Summary: To climb back up the mountain of righteousness one must throw off complacency and embrace a genuine desire to seek and obtain forgiveness through confession. Turn from your evil ways, cry out to God for mercy and pray that He who summoned the enemy might also defeat them!
OVERCOMING THE ENEMY
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
We have all faced trials and tribulations in our lifetime that have been extremely painful. James 4:2-4 tells us to consider these trials pure joy because when we respond to trials by staying steadfast in the faith, our perseverance leads to spiritual maturity. We live in a fallen world and as such King Solomon states there is a high probability that, like this world, Christians will also go through difficult times (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Chance is not the only reason why a person might go through tribulations; discipline is the other reason (Hebrews 12:6). When we decide to wander onto the broad path of sin, God disciplines us in order to provoke repentance (Revelation 3:19) so that we might return to His embrace.
When one is faced by one of those gut-wrenching tribulations the first thing one should do is to pray to God for the wisdom (James 1:5) to know what kind of tribulation one is facing: a tribulation by chance that leads to spiritual maturity or a tribulation of discipline that leads to repentance. Today’s sermon is going to focus on the latter: discipline. While God prefers to mercifully get us back on the right path by disciplining us through His word (2 Timothy 3:16); when we refuse to give up our evil ways God will resort to pouring out His righteous wrath upon those He calls His own. This is exactly what happened to Israel in 1 Samuel 4-7.
Israel’s Journey to a Valley of Sin
To truly understand this passage in Samuel one needs to place it within its historical perspective. Going all the way back to Abram we find that God’s chosen people started out faithful and obedient. When called to go to an unknown, foreign land Abram chose to faithfully obey God and say YES to His request. Even though God promised to make Abram’s descendants into a great nation, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him to tell his family; after all they were not God-fearing people but Chaldeans who believed in multiple gods! To leave his family that were so dear to him to serve a God that was foreign to his people, is the reason why the author of Hebrews included Abram as one of the great hero’s of the faith!
Fast forwarding to Moses’ time, we find the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness in the presence of God. Descendent from Abram, Israel was God’s chosen people and as such He did not ignore their cries while in bondage but instead chose to crush her Egyptian captors with ten fierce plagues. In the wilderness, God choose to enter into a covenant with Israel, one in which they agreed to be a light and example of holiness unto the nations. In return God called them His people and chose to physically dwell in a human made tabernacle in their presence. Can you imagine the honor and privilege of being chosen as God’s light to the nations and having God physically dwell in your presence? No other nation except Israel received those kind of blessings in the Old Testament!
After Moses dies Joshua takes over as Israel’s leader and the children of Israel conquer the Promised Land. After Joshua dies the children of Israel were to remain obedient to God who was to be their king. Even with the blessings of Mount Gerizim and curses of Mount Ebal firmly established in their minds, Israel chose to firmly plant their feet on the path of their own selfish desires. Instead of keeping God at the center of their nation through their obedience to the covenant, Israel chose to do whatever was right in their own sight. In response to their disobedience God rose up unconquerable enemies all throughout the book of Judges to force Israel to repent and once again be brought back into the covenant as a faithful partner.
Fast forwarding to the time of the last judge Samuel, we find Israel is facing once again an unbeatable enemy, the Philistines. Instead of praying to God for wisdom to determine whether or not they were being disciplined by God, Israel decided to fight the Philistines. During the first attack Israel was defeated and lost about 4,000 men (1 Samuel 4:2). The elders decided to bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant into the next battle assuming that God’s mere presence would ensure victory! While the Philistines were initially afraid to be in the presence of the God who defeated Egypt, they chose to fight Israel and ended up slaughtering 30,000 of their soldiers. On that day Israel learned that the presence of God in an ark would not defeat their enemy. To win the war they would have to first invite God into their hearts!