Posts Tagged ‘making ourselves our own gods’

1 Samuel 4:12-22
The Death of Eli

Well, it looks like Israel has hit its rock bottom here in 1 Samuel 4:12-22. Two generations or so removed from entering the Promised Land, they are about as bleak and godless a people that would rival any of the pagan nations that surrounded them. They started out so well. They were God’s chosen people. He had some them great favor. He had rescued them and protected them. He had shown himself to them as their guiding pillar of fire, had audibly spoken to Moses daily, had provided them food and performed other great miracles before their very eyes. How quickly things can turn after you have been provided great riches.

Think about all the grandchildren and children of the ultra-rich. They are spoiled brats and just live for the party. Living for the moment from party to party and seeking all kinds of hedonistic pleasures. In trouble with the law frequently because they know they have the money and influence to get out of any jam they get in. You know the type. We see it on the celebrity worship shows and on the nightly news shows. These brats smear the good name of their hard working, wealth-building fathers or grandfathers. There are televisions shows, movies, books, mini-series, etc. about this age old concept of wealth being wasted on unappreciative punk kids or grandkids. That’s kind of the way Israel was during the time of the judges. They had been given every privilege of being God’s people. God make their way for them. He protected them. He gave everything to them. They had it made. But over time, they began to stray from being an appreciative, obedient people and began drift away from the very source of their blessings.

When I read through Judges and this first part of 1 Samuel, I cannot help but think about the United States in this, the modern day. This country was founded on biblical principles and we were a very religious, God-fearing people for many generations. We integrated God into our daily lives as a nation. We made Him a part of the fabric and texture of our culture. Men and women in political office didn’t think twice about referencing God in every other sentence. Decisions were made with reference to the Bible. The Bible was a very active part of public life. The Ten Commandments were often displayed in court rooms because these laws are universal in truth. God was just front and center a part of American life. As a result, God blessed our nation richly. We defeated the world’s greatest empire to win our independence – and when you read the history of the American Revolution, there is nothing but repeated evidence of God’s protection and God’s favor being shown to our fledgling nation. So, we owe our very existence as a nation to God’s favor. And, we lived it our for many generations. We were a nation openly and willingly desiring to be obedient to God and to follow His commands.

However, something began to happen in the post-World War II era when we truly became the world’s greatest economic and military power. Before World War II, we were a great nation among several competing world powers. However, with the destruction wrought by World War II, we firmly established ourselves as the greatest single world power on the planet. We were the top dog. The strange thing that happened though after World War II with all the wealth and prosperity that came with emerging as the world’s greatest nation is that we began to forget about God. We became the spoiled rich kids of a wealthy father or grandfather. We became self-indulgent. We became preoccupied with our wealth. We became preoccupied with things. We became more interested in stuff than we were in God. We became a very me-centered people. We began to see our individual needs as more important that the greater good of society. We began to drift toward personal rights and away from the collective good. We began to see the self as more important than what is good for the nation as a whole. We began to see what I want as more important than sacrificing for the good of our families, towns, cities, states and the nation. We became a people who believe that we are entitled to the wealth that we have been granted. We became our own gods and determine for ourselves what our own truth is. We became our own gods and our own little universes where what I want is what matters and screw everyone else. We forgot God. We pushed God aside. We are so interested in our own right and desires that we no longer see God’s Word as important to our lives. We do away with anything like the Bible that says we cannot pursue that which makes us internally satisfied. If it contradicts with my personal rights and desires, we do away with it. if says what I am doing is a sin, we do away with it as old-fashioned because I have my rights. I have a right to be happy and if my sin makes me happy is it really a sin? That’s the nation we live in now. It is a dark time and it’s getting darker.

Here we see ourselves in the nation of Israel at the end of the period of Judges. That’s the thing that struck me this morning – how much like the nation of Israel we as the United States in the 21st are. In the name of seeking self and making ourselves as our own individual gods, we have become the nation of Israel at the end of the period of the judges. Let’s read this passage with that in mind, 1 Samuel 4:12-22:

12 A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefield and arrived at Shiloh later that same day. He had torn his clothes and put dust on his head to show his grief. 13 Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town.

14 “What is all the noise about?” Eli asked.

The messenger rushed over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and blind. 16 He said to Eli, “I have just come from the battlefield—I was there this very day.”

“What happened, my son?” Eli demanded.

17 “Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,” the messenger replied. “The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.”

18 When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight. He had been Israel’s judge for forty years.

19 Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near her time of delivery. When she heard that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth. 20 She died in childbirth, but before she passed away the midwives tried to encourage her. “Don’t be afraid,” they said. “You have a baby boy!” But she did not answer or pay attention to them.

21 She named the child Ichabod (which means “Where is the glory?”), for she said, “Israel’s glory is gone.” She named him this because the Ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband were dead. 22 Then she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”

In this passage, we remember that at this time, the city of Shiloh was Israel’s religious center (see also Joshua 18:1 and 1 Samuel 4:3). The Tabernacle was permanently set up there. Because Israel did not have a civil capital – the seat of the national government – Shiloh was the natural place for a messenger to deliver the sad news of this battle with the Philistines. Many scholars believe that it was during this battle mentioned here that Shiloh was destroyed. Also, we see here the end of the dark period of the judges when most of the nation of Israel had turned their backs on God. Although Samuel was also a judge, his judgeship marked the end of that period and the transition to rule by monarchy. It marks the beginning of the great revival that Israel would experience for more than a century. However, in this present scene as presented in this passage we see that this incident illustrates the spiritual darkness and decline of Israel.

We, too, are in a dark time in the United States spiritually speaking. We have become just as Israel is here. We will pay the price for our straying from God and kicking God out of our national and individual lives at some point. Maybe we have not yet hit our low point as Israel has here. But we are the frog in the pot of water with the temperature slowly being turned up. We are pushing God out of our lives and He will eventually fully withdraw His blessings from our nation. It’s guaranteed. We will in our enlightened reason say that it’s because of this or because of that, but it will be the evidence simply that God no longer is showing us favor because we are no longer a nation that worships God.

But from the darkest days in Israel here, there came a great awakening later under David and Solomon and Israel became a great nation once again under the rule of men who feared God. I think and have hope that God will bring about an awakening in our nation as well. He will bring forth a great man of God who will lead our nation back to God. We will have another great awakening in our nation one day. But it’s going to take some committed Samuels out there. As we are going to see, Samuel was instrumental in bringing about restoration to the nation of Israel and ushering in the greatest period of Israel’s history under Davidic rule. David was a man after God’s own heart and God blessed him and as a result blessed Israel. To restore our nation to God, it starts with us as His church in America. We must begin sharing the gospel story each and every one of us. We must no longer sit quietly by as our nation drifts further and further away from God and just say there’s nothing we can do about it. We must introduce the gospel to a nation that is now into third generations of families who do not go to church, do not know what the Bible is or says, and who do not know really who Jesus is. Let us not think it is somebody else’s job to change our nation. Let us be spiritually alert and ready to share God’s Word one person at a time. Let us change our nation from the inside out.

Amen and Amen.

Personal Reflection
I think as we proceed today into the book of Judges, I want us today to think about our own spiritual journeys and about the larger picture of our nation. In the book of Judges, we see ourselves and we see our nation. I think for both myself and for our nation, the best opening illustration for all three (the book of Judges, my spiritual journey, and where we are at as nation right now) is to think back to college or high school when we were much younger and more foolish.

Back in those days, there would be parties where the booze was plentiful and there was no one to hold you accountable for how much you drank. Back in those days we had lower tolerances because of less experience and less understanding of how to pace yourself and we would simply drink too much to the point of being nauseated and ending up in the bathroom. You know the drill, you start with the dry heaves. You want to throw up but you can’t. You are feeling like your stomach is about jump out of your body. You sit by the toilet waiting for the volcanic eruptions to begin. You are sitting on the floor leaning against the toilet, bathtub or wall, whatever is easiest to keep you near the toilet. Your head is spinning and somebody keeps knocking at the door but there is NO way you are leaving. Because things are so bad, you can barely understand what they are saying. You simply mumble that there is somebody in here. You are just hoping and praying that they will leave and just stop talking to you. Having to formulate thoughts for even the most rudimentary conversation is a monumental experience. Finally, after what seems like has been a half hour of trying to throw up but can’t, it finally begins. The eruptions of whatever you may have had to eat that entire day plus whatever you have had to drink at the party. It is ugly and putrid smelling and it is at this point while in the middle of the body’s attempt to purge itself of alcohol beyond the level it can stand that the negotiations begin.

