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1 Samuel 4:3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”

1 Samuel 4:5-8 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.

Israel apparently saw no need to consult God regarding their battle plans prior to engaging the enemy. However when their efforts failed they (the elders of Israel) blamed the Lord and then went to get the ark to ensure their future victory – something He had not told them to do. They didn’t want His guidance, they just wanted His power at work in the course they had determined to pursue. It’s almost as though the ark was some magical object, as though they didn’t recognize the awesome presence associated with it. There seemed to be no real reverence for the holiness of God…”let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us”….they wouldn’t go to Him for guidance but wanted Him to come to them for victory.

What a shout they gave as the ark came into the camp, but was it merely the shout of those who felt certain that their victory was now assured and not a shout of praise to the Lord God? How tragic that He actually seems to be more reverenced by the heathen than His own people.

God is not the means to our end. He is not some useful object to help us get what we want in life (even the religious things we want in life). He is Almighty God and He will not stoop to serve the agendas of men. If you are found to be using God for your own selfish gain, don’t be surprised to find yourself defeated before your enemy.

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The Philistines are first mentioned in the book of Genesis in connection with Abraham, but we don’t really see any conflict with them until Isaac had to re-dig the wells that Abraham dug because the Philistines had stopped up the wells by filling them with earth. The Philistines made themselves an enemy to the son of promise and remained at enmity with Israel from that time forward.

Saul was king of Israel when Goliath of Gath, a Philistine, issued this challenge:

1 Samuel 17:10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

The entire Israelite army was dismayed and greatly afraid for Goliath was a giant (estimated to be at least 9 feet and possibly over 11 feet tall). Day after day, for forty days, Goliath issued his challenge and it remained unaccepted. This was more than just the challenge of one man to another man, but it was the challenge of one people to another. The freedom of an entire people rested on the outcome of this battle. On one of these days David was present. I love his response to the words of Goliath…..” who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

And so, after being approved by King Saul to accept the challenge, David gathered his weapons for battle….

1 Samuel 17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

Nothing fancy or elaborate here. Nothing seemingly very powerful. He is so unimpressive that Goliath disdained him because he was only a youth (17:42). He was just a boy. We are familiar with the story from here – David’s mighty victory and the beginning of his fame. But as amazing as his victory was, there was always another battle to fight and another enemy to conquer.

The enemy demanded a man. Saul sent a boy. The victory was incomplete.

The enemy (Satan) is still demanding a man. For multiplied thousands of year, he has been demanding every man. And he has won so often because there was no champion to defeat him, and thus he makes slaves of men. Slaves to sin….slaves to depravity…slaves to lawlessness….slaves to self-will.

But heaven watched on…..a plan already formulated. A body was prepared for THE MAN who would defeat this powerful enemy for all time. No other battle would be necessary.   The enemy raged…”give me a man”. And God did just that.

John 19:5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

And just as David, he chose no elaborate battle gear or wartime weapons. He defeated the enemy with a cross.

Colossians 2:13-15 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

The uncontested champion of time and eternity – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Behold the Man.

 

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2 Samuel 6:1-3 Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart.

David’s desire to bring the ark to Jerusalem was indeed a good thing. But a good thing can be done the wrong way. When the Philistines returned the ark to Israel, they returned it on a new cart (1 Samuel 6:7). They had no way to know what God required concerning moving the ark so they did what they thought best. And now when David was ready to bring the ark to Jerusalem he also used a new cart to transport the ark, even though he had God’s law which gave instruction as to how the ark is to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites.

Maybe David hadn’t looked into it and just assumed that because it worked for the heathen it would work for him. But God never intended us to follow in the footsteps of the worldly and especially when related to the sacred things. His way should have been sought out so that the holy things would not be handled carelessly….for when that happens, lives are affected.

Deuteronomy 10:8 At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.

Numbers 7:9 But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders.

There were three divisions of the Levites and each was assigned specific duties related to the Tabernacle. It was the sons of Kohath who carried the most holy things…including the ark of the Presence. Why were they chosen from the three? I wonder if their very names give us a clue…

Gershon means “exile, a refugee – someone forced to live outside of their own country”. This represents believers who live as foreigners in the kingdom of God. They call Jesus king but their allegiance is divided because they feel more comfortable in the other kingdom and secretly long for its pleasures and comforts, yet realize that they cannot indulge in such lest the king become angry and banish them. It’s very possible that these Gershonites fear hell more than they love God.

Merari means “bitter”. This represents people who are loaded down by their resentments and unforgiveness, and maybe even just the sorrows and disappointments of life. They have become inwardly focused….rehearsing and nursing their wounds leaves them no time or inclination to carry the Presence.

The name Kohath means “to ally oneself”. To ally means to join together, to unite, to cooperate. This represents those who are “all in”. United with King Jesus and His kingdom purpose, having no other allegiance, they have joined themselves to this King and delight to be part of His work in the earth.

