Methods Over Majesty
For several weeks we have been looking at awe and the effect it has on our lives. All of us have a capacity for awe. We were created with it. The problem is we often get it misdirected from where it was intended to go. Often the place we direct our sense of awe to is ourselves. We become the center of our universe and we seek to control our lives and determine our own destiny. It is what all of us who belong to the human race face every day. It is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the beginning and it continues to get us into trouble ever since. The temptation of Eve in the beginning was not to eat the forbidden fruit, but the effect that act would have. The tempation was that we could be like God. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..” Genesis 3:5a. It was the same temptation that got Satan cast out of heaven. “I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’” Isaiah 14:14. We tend to desire for ourselves what is God’s alone.
One of the ways that this is shown in our lives is the way we approach God and the way we live our lives. What we tend to do is relate to God not as He is but through the methods we have learned to connect with Him. As a result the methods become more important than encountering God. As a result our sense of awe turns inward. In 1 Samuel 4 is a story which illustrates this well. The children of Israel are up against an old enemy which has been attaching them for many years. The Philistines have brought out their armies once again to fight against Israel and the two armies have lined up ready for battle. And the first battle Israel loses badly. 4000 men die. And Israel, who believed God was with them began to ask what was wrong because they lost. They did what you and I often do. But where they went wrong in the story is no one went to ask God what went wrong. And in the land of Israel at this time was a famous prophet who was known for hearing God speak and delivering direction from God. Direction that was proved correct many times.
Israel instead of inquiring of God relied on what they had done in the past. God had told them in many past battles to have the ark of the covenant lead the way into battle. “After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it[a] will save us from our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3
Notice the verse. Israel thought the ark would save them. They didn’t look to God at all, just the method they had. It was a method that God had started and had used many times before. The problem wasn’t that they sent the ark out but that they trusted in the method without seeking the one who created the method. As a result they ended up losing even more men when they went into battle and they lost the ark as well. The Philistines captured the ark and took it home with them. The very place where God chose to place His manifest presence was no longer with God’s chosen people.
We as Christians often get ourselves in trouble for the same things. We develop methods, which in themselves are not bad, but they take the place of a life-giving, in-depth, living relationship with the one who created everything. The one who was supposed to capture our attention and our awe.
If you continue to read the story we find that God was still involved. The ark was placed at the feet of the most powerful god the Philistines had and in the morning their god was on his face before the ark. They set him back up and the next morning he was on his face again broken in pieces. The Philistines we beginning to see that their god was not the Almighty God. God still honoured His covenant with Israel and the ark was returned.
When we focus on the methods, like reading our bible or praying, or attending a church, which are all good, instead of connecting and being in awe of the one who started the methods we end up missing out of what God wants to do and going in a different direction. And like Israel God will still be involved, not to bless what we are doing, but to call us back to a renewed personal daily relationship where we can connect with Him.