they treated God and the ark like a genie or lucky charm whom they needed to have right there in order for good things to happen to them. The mindset that the Israelites had must have been so similar to what the Philistines thought (as described in these verses). They thought they could “recreate” the situation by going through the right formality and get God to act out His power to deliver them like He did before.

 

Are there some ways in which I think of God in ways similar to the Israelites?    I remember this was my struggle that I thought I could manipulate God in order to produce the right, expected outcome for my life and have good things happen in my life. I thought it meant to go through religious actions, and then God should be on my side. This was the same twisted thought that the Israelites had in thinking that God could be controlled and manipulated for their own use, when God is not like any other gods.

Even now, I still see this same pattern ingrained in me. Many times it’s subtle, when I equate serving God and following Him to having good things happen in my life. There’s a sense of expectation that life should be a certain way for me if I am faithful to God, and when that doesn’t happen, I question “what went wrong God?” and become disappointed. The truth is God richly blesses me with His presence or good things in my life not because I do the right things or because of my faithfulness, but purely because of God’s grace and mercy, and I can only thank Him and be filled with gratitude.  I can also see the same pattern even when I struggle with my sins in thinking that if I go through the right steps to read, reflect, fast, pray, I should “expect” that God would forgive me and I would come out of my struggle. But the truth is I can only ask God to have mercy on me and lead me through the process of repentance, soften my heart, grant me clarity and see the depth of sinfulness the way He sees it.  Romans 9:16 “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” God cannot be manipulated, and there’s nothing I can do to earn His favor, blessings, forgiveness from sins, and my salvation

 

 

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