Sunday, 3 March 2013

Except It Be Given

Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”
When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “We’re in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”
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. (1 Samuel 4:1-10)
Another seeming failure for God and his people. But if you know this story, you know that this is not the end. In fact, this temporary shame is the means of showing the Philistines - and ultimately Israel - who God is.

Like the elders of Israel, who thought bringing the ark of the covenant would force God's hand and guarantee them a win, I have reached time after time for everything any Christian every assured me was a surefire recipe for spiritual success...And like Israel, met with failure. God will not be conjured.

I am no less God's dwelling-place than was the great ark. It is God's business if I look to shame Him. I believe that He can redeem any failure, any loss.

I am coming to the place where I just have to accept what God gives. He is fighting me, and I cannot win. My begging for peace and power goes unheard. I can't change myself, can't trust, can't even pretend to be gracious while I'm "under construction". I am taunted by the "shoulds" that clatter against the glass of my soul. I am powerless to put them into practice, and they mock and judge me every hour of the day.

But there is One who does not mock. Jesus who died is full of mercy. His silence is sometimes terrible, but He does not blame. In the end, I will have what He gives me. I will be what He makes me.
A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (John 3:27)

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