We’re in the middle of March Madness which brings out a level of intensity in players as well as a level of…madness. Players and coaches alike do some crazy things to help them win. Roy Williams, the Tar Heels coach, will throw away his tie and often throw away the suit he was wearing after a loss. I read about a band member from Wisconsin who hasn’t changed any of his clothes since they won their first game in the tournament. I had a friend lock his sister in the bathroom because every time she came back in the living room their team would fall behind. Because they ended up winning the game (with her in the bathroom) he hasn’t watched a game with her since then. It is easy to laugh at superstition.
1 Samuel begins at the end of the time of the Judges. We’ve mentioned many times before about how bad Israel has gotten… “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” The reality is, they have always had a king but refuse to allow Him to be King. Israel is now in conflict with the Philistines and their relationship with God is probably more along superstition levels more than covenant. The Philistines beat them in battle so Israel is looking for what edge they have over them. The remember the ark and decide to march it into battle as a sort of good luck charm. God will not be manipulated. The ark is captured. God also refuses to be a token of war. While placed next to Dagon in his temple, God gives him a nudge and the Philistines find Dagon facedown bowing before the LORD the next day. After a plague of tumors, the Philistines send the ark back. God is not Israel’s trophy to be paraded by anyone!
It is easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of Israel but the reality is that we sometimes approach God in the same way. In our own tradition, we have exalted Scripture (or a certain way of reading Scripture) above God Himself. We have exalted “right worship” over God. I grew up with the debates dividing Christians into two camps, clapping and non-clapping. We’ve held up a lot of things that are not the LORD and we have placed them on the throne. The question we must always come back to: Do we only want God as our savior or do we want Him as the LORD of our lives?
This story about the ark of God illustrates powerfully that God will not be manipulated by your selfish desires. Shortly after this event, Israel asks Samuel for a king so they can be like all the other nations. This is not a rejection of Samuel but a rejection of God as their King. What are areas of your life where you have rejected God as King? Where do you put your hope and trust in something other than God? What are some areas of worship that you have treated like the Israelites treated the ark?
There is a lot more to talk about in this chapter so I’m just going to throw out some questions to ponder as you read:
- How does Hannah’s prayer set the stage for the rest of 1&2 Samuel (Go read the whole thing)?
- God back and read Deuteronomy 6:4-12. In your reading this week, where have you not seen this take place? What are the major implications of people not passing covenant relationship on to their children?
- What are Saul’s character flaws?
- Where do you identify with Saul?