October 9 I Friday
“Let us bring the Ark of the LORD’S Covenant from Shiloh, so that He may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” —1 Samuel 4:3
The Ark of the Covenant was sacred to the Jewish people. It was where God met with them through the priesthood, and they believed carrying it with them had brought them victory in crossing the Jordan River and in their defeat of Jericho. In the battle against the Philistines at a place called Aphek, the Israelites suffered a severe loss with 4,000 of their soldiers lying dead on the field. Their solution now was to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh, so that it could go with them into their next battle and ensure victory against the Philistines.
1 Samuel 4:10-11 reveals the events of their next battle, “So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and
Phinehas, died.” The Israelites loss was even more staggering: 30,000 soldiers dead and the Ark of the Covenant lost to the hands of the Philistines.
The mistake the Israelites made is the same mistake the Christian church has made throughout its history. It is a mistake we can all make, and that is to seek and imitate patterns of previous victories. It is always easier to reproduce a pattern or method than to apply the principle. The Israelites had repeated the pattern, and rather than depending on God Himself, they depended on the Ark.
It is good to learn from other people and other situations, but when those things become the object on which we depend, they become substitutes for God, and God will share His glory with no one. Form and method, when instructed by God, is important. The Ark was built exactly as God had told Moses, the physical and the outward symbolic expression of God’s presence among the people. The life was not the form. The form simply contained the life, but we can detach the life from the form by banking success on methods we have applied before rather than on God.
If we reduce the Christian life or service to a program or procedure that does not require divine initiative and activity, there may be nothing wrong with the program, but we will kill it stone dead. That is why it is important we do not look for biblical patterns in Scripture so much as we look for biblical principles. In other words, not how did something happen, but why did something happen. God is original every time and we need to deal with Him directly, not with patterns that have met with success before.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that You are in control of my situations. Help me to keep my focus on You, and not on what has met with success before. Thank You, Lord.