Hidden in Plain Sight
Fact: Children are always hungry.
It doesn't seem to matter in our household whether they have just eaten a full meal, had multiple snacks, and are awaiting dinner coming out of the oven momentarily--they still want something to eat.
Yesterday, my husband came home with some protein and snack bars. Shortly after, my youngest son, who is five, came bouncing and dancing down the stairs to me, one of the snack bars in his hand. Still cavorting, he made his plea (moments before dinner time, I would add): could he have the bar? Knowing that he has especial difficulty with a “no” response when he is hungry, but further knowing that he would struggle to eat whatever was healthy of his dinner if I acquiesced to his pleas, I thought I came up with a great idea. I told him that he could hide the bar for snack time tomorrow.
You see, in a house of seven kids, you never know if the food item you want so badly will be there if you wait. Maybe someone else will take it, and by the time you have patiently waited for it comes, it may be gone, with no trace of evidence for who might have indulged.
My son was very pleased with this idea, and happily went running off to find the perfect hiding spot where no one could find his anticipated treat.
This morning my husband stopped on his way out of our closet, and noticed our empty metal laundry basket, sitting on the concrete floor against the wall. Behind it, and clearly showing through it, were the bright red and orange colors of the wrapped snack.
Hiding in plain sight.
In his little five year old brain, this was sufficient. As adults, we can clearly see that his hiding place and method were not sufficient to keep others from finding them, but sometimes we, if we're honest, find ourselves doing the same thing. Hiding in plain sight.
I have been reading through the Genesis narrative, the Creation, and the garden of Eden. This morning, I had come to the story of the Fall. Adam and Eve had been placed in a perfect garden, full of beauty, joy, and full satisfaction. There was not a single need that was not filled. The couple enjoyed the very Presence of God every day. God had given them one commandment only: They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or they would die.
The serpent came to Eve, and in this timeless story, beguiles her into eating the fruit. He tells her that God is holding out on her. He tells her that she needs this, and tries to convince her that she is not satisfied or complete without having both this beneficial fruit, as well as the special knowledge that comes with it.
Eve justified to herself that the fruit would satisfy her bodily appetite (good for food), regardless of the fact that all of her bodily appetites were already met. She told herself that it satisfied her desire for beauty (though she had been surrounded by beauty). She convinced herself that it would give her knowledge to control, as she assumed, her own destiny (rather than trust her Creator to provide), she took it and ate it, and gave it also too her husband, Adam, to eat.
When they ate it, the Scripture says that “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made for themselves coverings.” Gen. 3:7.
They traded wholeness, satisfaction, and security in an all-powerful, all-good and all-knowing God for a lie. A lie that left an emptiness, exposure and an acute realization of their need and hunger for all things from that point forward. No longer were they satisfied. No longer were they warm and well fed. No longer could they delight in the beauty that they had. Now, they would be constantly craving their needs for food, shelter, clothing, sexual appetites, beauty, knowledge, and security.
Their eyes were opened.
Since that day, there is not a one of us who hasn't fallen for the same lie. We have all left the God-given gifts of provision, beauty and future that He created us to have in Him to pursue our own covetousness appetites.
We have all “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things, rather than the Creator.”
And it's so easy to do!
King Solomon had everything. He spent his lifetime building up knowledge, wisdom, wealth, wives, food, armies, security, palaces, and a reputation that spanned the globe. In Ecclesiastes, though, we find that the only result was that he proved to himself and to the rest of us that none of this inner craving can ever be satisfied even with a lifetime of pursuit. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” he said. It's all worthless. It doesn't fill the inner need. “...the eyes of man are never satisfied.” Prov. 27:20b
We find that pursuing our goals, ambitions, and even needs are an endless occupation. A constant striving within our contexts at which we never “arrive.”
And then, as we look around us and find our focus zeroing in on what we lack, we “sew for ourselves fig leaves,” temporary and grossly insufficient ways to protect and cover ourselves from what we have no control to change or prevent.
