Growing up as a kid I can remember watching the TV series “I dream of Genie.” Since that series there has also been the popular Disney movie Aladdin. Both the TV series and movie are built around the myth of finding a genie lamp. I know the TV series as a kid caused me to think about how I would use my three wishes if I was lucky enough to find a genie lamp. I wonder how many followers of God think of Him as their personal Genie?
My dramatic monologue as Samuel reflected on 1 Samuel chapter 4-7 this past week. One of the events from this passage that stood out to me was the army’s loss of the Ark of the Covenant. You can read the account here. The account speaks of the nation of Israel going to battle with their arch enemies, at the time, the Philistines. The outcome of the first battle was devastating with the loss of 4,000 men. I can only imagine the condition of morale at the end of the day. Now the text does not give us specifics, but I am sure that someone probably mentioned that they needed God’s help. I always find it amazing when we seek God after we have gotten ourselves into trouble. In other places in 1 Samuel we gain a glimpse that the nation had drifted in their relationship with God. Apparently, they had gotten tired of serving the Philistines and took matters into their own hands. What I believe they missed, and we often miss, is that our drift from God is often accompanied with difficulties. It is the result of the loss of God’s protection and blessing in our lives. While the text does not specifically state this, I believe it is a strong option for what is happening here.
So they needed God’s help. I am sure someone suggested the best way to do this was to get the god box. No, the Bible does not call it that, it is called the Ark of the Covenant. It is the place that God chose as the focal point for His people. It is interesting to note how they became like the pagan nations, treating their God like an idol or a genie to do their bidding. Their desire was for a game changer by enlisting the power of God for victory over their enemy. It is worth noting that there is no mention of worship and seeking God’s direction, just that they sent for the Ark to be brought to the battle front. The problem is that God is not in the box, and He never was. Also God would not be manipulated to do their bidding. The arrival of the Ark in the camp radically changed the morale from one of defeat to one of guaranteed victory. It even caused the Philistines to lose hope when they heard the noise of celebration and learned of the presence of the Ark. It was all for naught the Israelite army would lose the battle and a huge number of men and the Ark itself.
Running ahead of God is always problematic in our lives. It is especially dangerous when we are not walking with Him. Attempting to live contrary to His guidelines and how we want but then expecting God to bail us out does not work. Yes, God is there to forgive us our sins but He normally does not remove the consequences. He also does not normally swoop in to solve all our problems when we suddenly get spiritual at the moment of crisis. Well, we know there is no magic genie bottle and three wishes in life. God, however, is there to work in our lives and help us work our way out of the mess that we have created. He will use the process to help us grow stronger in our faith and closer to Him. Rather than waiting for the crisis, why not start working on your relationship with Him today?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson