I started the day off enjoying breakfast at the Picadilly Lilly Airport Diner with a couple of the guys from Campus Life. We do this every time the school has a 2-hour delay, and it’s been a fun tradition to stick to. Jake has been coming for the last 3 years, and hopefully he’ll continue the tradition when I head out to Romania. Only, I suppose he’ll have to call it “Breakfast With Jake.”
Today, besides getting some good food and talking about our favorite movies, I brought up something that hit home with me while reading the Bible this morning. In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites are fighting for independence from Philistia. Not faring so well in battle, they decide to bring in their secret weapon: the Ark of the Covenant. (Ooooh… Scaaaaary….) Well, the Philistines are all like, “Aaaah! No!!! Their God’s coming to the battle! We’re DOOMED!”
Perfect opportunity for God to show those Philistines who’s boss, right? He’ll have them all declaring his glory, his majesty, his greatness, his supremacy by the time he’s through with them.
Except that God doesn’t come through. The Israelites lose the battle, the ark is stolen, and two of their top religious leaders die in battle.
Talk about a missed opportunity.
Why did God miss the opportunity to increase his fame? Surely, he noticed it. In fact, though, it was more than a missed opportunity. He grabbed the wrong opportunity. What I mean is this, rather than the Philistines declaring the glory of Yahweh and his supremacy, they think he’s weak, powerless, a push-over before their own might as a people.
Why would God ruin his reputation like this?
Simply put, he’s more concerned about union with the hearts of his own people than he is even with the reputation of his name. You see, I left out a bit about what was happening in Israel. While the war for independence was brewing, the leading religious leaders were asserting some of their own independence. In a bad way. Phinehas and Hophni had been stealing from the sacrifices of the people and sleeping with the women who had dedicated themselves to ministering to God. They’d abused their authority, bossed the people around, and hurt many who had trusted them. Imagine the wounds in the worshipers’ hearts. I’m sure many, because of the abuse of authority, were no longer happy to honor God with their sacrifices and their worship.
It was those wounded hearts that God was concerned about. It was those mistreated, those who had become the objects of injustice. And he chose to ruin his own reputation in order to win back those hearts and bring justice for them.
Yes, many Israelite soldiers died. Yes, the ark was lost. Yes, the Philistines thought Yahweh was weak. Yes, even the Israelites were beginning to doubt.
But God had brought justice for those harmed by Phinehas and Hophni. And their hearts were on the road to being healed. And they would honor and love God once again, God their righteous judge.
I challenged the guys this morning with this thought: If God is so willing to ruin his reputation in order to restore his people to right relationship with himself, why do I place such little priority on that relationship?