We try to save up our monies in our investments, to ward off poverty. We gather friends from our acquaintances, to ward off loneliness. We seek intimate relationships to fill an unsatisfiable craving for intimacy, sexuality, and companionship. We collect household items, makeup, and clothing to try to satisfy our craving for beauty. We collect toys or tv subscriptions to ward off boredom. We seek addictive substances to dull the emptiness and to help us forget our pain and dissatisfaction with life. We even try to do good things to cover our shame and substitute good for the wrong we have done. But none of these “fig leaves” cover us.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
We find that none of this takes away the constant craving and need.
So we hide. Our guilt at our own rejection of the goodness and provision of a loving God seeks a hiding spot. Using His own provisions with which He has surrounded us, we retreat from His presence, hoping to escape the disappointed eye and just condemnation that must surely follow our rejection of His good gifts. Hoping to blend in, camouflaged from the “eyes of Him to whom all must give an account.” Heb. 4:13
But just like my dear little son's idea of a hiding spot, so is our pathetic attempt to hide from His Presence!
I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
“and not a God far away?
Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.
When I was very little, my grandma would come to watch my older brother and I. He loves to remind me of the particular time when I had found some very old and thoroughly bloomed Easter candy chocolate eggs in our basement still hidden in a dusty corner. My brother had a high sense of truthfulness and rule-following, but I did not. He knew the story of Adam, and there was no way he would partake with me of this forbidden fruit. Not that I would have offered.
No, this candy was found by me, and I was determined to hold on to my findings. He ran immediately to tell Grandma, who, at my denial and our subsequent fighting, most likely felt out of her element to unravel the justice of the story. So I remember that she sent us both to sit on the davenport. I thought she must mean the front porch, and after some confused looks and questions, she explained that “davenport” meant the sofa.
We both dutifully sat down on either end of that davenport. I kept very quiet and studied to keep an innocent face while Grandma talked to us. But as soon as she left the room, I took the sofa pillow that was on my side, and buried my face behind it. My brother, sensing my guilt, and knowing my devious mind, immediately changed his voice pitch to a higher octave, and called incessantly to Grandma, hoping desperately to have her come and catch me in the act, justifying his claim. When she walked into the room, I once again pulled my face out of the pillow, to face his accusations with innocence. I didn't know that the chocolate spread out over my face betrayed my guilt to the eyes of my Grandma.
Our hiding from God is a hiding in plain sight. He sees all, and He knows all. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Heb. 4:13
But just as with Adam and Eve, He comes to us in our sin. He draws near, because He still loves and cares for us. He knows that we have “all sinned and are fallen short of the glory of God.” In His love, He wants to freely justify us with His grace, with the blood covering of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.
As Paul told the Gentiles in Acts 17:27, “God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” He comes close, and He calls you by name. “Adam, where are you?”
He knows where you are today. He knows what you've done. He sees you in your pathetic attempts to cover your shame, failures, and sin. He has watched you try to find satisfaction in everything He knows can never give you what you crave.
Jesus comes near to you, and He calls you.
“Where are you?”
Your Creator made you for one ultimate, satisfying, intimate and every-need-fulfilling relationship with Him. He draws near and calls you out of your sin, because He intends for you to seek him, reach out to Him, and find him.
God's love for us in our sin is to great that He chose to demonstrate it in the deepest way possible. “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Jesus, God in flesh, came down to dwell with us, to walk with us, and to draw near to us. Jesus said of His own sacrificial reaching, “But I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to myself.”
God didn't leave Adam and Eve hiding, naked, in the bushes. They chose to walk out of their sin, out of their hiding, and to place themselves under God's judgment. The good God who could have justly condemned them forever, instead made a sacrifice to clothe them, and gave them a promise of His final redemption through Jesus' blood that they could look forward to in hope.
I used to think that their banishment from the garden, and from the Tree of Life, was only a further punishment. But now I know that it was the beautiful, loving mercy of God. It symbolized the promise that He would protect them from living for eternity with the shame and brokenness of the past. Instead, they would live out this life, and then shed their bodies for a new life in Him that could never be broken again.
Just as God made a blood sacrifice in the Garden to clothe them, He provided a blood sacrifice for us in Jesus. Jesus' blood is our covering, our clothing, that brings us back into a full and restored relationship with an intimate and loving God. Rather than “setting our minds on earthly things,” which can never really cover our shame or satisfy our craving, through His blood we are now “hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3
Through Jesus' blood, we are no longer hiding in sin, we are now hidden in God.
