March 20

1 Samuel 4-8, Psalm 79

James 4:8-10 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

All God ever wanted from the people of Israel was a relationship. He wanted the Israelites to love Him, trust Him, and rely on Him. After losing the initial battle, they should have sought the Lord. We read of this in 1 Samuel 4:2, “Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field.” Instead, they brought out the ark, like a good luck charm, we read of this in 4:3, “And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” Whenever we trust in any thing, including ourselves, rather than God, we can expect the same results as the Israelites had that day. Though we don’t have the ark today, there are many objects of worship which can cause us to get our focus off God. For certain religions there are rosary beads and little statues of saints, etc. But even elevating your pastor, your denomination, your particular Bible reading method, your particular way to pray, etc. can be a trap. God wants us to be Spirit-led daily. He wants to be in a fresh relationship, allowing Him to pour into us something fresh each day. Any relationship which follows a method or a program and is rigid will eventually become stale. Let us approach each day in His Word, excited to see what He will choose to do with us today.

Just as puzzling are the Philistines. A good rule of thumb should be if your god needs assistance, then it is not God. We read in 1 Samuel 5:3, “And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again.” But religion is so powerful, that they even revered the place where their fallen god, Dagon, landed in their temple (1 Samuel 5:5). This instead should have caused them to toss Dagon in the trash pile where it belonged and follow the One True God. So many of our friends, family and colleagues are entrapped in their own religion. I pray that we will all make the effort to reach out to them, ask them to join us in the One Year Bible Challenge, and in so doing, begin a true relationship with God, rooted in the Word of God.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Aaron Salvato