One of the most enduring and captivating posters to pass before my eyes during my more than a decade of working in Christian retail was composed of an artist’s rendering of Jesus saying the words “I AM” with several and various Scriptural names and descriptors of God superimposed in the background. Many of these names of God, especially in the Old Testament, were derived from who He is and what He does. For instance: Elohim speaks to His role as Creator of all that is; Yahweh (or Jehovah) Raffa depicts Him as the LORD our healer; Yahweh (or Jehovah) Rohi describes Him as the LORD our Shepherd; Yahweh (or Jehovah) Tsidkenu tells of His being our righteousness; Yahweh (or Jehovah) Jireh proclaims Him as the LORD our Provider; and Adonai declares His Lordship over all that is and was and is to come. As much as I liked that artwork, an idea for another poster came across my mind just the other day. How about a poster with an artist’s rendering of Jesus that tells what God Will Not Be and Will Not Do? Perhaps it’ll never be popular enough to hit the shelves, and Lord knows I could never draw anything, but I think it’s a concept worth pondering for there are certain things that God is not and that He will not do. We will explore this concept of “God Will Not” in this month’s newsletter by looking at three events involving the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the Lord’s presence was seen to dwell in the Old Testament.
God Will Not Be Our Secret Weapon (1 Samuel 4:5-11)…The people of God were in one of their frequent confrontations with the Philistines. They were losing and wondered why the Lord was allowing, indeed ordaining, that they be defeated by their enemies. However, while the Israelites had the insight to know that God holds victory and defeat in the palm of His hand, they did not have the wisdom, or perhaps the courage, to look inside their souls and see that their greatest foe was the evil within, not the enemy without. They would not confess that they were idolaters and adulterers with hearts far away from the Lord and His holy word. Even their spiritual leaders, Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli the high priest, were corrupt to the core, doing what false teachers have done for time immemorial, running away with the offerings and running around on their wives. Eli, though a fairly godly man in his own right, lacked the fortitude to discipline his sons, caring more for his family name than for the Name of God! So, in the midst of an abundance of corruption and a lack of conviction, rather than seek the remedy of repentance for their ruin, the people of God instead paraded to the battle the “secret weapon” they thought could never fail. The Ark of the Covenant, the holy “box” where the presence of the Lord was promised to abide between the wings of the cherubim, was brought to the front lines. The people shouted with such a great shout as the Ark was brought into the camp that Scripture records that the “Earth resounded!” The Philistines heard the shout and, in a response that showed a greater fear of the Lord than the people of God possessed, became terribly frightened and declared among themselves that the God who had brought such devastation and plagues to the Egyptians was now against them. The pagan forces then encouraged one another to fight like never before lest they become the slaves of the Israelites. The Philistines did fight, and they won decisively. Thirty thousand Israelite foot soldiers perished, Hophni and Phinehas (and soon after Eli, their father) were among the dead, and the Ark of the Covenant was taken for enemy spoil! The people of God discovered that day what Samson found out when he thought he could still fight after giving away his secret (Judges 16:20), what the seven sons of Sceva ran into when they believed simply saying the name of Jesus would give them power to cast out demons (Acts 19:14ff.), and what those who claim to prophesy and work miracles but have no genuine knowledge of Jesus and His gospel will have revealed to them (Matthew 7:21-23)…GOD WILL NOT BE OUR SECRET WEAPON!
Yet, how many people today do think that God is their secret weapon. “John Doe Secret Weapon Christian” knows what “the good book” looks like, he’s been down to an altar once (maybe even twice!), he’s repeated the “sinner’s prayer”, maybe he’s even signed a membership card, and then there was that one day his heart was so warm that he dropped a dollar (maybe even two!) into the offering plate! Is he a regular and faithful part of a local congregation? No! Does he read his Bible and pray daily? No! Does his checkbook show that he cares about the spreading of the gospel? No! Do his coworkers know that he’s a Christian? No! Has he ever shared the Christian faith with anyone else? No! But find “John Doe Secret Weapon Christian” in a fix: the loss of his job; a death in his family; a divorce from his wife; a dire sickness in his body; or when it comes his own time to die; and he will call upon Jesus, at least in word, expecting he will find victory, not because he has genuinely been committed to Christ or even desires to be, but because he sees God as his secret weapon! Let me repeat…GOD WILL NOT BE OUR SECRET WEAPON!