But what about our earthly needs? Oh, He knows! Our “heavenly Father knows that we need all these things.” Matt. 6:28-34. As we seek His righteousness and His kingdom first, He provides all that we truly need in His perfect timing and perfect way, but without the emptiness and pain that comes from seeking our own way. “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.” Prov. 10:22.
I have known too often the painful labor and sorrow that comes with trying to build my own kingdom apart from His. But the richness of life in His Presence, is something that cannot be taken away or marred, no matter what my circumstances or surroundings are.
So what will you do with the Presence of God?
When you sense His approach, when you hear His voice calling you out of your worthless shame, guilt and pursuits, will you come out of your hiding? Will you let Him replace your fig leaves with His righteousness?
Will you let Him restore you to a relationship that satisfies your every desire?
Fixing Our Focus
I wish that lessons didn't need to relearned.
It would be wonderful if I could understand a principle of God's character in one moment, and never find myself questioning that principle in another. Sometimes my response is so much more godly than at other times. Some days are easy to walk in faith and simple trust and rest in God's plan for my life, and other days are much more difficult, even when dealing with the same part of my story.
I thank God that He uses both to teach us and to share our lessons with others!
A few years back, when our children were all very little, I was expecting our last baby. My husband's construction business was small and much more fragile (although it still feels small and fragile to us!). With construction business failure rates at 53% on average, and rising statistically every year in business, it was an intimidating task, even with as much experience as my husband had.
At the time we were in a personal business recession, finding that as our company grew, so did our overhead, and it became difficult to bid low enough to compete in the construction market while still paying our employees with their families enough to adequately provide.
Stretched to our limit, we searched for bids that could potentially keep us afloat, and our employees paid.
It was during this time that a contractor took advantage of us. This is very typical in the construction industry, whether with homeowners, subs, employees, or contractors. We ended up with a large contract that took the entire summer to complete, non-payment of the contract, promises to help that were never realized, and a debt that ate up an entire years' income. By the time our baby was born, with his emergency c-section and NICU expenses to pay, we were upwards of $100,000 in debt.
It was a long year, and it was hard not to feel that gut nausea most days, wondering if the Lord really would provide for us as He promises to, or if somehow we were messing things up and He would leave us in that mess.
We prayed a lot, and some days our prayers were more like inward groans.
And God heard our prayers.
After the birth of our last baby, the Lord gave us a bid that had a mistake in their blueprints, though we didn't know it at the time of the bid. My husband bid it according to the blueprints, and then they cut out some of the blueprint requirements that were not necessary to code. If you know general contracting in commercial departments, you know that the bid often remains the bid, regardless of errors made with the engineer or architect.
Because of that error, we ended up with enough to pay back everything we had owed. It was a blatant and joyful deliverance by God, and one that I never expected and will never forget. In my mind, I set up an Ebenezer, to remind myself of God's faithfulness in my need.
You would think that I wouldn't need that constant reminder, but I find myself frequently needing to go back to that and many others stones of remembrance in my life in order to have faithful actions in my next season.
This morning was one such moment. Last summer our family and home survived the Beatchie Creek wildfires in Oregon, for which we praise God! Months later, though, we are still dealing with a lack of a kitchen coupled with an insurance company that doesn't wish to pay out all the expenses of an expense fire claim in order for us to restore our kitchen cabinets and flooring.
As a homeschooling mother with so many children, I find this situation to be very stressful. As an added element, we don't have any assurances as how long or even if we will be able to restore our home to functionality.
So once again, I could feel the anxiety rising up in me. But God is so good. He knows how to correct our faulty focus. As I turned in my devotions this morning to 1 Samuel 8, God convicted my heart about my need for an focus adjustment.
The story takes place during the time of the judges, before any kings in Israel. Samuel had been righteously judging the people since his boyhood, but his sons were becoming corrupt and taking bribes (1 Samuel 8:4-5). In addition, the Israelites were facing the threat of the Ammonites and war (1 Samuel 12:12).
Rather than ask for Samuel to discipline or replace his sons with godly judges, the people felt that the entire system was at fault, and if they could only have a different system and a different leader, specifically, like those of the other nations, their enemies, then their problems would be solved.
