What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Some Thoughts From 1 Samuel 5-6

As I reviewed my notes in preparation for my study of 1 Samuel 7, a couple of things jumped out at me. These thoughts, mostly contrasts between then and now, lead me to be thankful and full of praise.
First, the ancient peoples had gods. Many of them. They would incorporate any conquered nation’s gods into their own system of belief. They were afraid of offending any god and believed the more gods there were on their side, the better. They offered gifts, sacrifices and offerings to all the gods hoping it would bring favor upon them. Yet, they were never sure that any of that made any difference so they would increase the stakes and offer even more and more outrageous things (even to the point of sacrificing children). No matter what they offered, success and good fortune were still up for grabs and a matter of luck.
Fortunately, we have one God, who is able to act on our behalf. Our one God showed Himself to be infinitely more powerful than the god of the Philistines (without the help of humans, He knocked over their god and broke off its head and hands). God is truly at work in our world, then, throughout history, and today. He can act apart from our actions, but He wants to act in response to our steadfast and believing prayers. He can intervene on behalf of His own glory and honor, but He’s given us responsibility to call Him into action. That doesn’t mean He changes His mind because of our prayers, but it does mean when we pray we will see the “supernatural invade the natural” (Pastor Mark Wilson, June 2018).
Second, the ancient people had to worry about retaliation by the gods. They feared punishment. However, because of Christ’s sacrifice fulfilling all the rituals once and for all, we do not have to fear punishment from God. He doesn’t approve of disobedience to His commands (both those in the Old Testament and the New Testament), but He doesn’t mercilessly punish us. He does discipline us in hopes that the discipline (like that of a good Father) will lead us back into obedience and right living. We must also keep in mind that His commands are designed with our wellbeing in mind. Obedience leads to healthier lives, better relationships, and greater purposes as we go through life on this earth. Temptations will still come; we live in a sinful world. However, obedience lessens the impact of those temptations and gives us the tools we need to do the right things in spite of the temptations Satan throws at us.
I’m thankful there is a God who is powerful and at work in our world (and my life) today. I’m also thankful that my God is a merciful God who disciplines me so I can live a better, safer, happier, and healthier life.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Examine the Word

The next part of 1 Samuel I studied is chapter 6 where the Philistines decided to send the Ark of God back to the Israelites because of the illness and death the Ark had brought upon them. The leaders decided to consult their priests and diviners (verse 2) and asked them how to go about doing so. The plan included two untrained cows hitched to a previously unused cart (verse 7), and a guilt offering of gold (verse 8).

The Philistines were still not sure it was Israel’s God of the Ark that had caused all the trouble in their cities, so they were testing God to see if He could/would bring the cart into Israel even with no rider. Also the cows were untrained to pull a cart and they had calves at home they would be tempted to turn back for. They were trying to determine if the illnesses were just a coincidence and not related to the Ark.

The cart went true without going to the right or the left and arrived in Beth-shemesh safely. Beth-shemesh was one of the 48 cities allotted to the Levites (Joshua 21:16). That’s important to note and a key element of my thoughts for today. The city had a large proportion of the Levites, those appointed priests to minister to God in Israel. Yet, Israel or its priests were not following God’s system very closely. While the Ark was in Beth-shemesh God “struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord” (verse 19). This was strictly forbidden; only the Levites from the family of Kohath were supposed to touch the Ark or carry it. However, it appears that the Levites in this city did not know the laws and statutes, nor did they bother to consult the Scriptures. They asked, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” They sent messengers to another town asking them to come down and get the Ark.

My application: Consult God’s Word when I want to know what God’s will is for my life. I do not know everything God has commanded us, so I am comparable to the Levites in Beth-shemesh in that regard. However, I do know God has rules to follow and I can verify what those rules are by studying and consulting His Word. A good practice for all of us to follow.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

God Alone

Continuing in my study of 1 Samuel this week, the behavior of the Philistines after “capturing” the ark of God from the Israelites was intriguing. The first thing they did was take the ark and place it at the feet of their stone God, Dagon, in Dagon’s temple in Ashdod. It was like a trophy to be displayed and a way to say, “Our god is better than your God.” They seemed to think that it was Dagon who had provided the victory over the Israelites and their God.

However, God had a different idea. The next morning when the Ashdodites arose early and went to Dagon’s temple, they found their god knocked over before the ark. They probably thought it was weird, but set Dagon back up. (As a side note, what kind of god is it that needs its followers to stand it up?) However, during the next night, God not only knocked Dagon down again, He went further. “And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold” (Verse 4). Furthermore, God “ravaged them and smote them with tumors” (Verse 6).

The Philistines acknowledge that, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severed on us and on Dagon our god” (Verse 7). The surmised that God was acting, but they did not renounce Dagon as their God. They saw the power of God and decided to remove the ark from their midst by sending it to another of the Philistines’ cities. In that city, and the successive one as well, the people got ill with some dying and the others getting the same illness as those in Ashdod. So, the Philistines moved the ark again.

A key concept in the commentaries was that God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate other gods before Him, alongside Him, or anywhere near Him. One quote said, “God is not worshipped if He’s not worshipped alone.” Also, worship is more than a song sung in church. It’s about God Himself and our service to Him and Him alone. How do we see God working in and around us in our lives and yet, try to mingle worship of Him with worship of other things, ideas, people, etc.? That is a question each of us needs to answer for ourselves. We should not view it lightly.

Thursday, June 7, 2018


So, I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t post an article last week. The time just got away from me and on Friday I realized I hadn’t done it. So, even though this week is equally as busy, I’m going to write something. Exactly what I do not know. We will see what develops.
I’ve begun a study in the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel with my Bible study partner. We have covered chapters 1-4. One of the first things that stood out to me was a comment in the Reformation Study Bible on 1 Samuel 3:19. First, the verse says, “Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail.” The overall perspective of the books of Samuel leads us to understand that it is God’s presence with someone that makes the difference between success and failure.
The phrase “the Lord was with him” is used in several places throughout Scripture. Sometimes it’s used to say that God was with someone and the results were success. In other places, it includes the word, “not,” as in “the Lord was not with him.” The results were then failure. There are examples galore of men that were with the Lord and this phrase is applied to them. Many of the men are big names in the Bible and in history, and it starts right at the beginning with Abraham (Genesis 21:22). Other people it is said of include Jacob (Genesis 28:15), Joseph (Genesis 39:2), and David (1 Samuel 16:18; 18:12, 14, 28).
If we want success in our endeavors, we also must have the Lord with us. We know we have the Lord with us when we are seeking to do His revealed will. We find that revealed will in the Bible. I want it to be said of me, “the Lord was with her,” when my life is over. So as God reveals my thoughts and behaviors and how they agree with Scripture or not, I must act accordingly. However, the most important part in this process is having faith in Jesus Christ.