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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

April 2015

To Hot To Handle

1 Samuel 6

At this point, it is appropriate to review the things that we have learned from what amounts to a history of the development of Israel…

  • 1 & 2 Samuel are primarily about armed conflict vs. the Philistines.
  • The philosophy of the history is “deuteronomic,” meaning Israel either follows the laws prescribed by God and is blessed or suffers consequences.
  • What made Israel distinctive were the laws given to them by God. These laws were either a difference or a consequence of their relationship with God.
  • This history does not dictate what one exactly should think about it as much as an invitation to learn what one can from it.
  • Symbolically, the Ark of the Covenant coincides with Mary’s filled womb – both carry the Word of God and God incarnate.
  • Eli and his son’s deaths foreshadow “God’s glory departing Israel” (1 Sam. 4:21-22).
  • The submission of the Philistine god Dagon to the God of Israel (1 Sam. 1:12) is contrasted with what happened on the field of battle.

Today’s passage indicates that since the God of the Ark does not favor the Philistines, they decide to return the Ark to its original owners. This return of the Ark first appears to be a good sign to Israel, yet a slaughter (v. 19) in some form or other* breaks out because of it. Israel, no doubt, viewed its return both positively and negatively. The Ark is then stored away (v. 20) until David’s day (2 Sam. 6).

*The note I have in my Bible on verse 19 indicates this 50,070 men is considered to be a scribal error as there is a discrepancy in the extant Hebrew manuscripts. It may mean “He struck 70 men of the men of the people and 50 oxen of a man.”

There you have it, an apparent problem within the Bible. One trusts that the original writing was inspired and must be accurate. The subsequent copies have some flaws because the copiers, like our selves, are flawed. This is to be logically expected in a fallen world where, aside from Christ’s example of a perfect life, perfection is unreachable. This means that we cannot realize perfect anything – including truth on our earth such as it is. It does not mean that there are many very good attributes about our where we live and it’s people, and that we cannot know what and who are truthful. One should not let the search for perfection get in the way of the discovery of very good.

Craig Randolph

 

 

 

 

God Cannot Be Captured or Controlled

I Samuel 5

The Israelites understood that God was present to them in the tent of the meeting where the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant was placed.  It was a center for worship and for hearing God’s word to them through their spiritual leaders, the Priests.  They began to think that God would go with them wherever they took the Ark of the Covenant.  They also started to think that the Ark of the Covenant would guarantee victory in battle for them.

Therefore they go into battle with the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant but it is captured.  The Philistines believe that the captured Ark will benefit them and give them special power or favor with Israel’s God.  But they are wrong.  They cannot capture or control the living God. It doesn’t go well for them in Ashdod or Gath.  God does want to be present to his people and wants his people to seek him.  The Ark is wisely returned to Israel.  Both the Philistines and the Israelites learn about the one true God of all.

Sometimes God’s people begin to believe that if they go through the proper liturgy or forms of worship or say the right prayers that God has to come through for them in the way that they expect.  If we press this too far we start to forget about how God wants us to live beyond the place of worship; how we are to treat other people as followers of Christ.  The Lord wants our worship, prayers, and study of the scriptures to shape our daily lives so we love God and love our neighbor as we loves ourselves.

God wants how we worship and who we are and what we do to be all congruent with his will.  May it be so this day and always.

Ichabod – The Glory is gone

1 Samuel 4:12-22

Losing the Ark of God was a much bigger deal than we can understand. It was much more than losing an artifact, a piece of furniture used in the worship. Losing the Ark was a sign of losing God’s favor, losing God’s very presence in the middle of his people.

In the context of chapter 4, we can understand how much importance this Ark carried. But we also understand the the spiritual health of Israel. Their lives were not necessary a healthy picture of Godly living. And when they lose the Ark, the very last hope of divine presence was lost as well. In the process they lose Eli their spiritual leader, his two sons Hophni and Phinehas, in a way they lose their spiritual leadership. To make it plain: All it’s GONE. God is gone.