When we find ourselves facing oppression within and without,
it is a temptation to focus on fixing the system rather than to fix our focus.
Part of my struggle with our situation was feeling like I needed to find a way to make our insurance company do what they are contracted to do, rather than go to God to provide for our needs. When we were being taken advantage of before, we were too little and too small to ever make such a large company pay us. We had no resources for court or attorneys. But when we relied on God, He provided for us regardless of others' right or wrong choices.
I see this happening with our government systems all the time. On social media and news we see so much anger, resentment and fear at this or that unjust or corrupt system or person with authority. We sometimes feel that if we could just switch out the system for a “better” one, or the person in charge for someone we feel is less corrupt, then our problems would be solved.
While voting and trying to improve or reform our country's systems is a good and worthwhile thing to do, we must come to understand that the corruption and problems with our system and systems of authority are only symptoms of a heart issue with us as a people.
God may and does use government authority and systems to bless and administer justice, but He is not limited by them. He often loves to choose what we think least able to help or provide to be the way that He takes care of us and shows His glory and power.
When the people came to Samuel in chapter 8, they made their excuses. They asked for a replacement. And Samuel was upset.
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” 1 Sam 8:6
Samuel wasn't offended that they would bring up his children's sins. He was upset that they wanted to change the judge system for a monarchy like all the other nations. He knows that he has served them faithfully and without taking a bribe, and yet the people have decided not to trust him or God to deal justly with his sons' corruption. At Saul's coronation, Samuel protests this ill treatment of his decades of service:
...I am old and gray-headed, and look, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Here I am. Witness against me before the Lord...: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind my eyes? I will restore it to you.” And they said, “You have not cheated us or oppressed us, nor have you taken anything from any man’s hand.” 1 Samuel 12:2-4
Regardless, rather than stay angry or bitter at their rejection, Samuel had learned to take his frustrations to God. When he prayed, the Lord told him to let the people have their king and monarchy, because they were not rejecting Samuel's service, but rather God's. He reminded Samuel of the Israelite's tendency to forsake Him and turn to other gods to give them prosperity and security, and that they were simply doing this again.
He does give Samuel two more instructions: he is to solemnly forewarn them and he is to tell them what a king will do to them (1 Samuel 8:1-9).
In Deuteronomy God had given a prediction of this very event in demading a future king, and given laws and warnings for the monarchy when it would happen (Deut. 17:14-17). As we see about the laws governing slaves, polygamy and divorce, it wasn't that these ideas and a monarchy were how God originally created the world in goodness, but rather a set of governances to check the power of sin for a world that would, in their hardness of heart, choose things that went against God's original heart intent to do good for mankind (Matthew 19:8).
At Saul's coronation, Samuel obeyed the Lord's instructions. He reminded them of God's faithfulness in His deliverance out of Egypt. He reminded them of God's faithfulness with Gideon against Commander Sisera. He reminded them of their very own need in Samuel's story for God's salvation, when they had turned away from the Philistine idolatry to plead for God's deliverance from the Philistines, and of God's faithfulness to send the judges to rescue them from their enemies every time they returned with genuine repentance to the Lord:
And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety. And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king.
Their sin was in asking for a king because they no longer trusted in God to protect or prosper them. They believed that their oppression was a result of an inadequate leadership system, the judges and of Samuel's corrupt sons, rather than a need for repentance and sincere seeking of God on their own part. They replaced the Philistine idol worship of the previous generation with an idolatrous monarchical worship. While the previous generation had worshiped the idols of their enemies the Philistines, this generation wanted to worship and set up for themselves a replication of their enemies' monarchies.
We worship by serving and trusting in any thing or one
we believe will supply us with provision and security.
In my own heart, I have noticed that when my anxiety levels rise it is a good symptom, much like our bodies' nervous system with pain, to let me know of a deeper problem that needs to be fixed. Whether it is anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, bitterness, and many more negative emotions, if we bring those feelings or wrong reactions to the Lord, His Spirit is faithful to show us the deeper heart issue that the symptom is exposing. The circumstances only allow us to have an ideal condition in which whatever is in our hearts comes to the surface.
