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The armies of Israel were facing the Philistine armies, yet again.
The Israelis were aligned at Ebenezer on the edge of the mountain range. The Philistines had mustered their army at Aphek, on north coastal plain.
The first day of engagement Israel was soundly defeated and four thousand Israeli soldiers lay dead on the battlefield (1Samuel 4:1-2).
The elders of Israel were stunned and dismayed by this turn of events and asked, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines?”
That was a great question.
The Lord promised Moses and the children of Israel, “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways” (Deuteronomy 28:7).
Indeed, the elders should have asked the question, “Why has the Lord defeated us today…”
Unfortunately, they answered their own question and they provided the wrong answer.
Like Governor Pilate, when he stood before the Lord Jesus Christ and asked a very important question, “What is truth?”
He, a human being, was asking the Son of God, who is The Truth, the right question.
But he did not wait for the answer. He turned his back on Jesus and walked away before the Lord could answer him.
The elders of Israel asked the right question but did not wait on God for the answer. Instead they immediately jumped to their own solution based upon a faulty presupposition.
Their solution was “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies” (1Samuel 4:3).
According to their plan, they would manufacture God’s presence, glory, and power by bringing the Ark of Covenant into their camp.
Unfortunately, their presupposition was based upon four misconceptions.
Four Misconceptions About the Presence and the Glory of God
1. They confused the golden box with the God, Himself.
They viewed the Ark of Covenant as one would worship an idol.
2. They did not know the true character and nature of God.
They viewed Him with the same perception one views a man-made idol.
3. They did not know the presence of God’s glory upon the Ark of Covenant did not come automatically with the presence of the golden box.
God chose when He would and would not send His presence and His glory with the Ark of Covenant.
When the Children of Israel loved God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength and obeyed His Word, He promised His presence and glory would always be among them.
4. They believed their deliverance would come from the man-made object.
Like Samson, before them, they did not know the presence of God had departed and they were now operating in their own strength and power.
God did not come into the camp of the Israeli army when the Ark of the Covenant arrived with the two vulgar immoral priests, Hophni and Phinehas.
Even though the armies of Israel shouted and praised and declared God’s presence was among them; even though the Philistine soldiers were initially frightened by the clamor of the Israelites; the Ark of the Covenant made no difference.
Israel suffered a horrible defeat with thirty thousand Israeli foot soldiers killed in the battle that took place the next day.
The Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines and the two priests were killed.
Holy objects do not guarantee the presence and glory of Almighty God.
Jesus addressed this matter powerfully when He said to the Scribes and Pharisees, “Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’” (Matthew 15:7-8 NKJV).
It is not just the act of praise and worship but what is in the heart.
It is not the presence of a sacred object, a holy relic, or some special kind of music or a special order of service that brings the glory and presence of the Almighty.
This has been forgotten on multiple occasion throughout church history.
Holy relics have been used to sanctify altars and church buildings through the centuries.
Locations have been sanctified by the churches because of special events and encounters with God’s presence; people have even made special trips to get to that place, believing they would meet God and receive a blessing they cannot receive at their home.
The church seems to have forgotten, yet again, God said it is the heart that makes the difference.
It is not special lighting or a genre of music.
It is not going to the gravesite of a great man or woman of God and praying for special anointing that brings the glory and power of God.
Does it see strange to you that we currently have some of the largest congregations in the history of the western church; with the most professional musicians; the shouts and the praises of the church resound like the armies of Israel when the Ark of the Covenant arrived among them; yet the western world has turned post-Christian and rapidly moving anti-Christian?
The church is seeking every kind of external means for being culturally relevant and acceptable to a post-modern generation.
The church is making every effort to have the latest techno systems and musical sounds to communicate to the millennial and Generation Z crowd.
While we have all the latest systems and sounds and make lots of noise that draws the crowds, where is the presence and power of Almighty God?
Where are the meetings that would last for hours as the presence of God filled the meeting halls?
Where are the seasons when people, with no intention of becoming a Christian, would arrive in a community experience the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and humble themselves in repentance?
Where are the stunning life transformation experiences that immediately changed an alcoholic to a godly person with no twelve-step program; immediately brought deliverance from a demonic tormented mind to a healthy life?
No amount of special lightening and latest musical sound will generate that kind of glory and presence of God.
Jesus’ words to the disciples seem profoundly applicable.
“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high’” (Luke 24:46-49 NKJV).
Did you catch the significance?
Jesus gave the “Great Commission” but told the disciples do not do anything until they had been clothed with power from on high.
They would not be able to complete the “Great Commission” in the power and energy of human resource.
They must have the power that can only come from Heaven.
How would they experience the presence and glory of God? They were to wait for Him. The disciples were continually in the prayer and worship, waiting on God, when the Holy Spirit baptized them and empowered them for the Kingdom work.
Can you imagine what would have been different if the Israeli army had backed away from the conflict with the Philistines for a season to humble themselves and seek God; instead of presumptuously bringing the Ark of the Covenant?
How would the western church be different today, if we would lay down our craving for “pop star” worship bands and theater type settings; then humble ourselves in genuine repentance, and wait on the Lord, until His authentic presence and glory comes upon us?
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