While Gershon, Merari and Kohath were unable to change their assignment, we are. Today’s Merari can be tomorrow’s Kohath. God’s way is for us to be carriers of His Presence. That is His way for all of us….He is no respecter of persons. But not everyone will be a carrier of the Presence. Many people are content with the new carts of religious activity which offer nothing life giving….for them or anyone else. Perhaps that is because being a carrier of the Presence requires something of you. It is an investment of your life to seek the face of God and dwell in His Presence. But the benefit of it….Oh the benefit!! What greater privilege could we have than to live with Him so much in the secret place that the sweetness of that fellowship is carried into every public place?

We only have a few short years on this earth. Don’t waste it with new carts. Be a carrier of the Presence of God.

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Matthew 1:20  “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

The word “thought” (Strongs 1760) means to ponder or deliberate, but the root word has the meaning of passion, anger and heat. So Joseph’s musings were probably not a calm reasoning through of the situation but rather an emotionally charged review of what had happened. He must have felt so hurt and betrayed. Thank God he didn’t react in the heat of passion assuming (as anyone naturally would) that he understood what had happened. He didn’t understand what had happened, and had that man acted rashly in the heat of anger (which was actually fueled by righteousness) he would have missed the privilege of a lifetime.

Don’t think you always understand what is happening just because you know certain things by your senses. There are spiritual realities at work all around us that we might just miss out on for lack of thinking….pondering….wondering….if there might be a greater reality than what we have observed. Turn aside and see….stay still and listen….make sure you don’t miss out on the glorious thing God wants to do just because it doesn’t make sense to you.

 

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Returning sons are rarely a pretty sight. Often they’ve made a mess of things and our first inclination can be, at least in our heart, an “I told you so” or maybe “you should have known better”. However, let’s remember that it is not honorable nor spiritual to usurp the role of accuser of the brethren. We may commend ourselves for our “ministry” to them if we pray a nice prayer or buy them a hamburger. But the returning sons need the faithful sons to walk with them, encourage them, and remind them of the Father’s heart for them. They don’t need our things….they need our life, our time and our love. How many returning sons never made it all the way back home because of the disapproving looks of those who couldn’t forget the shame they brought to their Father’s house.

Don’t be ashamed to love them even if others disapprove. The Father isn’t ashamed of them and neither is Jesus. They are His brothers and He rejoices in that.

If necessary, bear the reproach of those that don’t understand and let God sort it all out in that day. It’s okay to be misunderstood. It’s okay to be wrongly judged. But it is not okay for your love to fail. Love them all the way home.

 

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Luke 15: 25-32 Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”‘

Much has been written about this other son. We despise him sufficiently, but let us make sure that his error does not become our own. At the bottom of it all, this older son is angry that the younger son is getting the benefits of sonship that he feels like he never received. And it makes him angry. I don’t blame him for being angry, but he was angry at the wrong person. The father made it clear that everything was his, but he was so busy working, working, working, that he never enjoyed the things that the father has already made available to him. If he had been a son that availed himself of all the benefits given by the father, his heart would have been so full that he would have rejoiced that his brother had returned because it made the father happy. What sweet fellowship could have been had if the older brother had joined him in watching for his brother’s return?

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of getting angry and jealous over what somebody else is receiving from God. Go bury your face in the face of God until you are filled with every good thing He has for you…then join the Father in those things that rejoice His heart.

The Father is ever watching for the returning sons while we are busy with life. Maybe it would please His heart more if we skipped that religious activity we do out of obligation (whatever that might be in your life) and went out to meet some prodigal on his return trip home….shielding him from shame as he makes his way home to the Father. Assuring him that he is accepted, beloved and forgiven.

 

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Luke 15:20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”

This is such a beautiful picture of the Father’s heart for every prodigal….he never stopped longing for the son that had left him. He had been humiliated by this son, his goodness had been exploited, his love had been trampled on. But his heart yearned for him. I wonder if he went every day to gaze down the path his son had traveled when leaving…..scanning the horizon to see if this would be the day he would return home. How many days passed with no son returning? We aren’t told. But on the day the son returned, the father was watching. Intently watching. So much so that he saw him a great way off.

The world had been harsh to the boy and he was returning with his tail between his legs….broken by the life he had chosen. The son who had humiliated the Father now returned humiliated. How many neighbors must have seen him on the road as he traveled home? Their glaring disapproval must have disheartened him all the more. Shame is piled upon shame and humiliation upon humiliation. But the father saw the beloved son approaching, and unwilling for the boy to be humiliated any further he did the unthinkable….he picked up the skirt of his robe….and RAN. No respectable man runs. That is the activity of children. So the disapproving eyes are turned away from the son, now onto the father…as he ran to his son and embraced him, hiding him in his arms away from every condemning stare. The boy finished the rest of his journey home accompanied by the father, that very presence announcing to all who saw him – ACCEPTED! BELOVED! FORGIVEN!

 

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