In 1 Samuel 12, Samuel obeyed God's instruction by reminding the people that no leadership system will supply them with safety and security without the people sincerely serving and obeying God's voice. If they obeyed God, whether with a king, or with a judge, they would be able to count on God's help. Conversely, without obedience to the Lord, they would be oppressed by both their enemies and their king, putting them in an even more difficult position, since a king would have much more power and authority to hurt them than had any judge.
“Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen and whom you have desired. And take note, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers. 1 Samuel 12:13-15
When we are obedient to serve and worship only God,
He will be our Helper no matter what.
At that point in Samuel's rebuke, I hope I would have wanted to take back my request. Sometimes God gives us this opportunity to take back our demands when we repent, but sometimes he lets us walk out the consequences of our own requests because we aren't changing our wrong heart focus: “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:15
After inaugurating Saul as king, Samuel informed the people that they would see God's power and control over the whole universe. It was during the time of the harvest, and the voice of God sent thunder and rain, which would have destroyed their crops.
The people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel, and realized their error. They asked for Samuel to pray for them for the sin of rejecting God as their king and demanding a king to replace Him (1 Samuel 12:16-19).
God had mercy on His people, and Samuel told them not to be afraid. They had sinned greatly, but if they served the Lord with all their heart, He would still help them:
...And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” 1 Samuel 12:20-25
On the surface, this seems like such a simple, uncomplicated commandment, but I find it quite difficult! I even notice that little things, like a stove, or a laptop or printer becoming non functional when I think I need them, show where I am placing my true dependence. When I become irritable or impatient, I can trace those feelings back to on what or who I am placing my trust.
When my kids fail to “perform” in public or at the grocery store, and display my parenting weaknesses to all, I can be challenged to place my reputation, identity and self-worth back where it belongs—in God's hands. When someone I am counting on is late or doesn't keep their commitments, I find that I am challenged to remember that it is God who is my provision and my source of joy and rest. When my vacation plans fall through, and God's provision of rest comes in less “fun” methods than I would prefer, it can challenge my focus.
I do find, though, that the Lord will “fix my focus” when I obey Him by considering all the deliverance God has given me in the past, and realizing that the God I serve is still all powerful, still loves me and will continue to help me.
When we consider the great things God has done for us,
He fixes our focus for the future!
The Apostle Paul, when speaking of his many sufferings and difficulties in ministry, used this same concept of considering what great things the Lord had done for him in order to walk in faith for current and future suffering:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
What is it for you? What or who do you find yourself focusing upon or serving? What symptoms can you identify that will help identify a wrong focus? What deliverance has God given you in your past that you can consider?
“Consider what great things He has done for you.”
1 Samuel 12:24
Our Stone of Help
My youngest daughter looked at the floor and collapsed in tears. Clutching one of my shirts for comfort, her thumb sought her mouth. She inhaled slowly and deeply the scent that lingered in the blouse, and I watched her eyes glass over. As I have watched so many times before, she retreated deep inside her soul to escape the inevitable task before her.
Breakfast smells were wafting up the stairs, and the sound of kids stirring about the house getting ready for the school day reached us.
In front of her lay the contents of her entire dresser, dirty laundry, and toy chest. The bookshelves also had had their contents strewn about the floor. Since the first task of the day in our home is to tidy our rooms before heading down to breakfast, she knew that there was no getting out of the project. And yet it overwhelmed her.
Sitting down with her, I let her lean against me for a few moments, burying her face and escaping reality for a little longer.
In the land of Israel during the time of the Judges, the people faced a similar dilemma, but with much more serious implications. They had just been defeated before their enemies the Philistines. Contrary to wisdom, they had brought the Ark of God into the battle, and what they thought would be His forced Presence and victory. But since they had been refusing to change their actions in repentance, God would not hear them.
Instead, the Philistines routed the Israelites, captured the Ark, and jubilantly carried it away. In chapter 6, we see that because of the Philistines' own sin and idolatry, maintaining the Ark in their land only brought judgment, so they sent it back to the land of Israel on an ox-led cart.
