A few days ago, God showed me something in scripture that I had never seen before. I felt a strong impression from the Lord to read the first three chapters of 1 Samuel. This is a very familiar passage of scripture for me, I have read it countless times before. This time I knew something was going to be different. My eyes began to read a very familiar story, except this time I started to notice something, a pattern if you would.
The Scriptures introduce us to four main characters; Eli, Hophni, Phinehas, and Samuel. Each person has a narrative or two about them that gives us much insight into their character, leadership style, faults, flaws, etc. Eli was the High Priest and had problems discerning good and evil. He also didn’t hold his kids (Hophni and Phinehas) accountable for the deplorable acts they were doing. Eli addressed the issues, discussed them, let his kids know his stance on them, but that didn’t change things.
Hophni and Phinehas were priests, and they were doing terrible things with that position. They were taking the best of the offerings for themselves and leaving the junk for God (NEVER a good idea). They were even sleeping with women in the entrance of the temple (really, really BAD idea too). Hophni and Phinehas were doing all this and probably more. Their boss and father, Eli, knew this was going on and he never stopped it.
In between these stories are a few verses that explain where and what Samuel the prophet was doing. Samuel was worshipping God (1:28), ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli (2:11, 3:1), ministering before the Lord (2:18), growing in the presence of the Lord (2:22), and growing in stature and favor with the Lord and man (2:26).
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Samuel lived in the temple with Eli and his family. He was a spiritual son to Eli. There is no doubt that he saw, first-hand, the terrible things that were happening. There is not a single account of him trying to figure it out, correct it, fight against it, get angry, reacting out in anger, or rebuking. It simply over and over says he was hanging with the Lord and ministering to Him. I believe Samuel was on to something that, if you are like me, we all tend to forget. God is still FULLY in charge. God saw the injustice, God saw the corruption, and God stepped in and handled it in a truly “God-only” kind of way.
There has been so much bad in the last few years. Covid-19, racial tensions, elections, political agendas, poverty, famine, Ebola is back, persecution of Christians is rising, increasing polarization etc. These things can be very troubling and concerning. However, I believe that they have turned us to ugly… and not to Jesus.
I have to poke the bear only for a minute. When Joe Biden got elected did you get angry and upset? Are you still venting about it, or did you pray for him like the scriptures say? Are you in fear of the destiny of the US now? Do you feel a huge pressure and sense to fight and declare your truth and to speak out for the “right thing?” Have you unfollowed, blocked, or argued with people on social media? Do you think the only way for God to accomplish his mission in the US is for Trump to be President? Do you think the only way for US to get its moral compass back is for Biden to be president? If you read some of the questions above and felt defensive or, if you had to defend your position to me, perhaps, you may be upset, angry, or even offended at some level.
I don’t ask these questions to Jesus juke you. I don’t ask these questions as if I haven’t felt some of those feelings. I only ask those questions to see where your focus and your heart is at. I also in no way am proposing that we don’t vote, protest (peacefully), or make our voice be heard. I’m just tired of the ugly. I’m tired of the ugly in me and I am tired of the ugly I see in so many Christians right now. It does not have to be political either. It can come in the form of anything really. Political is just the very hot button right now where I see this expressed the most.
The ugly in me got a wake-up call, and I want to share that with you.
Are you developing or deploying?
Back to the story of Samuel. The moral fiber of Israel was decaying. The man in charge (Eli) was corrupt and allowing that corruption to permeate the governmental structures beyond foreseeable repair. The ugly in Israel is at an all-time high. In fact, the opening verses of the third chapter lends us insight as to the spiritual condition of Israel. It simply says “the Word of the Lord was rare in those days (3:1)”
The one man who was righteous and pure was not fighting, arguing, posting, or letting the ugly get his attention. The man who would eventually take over was being developed by ministering and worshipping the Lord. No doubt he saw the injustice, but instead of running his mouth and exhausting himself to fix it, he knew where to run. He didn’t even try to correct anything in the name of God either.
What is your posture? Are you fighting, angry, or disturbed? Have you lost any sleep, friends, or respect for people who see things different due to this increasingly polarized culture? Are you ready to deploy yourself to “fight for the right” in this mere human government, or are you being developed by the LORD in a position and posture of worship of Him? For me, the wake- up call showed that I was off center.
Perhaps when our eyes see Jesus as bigger than the government and fully know He alone is able to bless us and keep us in spite of anything else going on around us.
Perhaps it has been too long since we were so mesmerized by the beauty of Christ that NOTHING else mattered (Lord help us to get to that place). I can tell you this for sure. The bigger and more beautiful Jesus is to you, the less any of this worldly (governments, policies, countries, pandemics, leaders etc.) stuff matters.
Perhaps we think our voice matters way more than it does.
Perhaps we arrogantly assume that we alone hold the sole truth of exactly what is going on in this world, but I assure you, no one does.
Perhaps our attention is focused on all the UGLY around us and not on the beauty found in Christ.
Perhaps we forget how big, powerful, and sovereign God is.
Perhaps we forget that God’s ways are way higher than ours and they don’t often make sense. God uses the heathen as well as the righteous to bring about His will.
Samuel’s focus was God and God alone. I am striving for mine to be that as well.
I don’t have it all figured out. I cannot reconcile moral problems on either side of the aisle. I have issues with both parties, and I like policies from both too. I know there is a time for us to cry out and to stand up for our rights. I also am not saying that we should not have feelings about certain issues that arise in our respective cultures. I’m contending that we are in error when those feelings become more of a focus than Jesus and loving one another.
Seeing the forest through the trees
If you are still reading at this point perhaps you are asking yourself what should I do? How do I know when I am out of balance? I like to ask myself some of the following questions.
Where is my attention going? (work, school, internet, social media, news etc.)
In what am I worried/ stressed/ anxious/ angry/ or fearful? (This probably holds my attention.)
What is consuming my thoughts?
Am I more passionate about Jesus right now than anything else?
I would say if Jesus is not the main focus then we need to refocus and analyze the gaze of our soul. This is tricky to sort out. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this. It will take a lot of discernment and honesty. We can easily be passionate about the wrong things for the right reasons. Tons of humility is needed here.
The real battle
There is a real battle going on here. There is a huge problem right now on the Earth. The battle is not found in flesh and bones. It is not found in the rise and falls of kingdoms. The battle is not a new battle, it is the same one that has been going on since the Garden of Eden. The battle that is going on is for your worship.
The goal of the enemy is for you to find “the truth” in all other places than Jesus. The goal of the enemy is for you to be distracted by all the evil going on and be consumed with the feelings associated by that. The goal of the enemy is to have your attention on your assignment and how to accomplish that and not on Jesus. I would even go as far to say that the enemy would rather you have your attention on church and religion and not on a true personal relationship of Christ. Any way the enemy can take your attention off of God (even for a righteous cause) and affix it to something else he will.
What you give your attention to is ultimately what you worship. Is Jesus enough for you? Is He the sole affection of your soul? I fall short on this many times. However, in his grace and mercy he gently reminds us to turn our attention back to him. We are always worshipping something, may we have our gaze, attention, and affection solely on HIM!