God created man in his own image, but not necessarily in the physical sense (Genesis 1: 26-31; 2: 7). Man is created in God’s image in the spiritual sense because God is Spirit (John 4: 24). (Sure, whenever God visited man, it seems he took a human form and he did become flesh and blood as Jesus, according to Hebrews 2: 10-18 and 4: 14-16 and 1 John 4: 2, 3; but, that’s not likely his true nature.) Being created in God’s image didn’t make us gods, but we were instilled with some of his glory (Psalm 103: 14-16; Ecclesiastes 3: 19, 20; Psalm 8: 1-9).
When man sinned, that glory departed and our relationship with God at the spiritual level was broken because God and evil cannot occupy the same space (Genesis 3: 1-24). This has caused all the misery that’s befallen us. It isn’t God’s fault that things go wrong, it’s mankind’s fault. Sadly, problems will continue as long as the earth stands because sin will continue, even getting worse, until Jesus returns (Matthew 24: 12, 13; 2 Timothy 3: 13; 1 Peter 1: 3-9).
A particular series of events in Israel’s history describes a degree of how bad things can get when God’s glory departs and what we must do to minimize the problems and return to a glorious relationship with him (things could’ve been worse for Israel because God doesn’t treat us as we deserve – Psalm 103: 10-14). During the period of the judges, including Samuel’s lifetime, Israel’s religious leadership had deteriorated and, apparently, most of the people had followed suit, at which point God removed his glory from them (Judges 2: 6-19; 21: 25; Deuteronomy 12: 8-14; 1 Samuel 2: 1-36; 4: 1-22).
Losing the Ark of the Covenant was a shock to the people of Israel (you have to read the scripture passages to understand the points being made). While they mourned over their separation from God, it was sometime before they actually changed to get back on the right track in getting rid of the false gods that stood between them and God (1 Samuel 7: 1-6). Having done that, they were successful in battle but all was still not completely right, because even then, they still weren’t following God’s directives for proper worship (1 Samuel 7: 7-17). (Whatever happened to the wilderness tabernacle that was set up at Shiloh? Once Eli’s son’s removed the ark, it seems the tabernacle became obscure until Solomon built the temple about 100 years later – 1 Kings 8: 1-9.)
So, what can we learn from Israel’s experiences in 1 Samuel chapters 4 to 7? First, bad things happen when God’s people don’t follow his plan. We must be careful to pay attention to the details or things will start slipping away from us, like the tabernacle worship in Israel, or open respect for God in the USA (Hebrews 2: 1-4). Read the U.S. Constitution sometime to see that political correctness supports religious correctness – a promise Christians can live under without fear of breaking any law (Galatians 5: 22, 23; Romans 13: 1-7).
Second, things will not be right until we become completely righteous. That sounds like a tall order, but it’s really not that hard. We just have to remember where our help comes from – we have to go from “Ichabod (1 Samuel 4: 21)” to “Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7: 12)” and rely on the righteousness that comes to us from God by our faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3: 10, 21-24; Galatians 3: 26-28; 4: 6, 7; Acts 2: 38, 39; 1 John 1: 5-9). You see, God does all the work in this; our part is to submit to his power, taking advantage of his offer (Ephesians 1: 3-23; 2: 1-9; 3: 20, 21; Philippians 4: 13; 2: 12, 13; 1 Corinthians 3: 5-9; Colossians 2: 6-15).
Lastly, and this article hasn’t said much about the Philistines who took the ark, but they knew its value although they didn’t follow the God it belonged to. Consequently, they were inflicted with worse problems than the Israelites (1 Samuel chapters 5 & 6). If we presumptuously claim the blessings of God but don’t follow him, our fate will be the same. We’ll be blighted by our sin and destroyed as a nation.
We cannot come back as a nation until we come back as individuals, though. That means that returning to God as a nation has to start with you and with me. Once we get back on track, being recreated in God’s image, we also can look forward to sharing in his glory again (Colossian 3: 1-11; 2 Peter 1: 3, 4; 1 Corinthians 15: 47-49).
Are you ready, Christians? “Let’s roll (Todd Beamer, 9/11/01)!”
Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