When the Israelite men of Beth Shemesh found it, they were so curious that they wanted to look inside it, totally disregarding the Law (Numbers 4:15). When they did so, God struck down 50,070 people. They responded:
“Who is “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? And to whom shall it go up from us?” So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down and take it up with you.” Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.1 Samuel 6:20-7:2
They knew God was powerful. They knew what he required. But rather than getting rid of the things that caused His righteous judgment so that they could have His Presence and help, they became afraid of a God who had that much power. They went from disrespect for His holiness to terror, deprivation and separation.
Sin leads us to oppression, terror, and despair, and separation.
Over twenty years' time, though, God was still working on their hearts. Oppressed by their enemies, depressed by their constant defeat and captivity, their hearts began to long for the saving Presence of the only One would had the power to change any of it.
In Hebrew, the word, “lament,” means to wail and groan. They were finally coming to a sincere acknowledgment of their sin and need for the Lord to have their full hearts. They were now recognizing their need to be “heard by God.”
In 1 Samuel 1, we find that God had already started the process of redemption when he gave Hannah a little boy who she named Samuel, which means, “God has heard.” God always anticipates repentance with a calling. He knows how to bring repentance about, and He anticipates that by calling those who will be ready to show the way back to Him when we are ready. Samuel, who had walked in obedience to God from boyhood, was ready to call them to the freedom, blessing and Presence that he had experienced throughout his life:
Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, there put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. 1 Samuel 7:3-4
What is interesting to me here, is that the very idols they were serving and trusting in were the idols of their enemies that they were being oppressed by, the Philistines. In those times, and I think this is true today, they felt that if there was dominating military or economic power, it was due to their gods giving them success. So in fear or in desire for prosperity, they would try to mimic the worship of the idols of whatever nations were prospering, especially if if was an enemy of whom they were afraid.
When we come to Jesus Christ to ask for salvation from our enemy, sin, death and the devil, we can't be heard by God until we put away our worship of those very things. For us, idolatrous worship of our enemies looks like serving our lusts and appetites so that we can be successful in possessions, secure in finances, reputation or job positions. It looks like reacting out of fear of death or suffering or rejection by choosing sin to gain this security and relationship. Lies, treachery, divorce, slander, theft, drug use, adultery, fighting, these are ways that we dishonor God and prevent Him from hearing us and giving us victory over the very things we fear and are enslaved to. The result is that we lose will not hear us: “If I regard sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18
In 1 John 1:9, though, we find the promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Because of Jesus' death on the cross for our sins and resurrection from the dead for our new life in Him, “through death He [destroyed] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release[ed] those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:15
What beautiful gospel news! We can choose to despise and disrespect God, and live without Him in captivity to sin and death; we can choose to fear God and judgment, and remain in our sin and terror; or we can choose to turn away from useless idols that cannot save or hear to the living God who wants to both hear us and save us from our bondage and fear!
The good news of repentance through Jesus
frees us to dwell in relationship with a God who hears and saves.
But the good news is not the end, there is still some “house cleaning” that God wants to get done before we are ready to face our enemies on the battlefield. God doesn't just want to bring us into relationship with Him, He wants to restore us to abundant and victorious living!
After a few moments of sitting with my little girl in her messy room, we got up together and I stayed with her. I had never expected her to clean the entire mess on her own. At her age level, I knew she needed my constant help to not give up and to know how to sort it all out. We worked together to put the toys away. The books got sorted and put on the shelves, ready to be enjoyed again.
Since she enjoys smelling things so much, I gave her the job of smelling and examining the clothing to see where it would belong—the dresser or the dirty laundry pile. We took the load of laundry down, washed it, folded it, and put it back into the dresser.
Why did we do all of that work? Why not just leave the dirty clothes on the floor? As parents the answer is easy, but our kids still need to learn it: When it is washed and folded and put away properly, it is ready to be used.
Samuel knew this too. Even though the people had put away their idols, there was still so much that had not been resolved in relationship with one another that needed to be sorted out, disciplined, and reset for living together in righteousness and healing.
And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah. 1 Samuel 7:5-6
During the time of the judges in Israel, there was no king or standing army to enforce the judgment that Samuel was doing. In addition, with his judgments, he would be giving out consequences for wrong behavior and requiring those who were guilty to restore to their victims what had been ruined. The people were voluntarily submitting themselves to the Lord's correction and discipline.