God please make it stop. God please make it stop. With each eruption, our body becomes weaker and more tired. What had been a fun ride up the alcohol mountain was now this whole body gut-wrenching descent down the mountain. We promise the Lord that we will quick this sinful behavior of excess if He will just make the nausea stop. We may think the nausea is over after about 5 or 10 minutes of non-pukeage. So, you go lay down on in the host teen’s bedroom and try to rest, regain your composure, and regain your strength. Then it hits again. Rushing back to the bathroom for the final battle with your stomach (and the stomach wins every time). Finally, you begin to feel better and your promise yourself that you will never do this again. Your body weak. Your mind a little foggy, but you have a sense of happiness that the convulsions are done and you are on the other side of what may be the worst few hours of your life to that point. You have joy that you made it through it. You make promises to God that you will do better. You may even promise to not drink anymore. You may even promise God that you will try to live a better life. You may even promise to start going to church or, if you go to church already, you promise to be more attentive and to read the Bible more. Just deliver me Lord from making offerings to the porcelain God! She is a cruel god who wants your guts and then leaves you empty and limp like a dishrag on the side of a kitchen sink. Just deliver me God from this and I promise I will honor you better!

That’s kind of symbolic of my own spiritual journey to the cross. I would only recognize God’s existence in times of trouble and then it was a negotiation as if I was equal to God. I would pull out my God card when it was needed. Although I grew up in a preacher’s parsonage (kind of like Israel being God’s people), I strayed far from God. Although I have had only a few periods in my life that I did not go to church somewhere, I did not find Jesus as my Savior until I was 39 years old. God and Jesus and all the following Jesus stuff and all this talk about how Jesus would change my life. I paid lip service to it. But all that changed lifestyle stuff was just too inconvenient for me. I wanted what I wanted. I wanted to live like I wanted to live. I developed my own theology of Jesus prior to salvation. I made him not the Son of God. I made him my revolutionary dude wailing against the status quo and the establishment. My Jesus was the one who dressed down the Pharisees and the one who cleansed the Temple. He was my anti-establishment hero that paid the ultimate price for being too anti-government for the wimpy leaders of the Jews and the Romans to handle. Great ideals and philosophy is what I thought of Jesus. But Him being God in the flesh and resurrected and all that stuff. Just couldn’t fully buy off on it. Jesus changing my lifestyle? I didn’t want any part of that. Unless of course, something went wrong or didn’t go my way or something happen to knock me off my feet, I would pray then. You betcha. If this whole God thing was as real as my saved family members and saved friends said it was, then I would recognize God’s existence and whomever this Jesus really was and pray, pray, pray. I was like ancient Israel. Short periods of obedience and recognition of God’s existence and control over my life followed by long periods of going my own way, making my own religion, and doing things the way I wanted to do them.

The same thing I think could be said of our nation. We are so much like ancient Israel that it is not even funny. We started out with great spiritual leadership that led us as a nation to be God-fearing nation and there were uncounted blessings bestowed upon our nation because of its overall and general obedience to the Lord. We were a biblically literate nation. We were a nation that wanted to follow God’s way. We incorporated God into everything we did as a nation. Even our currency was imbued with the idea that we had full and complete trust in the Lord. Sure, we had pockets of things about our nation that was ungodly and ugly and wrong but generally as a nation there was this overriding allegiance to God and that God would guide our nation. However, as we have been blessed, we began to think that we were our own gods and that we could choose what is right and what is wrong. We could define for ourselves what is right not God – if he even existed to begin with. God became inconvenient. We removed Him from the public square and our schools and our homes. Whatever feels good, do it. That became the mantra of our nation. No longer would we be bound by fixed morality as stated in the Bible. We want it to be OK to live as we wish. We want it to be OK for us to live in whatever manner we please. Sex in whatever form you like and whenever you like with whomever you like is what we want. We have gone as far de-emphasizing the existence of the hardcoded and obvious differences between men and women. We can be whatever sex we set in our mind. We call it freedom from oppression of the past. We call it personal expression. All of the sins of the Bible are now glorified in the public square. Sure, there are pockets of what is of the virtues of God in our nation now as there was in the time of ancient Israel, but the overriding and general flow of our nation is away from God and toward the god that we have made of ourselves – saying that God is an opiate of the past and that we are our own gods now. We know best. Just as with ancient Israel, who acted the very same way, God’s judgement will come through the events and the consequences of us turning away from Him play themselves out. Sin, whether we say it is no longer sin or not, is still sin and sin has its consequences. We may have periods of spiritual revival as a nation (just look at the spike in church attendance and concern over spiritual matters after 09/11) but we return to making ourselves gods in short order. Kid of like the teenager promising to never drink again after a john-hugging night but is then right back at the party at the next kids house the next Friday. Our nation is that kid.

