Is Your God in a Box?

"Now what do we do with it?"


Ever work hard to get something because you are certain it will make your life better---and it turns around and bites you?


The book of I Samuel recounts the somewhat humorous story of the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant. They thought if they had that box, all their wildest dreams would come true.
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They'd heard the legends. Who hadn't? The Philistine Chronicle had run front page headlines for years about those Israelites and their God. All the miracles. All the help. Winning wars when they were way outnumbered...
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The Philistines had scratched their heads for years trying to figure out how to get that kind of help, and then--Low and behold!--the Israelites themselves provided the perfect opportunity.
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The war wasn't going so hot for the Israelites, so they got the bright idea that what they needed was the Ark in battle with them. Notice, they didn't invite God, only his symbol. They didn't ask God's direction or humble themselves and repent. Nothing like that. All they wanted was a symbol of God. An icon. That would be good enough.
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And they lost badly! Not only did they lose the battle, but the Ark was captured by the enterprising Philistines who were doing the happy-dance over their great fortune. Now all that power would be at their disposal!
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If God could be contained in a box, then they were right. They would own God and the Arabs would have been fighting over the Promised Land with the Philistines all these years instead of the Israelites.
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But now they had the Magic Box! Success was in their front yard. They could see the headlines now: Philistine Victory Assured!
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But wherever the Ark of the Covenant came to rest, the whole town broke out in boils. Suddenly, each town couldn't pass it on fast enough. They played Hot Potato with the Ark until the plague had infected the last city and the leaders started screaming at each other. "We don't want it! What do we do with it? Please, somebody...take it back!"
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They finally sent it back to Israel on an ox cart and the Israelites were so delighted to see it that they promptly (choose one)

a. bowed down and worshiped God.

b.repented of their sins on the spot.

c. ripped open the sacred Ark and gawked at the contents.
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If you guessed other than C, you need to read I Samuel 4-6. Seventy arrogant Israelites took it upon themselves to peek inside, directly contrary to the stated law of God---and God took their lives for their insolent disobedience. Apparently, they'd all gotten it wrong about the Magic Box. The power was not theirs to contain or to use for their own purposes.
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Now, the question to you: Where is your God?
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In our sophisticated Christianized culture, it's popular to admit that you believe in God. Sounds nice. Sound like you're spiritual and deep. And as long as you don't get specific about Who this God is, most people respect you for it.
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But do you ever substitute an icon for the real presence of God?
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You can see it when others do it, but what about you?
  • Do you go through your Christianized ritual and call it following God?

  • Do you give a glance at your daily Bible reading, offer a desperate prayer to the ceiling when you're in trouble, show up at church when you're supposed to...and wonder why in spite of your clear devotion, plague infects your life?

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After all, the Magic Box is in your possession. So, why isn't it working?

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We have whitewashed examples of icon-worship sitting on the street corners of every western city. "I'll go inside this special building, light a candle, talk to the preacher/priest/rabbi, toss an extra bill in the offering plate and maybe I'll get the power of God back in my life."

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God cannot be contained in a box, in a church building, or within the stuffy confines of man's ideology. When we try to use Him for our personal gain, as did both the Philistines and the Israelites, it is to our detriment. We're put on this earth for God's glory and pleasure---not the other way around.

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So where is your God? Are you trying to keep him confined to only certain days of the week or specific areas of your life? Do you think of him as your personal genie who's not always reliable?

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Take a lesson from I Samuel.

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God is not mocked. Just ask the moaning, boil-covered Philistines or the widows of the seventy arrogant Israelites. There is no Magic Box. There is no substitute for the awesome presence of the Living God working wonders within a repentant heart.

Would you really want there to be?

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