When we come to know Jesus as our Savior, He also must become our Lord and Judge. This process or submitting our whole lives under His scrutiny is sanctification. When we finally let Him be in charge, He sorts through our lives gradually, allowing us to “smell our dirty clothes,” and to get them ready to be used for good again, the way He originally intended us to be: “for by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14
Our submission to Jesus' Lordship and sanctifying work
gets us ready to be used!
When we come to God, His goal is not just to get rid of what is bad, but to restore to His original intention for us in His creation! He wants to bless us, and to cause us to be a blessing (Gen. 12:2):
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10
You may have been living in defeat and despair in areas of your life. Maybe it was a relationship that you kept failing in. Or perhaps in your thought life that you faced continuous defeat. Sometimes they are addictions that make us feel hopeless. It could be a pattern of destructive criticism that you can't seem to break out of on your own.
While we live in submission to sin, appetites and fear, the enemy is not afraid of us. It is when we place our lives under the Lordship of Christ that the enemy gets terrified and feels he has to stop us:
When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel had gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it,they were afraid of the Philistines. So the children of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him. Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. Then the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered its territory from the hands of the Philistines. Also there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 1Samuel 7:7-16
When their enemy had heard of their repentance, the Philistines knew the God of Israel would hear His repentant people and start giving them victory. This battle was a last ditch effort to make the people of Israel afraid of obeying God. The Philistines thought that if they came en masse and showed a big, scary front, the people of Israel would do what they had always done before: cower, submit, and go back to captivity. But this time, the people of God's repentance and faith were complete.
Under Jesus' Lordship,
we should expect opposition, victory and complete restoration.
Because of Israel's determination to trust God and rely on Him to help them defeat their enemies, God gave them a complete victory in the very place where they had previously taken their debilitating defeat. As Ebenezer was the place of their defeat, so Ebenezer became their place of victory. Their Stone of Help.
Over the course of Samuel's lifetime, God gradually restored everything to His people that had been previously taken, restored peace to their land, and restored justice and righteousness in their country.
In our lives we have seen God restore broken relationships, addictions, families, churches and finances. We have seen Him heal hearts, bring freedom, joy and peace, and save us both in our problems as well as out of our problems. When we have cried out to Him from a place of submission, we have seen His hand work to deliver us again and again. We record these times as our "Stone of Help," memorials to show our children of the faithfulness of God to save.
I pray that you will trust in Christ to be both your Savior and your Lord. I pray that you submit yourself to His authority and judgment. And I pray that as you do so He will give you complete victory and restoration in all of your territory.
I look forward with joy to seeing your "Stone of Help," and to hearing your story!
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
No Smell of Smoke
Today we took a walk behind our house, looking around us at the layered mountain ridges outlined in fog, charred stumps, and blackened earth. We didn't walk far.
Our usual routine is to walk a ways and then stop and sit on the logs and look around at our mountain view. But today, there was no place to sit. Every stump and log was still blackened with soot, and the charred oils in every stump would have stained our clothes.
As we came down through the scorched hillside back to our house, my son and I noticed the few little trees that had survived the heat and flames of our Canyon fire. They were all along the path.
First one, then another, and the more, with two black lines skirting in stark contrast along either side of the path. They were small trees that had been planted before the fire, but had lived through it unharmed.
It reminded me of one of my favorite passages that the Lord has brought to my mind many times when we have walked through trouble:
"But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
God doesn't promise us that our life will be free from pain, difficult and weakness, but he does promise to be with us and to bring us through these things "unharmed".
When I was little, I thought that meant I wouldn't suffer or live the pain of broken relationships, betrayal, oppression and dishonor. I didn't understand that when Jesus lived that life for me, He was also calling me to follow His example for love of others.
Now that I know Jesus better, I understand that when these painful things come, He will protect my spirit from bitterness, hatred, and pride, and give me the freedom to live life in the sweetness of His Spirit....of what is first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." James 3:17
My prayer for you today is that you live and abide in Jesus, under the covering of His precious blood, and come through each fire "unharmed." That the beauty of Christ would shine through you, so that when others see you walk out of your fire, they will say, "their hair was not singed, their clothes were not burned, and there was no smell of smoke on them." Daniel 3:27
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.