It is true for my spiritual journey story. It is true for our nation’s spiritual journey story. It was true for ancient Israel’s spiritual journey story. It is true that God will allow us to suffer the consequences of the sins we commit. Yet, as in Judges, and as in our own spiritual journeys, God will forgive us if we repent and turn to Him. For it is through our humbly coming before Him and begging forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice that we are restored. When we fully understand that our way of doing things is ungodly and leads to self-destruction, He will forgive. He will restore. He will allow our sin results play themselves out but we are restored.

Are you tired of being sick and tired? How’s that life of doing things your own way working out for you? If you want to really see the ugly side of what sin does to people and what collective turning away from God does to a nation. Just join me today in reading the book of Judges and see where it all leads. Then, let’s talk about the faithfulness of God who sent His Son to give you away to walk away from sin and be restored to a right relationship with God Almighty.

Amen and Amen.

Now, here’s a summary of key information about the Book of Judges to keep in mind as we walk through it beginning tomorrow. Thank you to for this following synopsis of the book of Judges:

The Book of Judges does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that the Prophet Samuel was the author of Judges. Internal evidence indicates that the author of Judges lived shortly after the period of the Judges. Samuel fits this qualification.

Date of Writing:
The Book of Judges was likely written between 1045 and 1000 B.C.

Purpose of Writing:
The Book of Judges can be divided into two sections:
1) Chapters 1-16 which gives an account of the wars of deliverance beginning with the Israelites’ defeat of the Canaanites and ending with the defeat of the Philistines and the death of Samson;
2) Chapters 17-21 which is referred to as an appendix and does not relate to the previous chapters. These chapters are noted as a time “when there was no king in Israel (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).” The Book of Ruth was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but in A.D. 450 it was removed to become a book of its own.

Key Verses:
Judges 2:16-19: “Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

Judges 10:15: “But the Israelites said to the LORD, ‘We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’”

Judges 21:25: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Brief Summary:
The Book of Judges is a tragic account of how Yahweh [God] was taken for granted by His children year after year, century after century. Judges is a sad contrast to the book of Joshua which chronicles the blessings God bestowed on the Israelites for their obedience in conquering the land. In Judges, they were disobedient and idolatrous, leading to their many defeats. Yet God has never failed to open His arms in love to His people whenever they repent from their wicked ways and call upon His name. (Judges 2:18) Through the 15 judges of Israel, God honored His promise to Abraham to protect and bless his offspring (Genesis 12:2-3).

After the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, the Israelites returned to serving Baal and Ashtaroth. God allowed the Israelites to suffer the consequences of worshiping false gods. It was then that the people of God would cry out to Yahweh for help. God sent His children judges to lead them in righteous living. But time after time they would turn their backs on God and return to their lives of wickedness. However, keeping His part of the covenant with Abraham, God would save His people from their oppressors throughout the 480-year span of the Book of Judges.

Probably the most notable judge was the 12th judge, Samson, who came to lead the Israelites after a 40-year captivity under the rule of the ruthless Philistines. Samson led God’s people to victory over the Philistines where he lost his own life after 20 years as judge of Israel.

The announcement to Samson’s mother that she would bear a son to lead Israel is a foreshadowing of the announcement to Mary of the birth of the Messiah. God sent His Angel to both women and told them they would “conceive and bear a son” (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:31) who would lead God’s people.

God’s compassionate delivery of His people despite their sin and rejection of Him presents a picture of Christ on the cross. Jesus died to deliver His people—all who would ever believe in Him—from their sin. Although most of those who followed Him during His ministry would eventually fall away and reject Him, still He remained faithful to His promise and went to the cross to die for us.

Practical Application:
Disobedience always brings judgment. The Israelites present a perfect example of what we are not to do. Instead of learning from experience that God will always punish rebellion against Him, they continued to disobey and suffer God’s displeasure and discipline. If we continue in disobedience, we invite God’s discipline, not because He enjoys our suffering, but “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6).

The Book of Judges is a testament to God’s faithfulness. Even “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). Though we may be unfaithful to Him, as the Israelites were, still He is faithful to save us and preserve us (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and to forgive us when we seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9). “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).