Year 2 Day 212
Read - 1 Samuel 4:3b
Message - Alan Burke
Defeat had come upon the Israelites and that defeat had come according to the plans and purposes of God by his providence. Their elders had understood that as they exclaimed “why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today?” (3a), but what happens next reveals more to us about the situation among the people of God. They had asked the question aware of God’s providence, that God is governing all his creatures and their actions from beginning to end, yet instead of taking time to reflect, taking time to seek the Lord, to pray, to worship, to ask questions of themselves, they make a decision in the heat of the moment.
Without hesitation, the elders of the people of God, “ah you know what we need, we need the ark of the covenant, that will sort it out” (me paraphrasing v3b). It is not principles, it is not the fundamental truth of who God is and ever more shall be that motivates them, it is pragmatism plain and simple.
The ark itself served as the place of the presence of God. You take the ark with you then symbolically you take God with you, you loose the ark symbolically you loose God. This is pragmatism at its worst. Had nobody thought about the implications, the risk in what they were doing! They thought they could use the ark of the covenant as some magic wand, but they failed to understand in their question of why the Lord had brought defeat on them that unless the Lord was on their side, ark or not they would not have the victory.
They thought, “surely God would come through for them now”, “surely God doesn’t want to be on the loosing side in all of this”. They had tried to twist God’s arm, they tried to manipulate him, it’s not principle but pragmatism. Here’s the thing, God’s people are to seek his kingdom first and his righteousness, seek him first, him first, not doing first, not pragmatism. They were more interested in the Lord doing their will rather than seeking his will.
Sometimes those things are the same, but the question for us is are we seeking the Lord to do our will or are we seeking to do his will. We have to be careful that we aren’t trying to twist God’s arm, to use him like the elders where trying to use the ark of the covenant here. Because sadly, whether we like to admit it or not, we have all tried to twist God’s arm, in our own lives and in church life, and we see that when a special time of prayer is called, a special week thinking that those things in some way will get the Lord God to move, when what is more important is that we are faithful in prayer, faithful as people, but then we all get more excited by the special rather than the ordinary. Do we take the time do look to the Lord, this may be in our lives or in the church. Do we seriously take stock, seek the Lord’s will from his word or do we do it over and over again like a monkey with a miniature symbol.
Q 91 How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, (1 Pet. 3:21, Matt. 3:11, 1 Cor. 3:6–7) and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them. (1 Cor. 12:13)