Is it all gone for real? Or is this a time when people need to look at their lives, priorities and re-establish that God centered life once again? Is it all gone?

I pray that all of us will never experience those feelings that made Eli fall off his chair, or the feeling of being forsaken by God, the way Phinehas’s wife experienced. I pray that every day we can turn our hearts to God and  seek his presence in all we do.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

The objects we look to…

arkcovenant-608x457

1 Samuel 4:1-11

My apologies for being late this morning…

You should first notice that Samuel is not part of this passage – the reason being is that there is a pause in the story introducing the ark of God…important to set the stage for when Samuel steps into the world of God’s revelation.  Here we see the political and religious culture in which Samuel must work (compare it to today).

When Samuel was yet a youth, Israel was attacked by the Philistines. It is often funny (well, not so much) how we sometimes act when we are in trouble – here the men of Shiloh, knowing that they are in trouble with the Philistines, go back to get the ark of the covenant…believing it to be their good luck charm.  Surely this will turn the tide…

Now, the ark did represent the presence of the Lord in battle…but…only when the people carried it in faith and by divine leading.  Even the Philistines were terrified when they knew the ark was in the camp of Israel, for they had heard about its association with Israel’s mighty gods who had brought that people out of Egypt more than 300 years before. Nonetheless, summoning their courage, they fought on and defeated Israel. In the process the ark … was captured and the sons of Eli, its keepers, were slain.

We humans have an abundance of what we believe to be good luck charms…Karl Barth said, “we humans seem to be religiously addicted to anything that can be objectified, over against which our ego can be asserted” (Barth, Church Dogmatics).  What things in your life do you carry into battle when you are in trouble?  Are there objects in your life that take higher precedence than God sometimes?

No One Gets A Free Pass

1 Sam. 2:27-36 (The Message)

1 Sam. 2:27-36 (KJV)

In the previous several verses leading up to this passage, we learned about how the sons of Eli were behaving about as well as a bunch of college students on spring break. They were partying it up, sleeping with women outside of the tent of meeting. They were also mistreating the Israelites and disobeying God purposely. But I am guessing in their minds they were living the good life as sons of the priest.

I think this sounds a lot like Illinois or Chicago politics, doesn’t it? Those who have connections with people in power think they can get a free pass on life, right?   It is frustrating, and seemingly unfair, to the rest of us without connections that we don’t get a free pass in life.

But the truth is that in the end, we all have to face the true judge and answer for the lives we have lived down here. God’s sentence to the sons of Eli is harsh in human terms, but His judgment is always just. None of Eli’s family line will inherit the priesthood; all will die at an early age, or suffer greatly with loss of sight and strength.

So why does God allow for people to behave badly, and why does he deal so harshly with Eli’s sons? God always has his reasons for sure. As it states in the final verses here, the remaining family members of Eli will come back to God, begging forgiveness. Ultimately, God acts to bring us back to Him. In order to get us to that point, there has to be some pain and suffering. This same scene plays over and over again throughout scripture. As we exist here in 2015, we see much death, destruction, and pain. Are the current times just another example of God trying to bring us back to Him? We shall see.

Live Right, Live in Faith

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I Samuel 2:12-26

There is quite a contrast between the way Hannah and her family live and the way the sons of Eli live their lives.  Hannah and her husband live with faith in God. They trust the Lord, so much so, that they give their first born son Samuel to the Lord’s service.  And Samuel grows up loving and serving the Lord.

Eli’s sons, are “scoundrels” and have no remorse for being “wicked.”  They abuse their positions as priestly servants by taking meat offerings from the people which were to first be given to God.  Instead of being content to receive something of what was being cooked and prepared for a sacrifice they wanted what belonged to God.  They also slept with women at the tent of the meeting (a place of worship and the presence of God) practicing religious prostitution as did other cultures in that day and time which was a clear violation of God’s will.

Eli doesn’t discipline his sons and is permissive with them over the years.  What the sons do is so egregious, God will punish them with death and take away the priesthood from Eli’s family line.  The sons have no remorse or need for forgiveness.