God Will Not Be One Of Many Gods (1 Samuel 5:1-4)…The Philistines won the battle against the Israelites that day. They hadn’t expected to. They thought they would be defeated by the God who had wrought such great devastation on Egypt, the mega-world superpower of the day. But when they were victorious, the Philistines came to the ill-conceived conclusion that the God they had feared they had feared for no reason. The Deity the Israelites worshipped was no greater than Dagon, the god the Philistines had made with their own hands…or so they thought! The Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant and put it in their temple beside Dagon, their false idol. When they awoke the next morning they found Dagon lying prostrate on the ground before the Ark. So the Philistines did for Dagon what must be done for every idol, they propped him up. (*Now, just as a side note, one would think that if you served a god you had to stand back up, it might dawn on you that you had the wrong god!*) However, Dagon’s situation only grew worse for the next morning when the Philistines came into the temple they found their false god not only lying on the ground, but with the palms of his hands cut off! Through this display of power and subsequent plagues of death that befell them, the Philistines learned what the first commandment should have taught the Israelites…GOD WILL NOT BE ONE OF MANY GODS!
Yet, how many professing believers treat God as if He is merely one of many compartments of their lives. This “John Doe Many-gods Christian” maybe comes to church fairly frequently, prays and reads his Bible at somewhat consistent intervals, and perhaps gives something quite regularly into the offering plate. That having been said, most of his Christianity stops at the walls of the church or at the doors of his home. When standing around the water cooler he is just as likely to get in on the telling of the inappropriate jokes as anyone else. When going to work he’s just as prone as his coworkers to try and get away with doing the least while still complaining about being overworked and underpaid. The shows he watches on television or the movies he pays an increasingly extravagant amount to go see are just as R-rated and riddled with profanities and immoralities as those seen by people who profess no faith at all. This “John Doe Many-gods Christian” would tell you he’s a Christian, and he acts like one, at least in certain places and at certain times. He is who he needs to be when and where he needs to be it to give off the impression he wants the people in front of him to have at the time. His life is much more likely to affect his faith than his faith is to affect his life. God, the Bible, and faith, rather than being most important to him and impacting every area of his life, are just one area of his life that are on a separate and equal footing with many others. On judgment day, if not at some point in this life, he will find that GOD WILL NOT BE ONE OF MANY GODS!
God Will Not Ultimately Allow The Holy To Be Profaned (1 Samuel 6:1-21)…After the devastation of the plagues they experienced, the Philistines were anxious to return the Ark of the Covenant. (*I encourage you to read all of 1 Samuel chapter 6 so that you see how the Lord miraculously worked in specific ways to show the pagan Philistines that the destruction they had endured came from the hand of the one true and living God!*) The Israelites in the city of Beth-Shemesh were the ones to whom the Ark was returned. These were God’s people, they had heard of the commandments and of the law of Moses, they knew that the Ark of the Covenant was the most holy place and that only the high priest was to approach it and then only once a year. Yet, the people who were supposed to be God’s people did the unthinkable; they opened up the Ark of the Covenant and looked inside. The revelation they had of the Lord was much greater than that of the Philistines, and so too much greater was their accountability for breaking God’s law. The Lord struck down over 50,000 of the inhabitants of Beth-Shemesh and they discovered what all who fail to bow their knee in this life to the King of kings, what all who scoff and mock and use the name of Jesus merely as a byword will learn…GOD WILL NOT ULTIMATELY ALLOW THE HOLY TO BE PROFANED!
Yet, how many people claiming to be the people of God treat the holy as if it were profane (as if it were common). This “John Doe Profane Christian” does a lot of the things you’d expect a believer to do. He goes to church, reads his Bible, prays, and gives to the cause of Christ. (Or at least he has done all those things in the past anyway—until he grew out of the need for such a regular routine.) He knows some scripture and probably even thinks himself advanced in matters of spirituality and biblical knowledge. So advanced in fact that he begins to trivialize the importance of “not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together.” (Why should he be committed to being in church? Especially since he knows more than all those other people in the pews anyway!) He becomes so self-centered, so self-satisfied, and so self-confident that he looks down his nose at others thinking that his judgments are so sure that he can neglect the commands (not suggestions, but commands!) to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; to love your neighbor as yourself; and to love others in the family of God as Christ did. By not loving God and not loving the family of God this “John Doe Profane Christian”, who should know better, is living in utter profanity (as biblically defined) in that he is treating that which God calls holy as if it were common and that which is precious as if it were worthless. Pray to God he would repent for if it not he will surprisingly discover along with the people of Beth-Shemesh, GOD WILL NOT ULTIMATELY ALLOW THE HOLY TO BE PROFANED!