Summary: A sermon on being wholeheartedly honest and sincere when we come to God for forgiveness.
What it Takes to Fix a Broken Relationship
2 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.
3 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."
4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.
5 Then Samuel said, "Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you."
6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the LORD." And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.
8 They said to Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines."
9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.
11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us."
13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines. (NIV)
Well, when we left off last week, the nation of Israel had just suffered an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the Philistines. Not only had they lost 34,000 soldiers, but they had also lost the Ark of the Covenant, which was home to the presence of God. It was the resting place of God. It was place where God would come down from heaven and meet with man. And so, the Ark of the Covenant not only represented the presence of God. It also represented the relationship between God and Israel. In fact, it was named for the relationship between God and Israel. It was called the Ark of the “Covenant.” Or, the Ark of the “Agreement” God made with Israel, and Israel made with God, on Mount Sinai. And so, the Ark was God’s reminder to Israel that He existed, and that He loved them, and that they had a special relationship with Him.
And so, when the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines, it sort of symbolized the condition of their relationship with God at the time.
You’ve gotta understand, when the Israelites lost the Ark of the Covenant, they did more than just lose a religious object. They didn’t just lose an important part of their history. They, in effect, lost their relationship with God.
Now, this did not come as a surprise to God. In fact, God had predicted this would happen. Read with me in Deuteronomy 31, verses 16 and 17.
16 And the LORD said to Moses: "You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, ’Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?’ (NIV)
Wow! Does that not destroy some of the things you learned growing up in Sunday School? That doesn’t sound like the God we know, does it? An angry God? I thought God wasn’t mad at me no matter what? That’s what my phone book says!
But, that’s what it says. “I will become angry with them.” And get this…“and forsake them.” I thought God said He’d never leave us or forsake us! And yet, He did them. Will He not us?