Summary: God cannot be conned to give you what you want.

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The urban dictionary classifies a hacker as: as someone who strictly pursues creature comforts through completely legal means that while frustrating to others; allow him to live his best life.

We are all hackers looking for shortcuts or ways to do things which are less stressful and more comfortable.

<need some examples of life hacks>

STRAWS - Holding Gold Chains during travel, creare vacuum plastic bags, make a whistle, pit a strawberry,

Life is hard enough so finding the fastest way to, or through, the obstacles of life seems like an appropriate subject in this covid reality we have found ourselves in.

So over the last few weeks, we have been sharing simple shortcuts to help you live your best life. We offered hacks on scripture, relationship, parenting, purpose. And this week another simple but not easy shortcut to God.

To talk about today’s shortcut, let’s turn to the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 4. While you are pulling it up on your electronic device, let me give you a little background.

First Samuel records the establishment of Israel's monarchy, about 1050 b.c. Samuel led Israel for many years in the combined roles of prophet, priest, and judge. After the people demanded a king like those of the other nations (ch. 8), God directed Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel's first king. When Saul turned from God, David was anointed by Samuel to succeed him. After David killed the giant Goliath, he was brought to Saul's court, eventually becoming the leader of Saul's armies. Saul's subsequent violent jealousy forced David to flee. The book closes with Saul's death in battle, and looks forward to David's reign. (ESV COMMENTARY)

We pick up the story today after Hannah, who was once barren, has given birth to a son and dedicated him to the Lord. His name was Samuel. The dedication meant Samuel was given in faith to the local priest, Eli to raise. Eli had two unfaithful sons who were active in the family business - local priests. However, they weren’t really called. They used God and his people for their own benefit. Eli knew the truth but enabled them by not calling them into account. They had all the prestige and none of the anointing. This would prove to be a problem when the leaders asked their advice about going to war with the larger Philistine nation. They knew the stories of victory and tradition but failed the relationship part.

The boys had advised the leaders to go to war. The first day did not go well. Verse 3 tells it all.

3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? 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.”

The ark of the covenant ( a powerful symbol of God’s presence) was the suggestion. They could not lose after all after, who can lose with God on your side. You can’t fail the logic. But knowing about God is different than having a relationship with God. So the boys go to war with an ancient relic that stopped the water flowing in the Jordan river, the box whose presence was there when the walls fell at Jericho, comes on to the scene. Let’s pick up the story in verse 10.

10 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. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

12 That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line ….

Sons are dead and ark of the covenant

18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led[b] Israel forty years.

19 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. 20 As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. 21 She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

The story reminds us we all can be persuaded in times of stress to live a life of rabbit’s foot theology. You remember “Rub the foot and get what you want.” Simply do this. Say this magic prayer. Sing some kind of song. Reenact some former moment in which God was actively present. Attend this kind of worship or that type of church. All of which present you as the director and creator of life. As if, you are in charge of the world. God will not be hacked.

He doesn’t exist for a country’s whims or desires.

He does not exist for your pleasure.

He will not be cajoled, guilted or forced into acting.

If you think so, please heed the warning, “The glory will depart from you.” You too will be born again but this time as an Icbod. We use another term around here at the Center. We call these individuals - “dones.” These are the folks who are done with religion and its practices. They tried the Sunday rules, the Wednesday bible studies, the small groups and the leadership groups only to discover God wouldn’t do what they wanted him to do, so they’re done. “God must not exist,” they say.

The truth is they never surrendered their lives to Him. They never surrendered to God wholly. Rather, they said they surrendered but they had an underlying hope of getting something they believed they needed. It might have been money, power, prestige, a situation to change, a consequence eradicated, a mate, a job or any of a million other desires. They were trying to hack God.

Scripture tells us over and over again to fear God. Our culture is not fond of the statement “Fear God or Fear the Lord.” We are taught early on to not fear anything or anyone because we know the Lord. The scriptural meaning of the word has two contexts.

For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31).

For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ’God is a consuming fire.’”

This reverence and awe is exactly what the fear of God means for Christians. This is the motivating factor for us to surrender to the Creator of the Universe.

Let’s be clear- Our God would rather be feared than used.

So if God is unhackable by us, what must we do to access God’s love and favor. A single word - surrender. An unhackable God who sees your heart. There is nothing you can do to be loved by God or favored. He already did everything for you. He came. He suffered. He died. He rose. He left behind His Spirit. He asks nothing but your surrender - repent of the old ways, offer your heart and then as we said last week, obey out of an understanding He first loved you.

A love and surender like the one detailed in the 1st chapter of Samuel by Sam’s mom’s Hannah. She was part of polyamorous marriage. Her counterpart was a passive aggressive bully who would throw her lack of contribution to the “family” in her face often. Her husband would try to appease her but his words were empty. However, she knew the Lord. She prayed and sacrificed and lived an obedient life in the midst of a terrible home life. Day after day. Night after night. For years, she would walk with God - praying and living in reverence. Her cries were so deep, she wouldn’t even whisper the request when she prayed with the Chief priest Eli.

“Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.

In doing so, she proved her heart and her faithfulness would be rewarded. The status of your heart is more important than your words. She would get pregnant with Samuel whom she did dedicate to the Lord by leaving him (3-4 years later) with Eli as she prayed and committed to. She would go on to have more children. However, it was Samuel who would witness to her love of the Lord.

In the same way, we are called to be with God - not to get what we want but to part of His plan. Are your desires a result of wanting to be a part of God’s will in the world? Have you ever prayed for His will and been obedient to the point having to lose part of yourself? Being obedient always requires a struggle between my will and God’s. When we choose the Lord’s way, we will have to sacrifice our will. A painful process for everyone but one that gets easier after consistently seeing the Lord move in our lives and the lives of those we love.

It’s a love so deep. He would demonstrate it for us. It’s one of the reasons we celebrate the table every week at The Center. Knowing He was about to be crucified, he stayed with the disciples, served them, and shared a dinner in which he outlined why He would allow himself to be crucified. The table transports us back to the meaning of His love love and obedience so as to remind us to do the same.