Here we have two families and two stories.  It reminds me of Proverbs and Romans , “The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death” (Proverbs 10:16). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

There is a way that brings life and a way that brings death.  May we live in faith and yearn for righteousness.

 

Tears No More

1 Samuel 2:1-11

I love the fact that we can experience both side of Hannah’s story. I am sure that many of us can identify with her story.

Can you believe the difference that we see in Hannah? From desperation, from a crushed hope  to joy, to triumphant words of encouragement? Is this the same person we met in chapter 1?

I’m bursting with God-news!
    I’m walking on air.
I’m laughing at my rivals.
    I’m dancing my salvation.

You can say that we are talking about a different person, and to some degree we are. Hannah is changed, she is full of good news, excited about life and she has all the reasons for it. Her faith came through, God kept his promise, and now it is her time to do her part. She brings the child to the temple to serve for the rest of his life, but she takes time to proclaim what God has done.

Her thanksgiving prayer is indeed a beautiful example of thanksgiving, of proclaiming God’s greatness, but I think it goes even deeper than that. Her prayer comes from experience, from seeing God at work and recognizing the blessings in her life.

I pray that as we experience life on day to day we can recognize the hand of God working in our lives and be as excited about life just like Hannah was.

Be blessed

Bo

Vows and Integrity…

integrity

1 Samuel 1:21-28

Today’s passage has much to offer us…from Jewish custom to commitment and integrity. Vows were a serious matter – all you need do is look at Numbers 30 or Leviticus 27 to understand.  Lev 27 talks about special vows related to dedication of individuals to the Lord – in the case of Hannah, by fulfilling the vow by service of worship in the sanctuary.  Numbers 30 talks about the overall importance of keeping the vow.  Similarly, we see custom in weaning of children…weaning is cause for celebration in Jewish custom – look to Genesis 21:8 to further understand.  Weaning took place somewhere between a year and a half in age and 5 years of age – most believe that Samuel was between 2 and 4 years old.  Samuel was weaned prior to being taken to Eli the priest to serve the Lord.  He would not be a burden to Eli and the priests of the tabernacle.

Elkanah and his household went to Shiloh to offer sacrifice to the LORD…to pay his vow (for Samuel as well) to the Lord. Hannah and Samuel did not go along because Samuel was not yet weaned – Samuel was still dependent on his mother. Elkanah agrees – he sees the logic. Hannah fulfilled her vow when Samuel was weaned.

Not only do we see the custom behind vows but we see the commitment and integrity, all rooted in Jewish custom, in both Hannah and Elkanah.  But…the ultimate commitment and integrity comes in the combination of yesterday’s and today’s readings.  Sons represented the future for a family.  Hannah prayed for the Lord to bless her and Elkanah with a male child…not only bless but vow…commit, to dedicate this male child to the Lord…forever.  Vows are easy to make…keeping them is the tough part – that’s integrity.  Hannah’s integrity is amazing!!  God working through Hannah and Samuel is beyond amazing as we will see in this book.

Hannah The Failure

1 Samuel 1:1-20

Quick review as we start this book.  God has brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, they wandered for 40 years and then took the land. We’re in the period where the people of Israel possessed the land. For the whole books of Joshua and Judges the nation of Israel has had the same King; God.  God used people like Joshua, Deborah, Gideon and Samson to lead His people but at the end of the day God was the ruler.  This continued with Samuel.  Samuel was a priest but still God’s leader for the people of Israel.  The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel tell the story of the nation of Israel during the life of Samuel and three hundred years after.  There’s a whole lot we can learn from the life of Samuel, so pay close attention!

As for the passage itself; the thing that stood out to me was that God hears.  This passage probably doesn’t describe the singular time that Hannah cried out to God. Children were a huge deal in this culture.  Most likely her whole life was defined by her “failure” to have children.  Can you imagine that?  Having your whole life wrapped up around one thing that you can’t seem to accomplish?  God eventually answered her prayer, but lets not pretend like God didn’t hear the other ones or deeply care about Hannah before he finally said “yes”.  God always hears.  He always cares, even when the answer is no.. or wait.

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