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Satan Attacks Those Who Are Spiritually Strong


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


The people of Israel had fallen away from God. They had removed themselves from God’s blessing by removing God from their lives. But in the passages we’ve been studying over the past few days we see that they returned to God after many years of difficult living.

They had gathered at Mizpah where they humbled themselves before God and confessed their sins. They were on the road to spiritual recovery.

But when the Philistines heard all this, they went up against Israel. That is, they decided to attack Israel. This should not be surprising if we understand how to study the Old Testament.

When we study the Old Testament we need to view the characters with the proper understanding. The nation of Israel was God’s people. In Old Testament times they – and only they – had a relationship with God. Gentiles could have a relationship with God too if they wanted. But first they would have to join God’s family – Israel.

God is still creating a family. Only now we are living under the New Testament; the Old Testament has expired. Today anyone – Jew or Gentile – can join God’s family through faith in Jesus.

So when we read the Old Testament stories we need to see that Old Testament Israel represents New Testament born-again believers. On the other hand, the Gentiles (including the Philistines and other pagan nations) represent all that is against God’s people. This includes Satan, sin, and the ways of the world.

When we understand this, we can learn the lessons that God wants us to learn from these Old Testament stories.

Whenever a person tries to build a relationship with God – or improve the relationship they have with Him – they will be attacked by Satan. It doesn’t matter if it is someone who is a new believer (e.g. an atheist who believes in God for the first time) or if it is a Christian who has drifted away from God and is now returning, or if it’s a lifelong Christian who decides to take the next step and serve God with more of their time. Satan hates it when people try to get closer to God and will quickly and assuredly attempt to derail that person’s spiritual growth.

Satan prevented the apostle Paul from visiting the church at Thessalonica [1 Thessalonians 2:17-18]. Even Jesus experienced the attacks of Satan. After being baptized to start His public ministry, Jesus was immediately tempted by Satan [Matthew 3:16-17, 4:1]. If Paul and Jesus can be attacked by Satan, then so can we.

Every child of God can expect to be attacked by Satan. And not just once. But many, many times. Satan does not give up even though it may seem that he has. He simply waits for a better opportunity [Luke 4:13].

In today’s passage we see that the Israelites were doing exactly what God wanted them to do. Yet they immediately faced a troubling situation. This is exactly how the Christian life goes. When we make an effort to grow spiritually, Satan makes an effort to derail that growth.

The closer we get to God the more severe those trials will become. What matters though is how we respond. Satan’s goal is to get us to cower and retreat. We learned how to handle this spiritual warfare when we studied the book of Ephesians.

It seems counterintuitive, but the times when we are the most spiritually strong are the times when we can expect our faith to be tried. Satan is no fool. He isn’t going to waste his time attacking someone who is not spiritually strong to begin with. The stronger our faith the more troubles we will face. We can count on it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Confession Liberates Our Relationships


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


After Israel gathered at Mizpah they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. This seems to have been a ritual performed to symbolically demonstrate that they were emptying themselves of themselves and had no intention of going back to their old ways just like water spilt on the ground cannot be gathered up again [2 Samuel 14:14].

The people also fasted on that day, refraining from satisfying their natural appetites as a way of symbolically reminding themselves that they needed God more than anything else, including food.

These rituals had no merit in themselves; they didn’t accomplish anything. They were simply outward expressions by the people that they repented of their sins and desired to have God in their lives more than anything else.

The people of Israel were tired of their false gods. They were tired of their sin. They had been relying on these things for many years, with no satisfactory results. They had finally gotten to the point where they were ready to give up self and their false ideas of religion and to turn back to God. This is where each of us must come to as well.

In order to receive God’s love and mercy in our lives we must be emptied of our self. We must humble ourselves before God, emptying our lives of any dependence on anything but Him. Instead we must trust solely in His promises and commands.

The only way to get right with God is to surrender your whole life to Him, trusting Him and Him alone. We must not trust in our own good works. They will count for nothing. We must not trust in any earthly entity, like money or power or friends. They can do nothing eternal for us.

We must also confess our sins as the Israelites do in today’s passage. While they were gathered together they declared to each other that they had sinned against the Lord.

Israel had been suffering at the hands of the Philistines for many years. The only way they were going to ever have victory over their enemy was to confess their own sin. That victory would come from God, as we’ll see. But God’s blessing is only available through true repentance and confession [Proverbs 28:13].

In today’s passage the people publicly confess that they have sinned to each other. God wants us to do this because it brings healing [Acts 19:18; James 5:16]. Admitting our sins frees us from the pretense of righteousness we all are apt to portray. It liberates our relationships. Instead of living a lie – which takes effort and is emotionally draining – we can live the truth.

That truth, in fact, is already known. But we are very good at convincing ourselves that no one else knows what we are really like. But God knows [Romans 3:23]. And that is why we must also confess our sins to Him.

It is pointless to live a lie with our fellow human beings. But it is impossible to live a lie before God.

When we confess our sins to God He will hear us and He will forgive us [Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9]. And there is no greater freedom in life than knowing that your mistakes – both the unintentional as well as the premeditated intentional – will not be held against you.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Our Spiritual Ambition Is Increased When We Gather Together


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


After Samuel challenged the Israelites to turn away from their false gods (which they did) [1 Samuel 7:2-3], Samuel then commands them to gather at Mizpah where he would pray to the Lord for them.

Mizpah means “watchtower or look-out”. It was apparently a place on a hill, symbolically representing closeness with God. The exact location of this town has not been positively identified but the evidence is strong that it is Tell en-Nasbeh which is 8 miles north of Jerusalem, at 2,570 feet above sea level [map].

Samuel called for an assembly of all Israel to gather there. Of course, all of Israel could not have met in this one place so it was likely the leaders from each of the twelve tribes who assembled there as representatives of all the people of the nation.

In the Old Testament God often gathered His people together  [Deuteronomy 31:12; Numbers 20:8; Joshua 8:35 et. al]. God’s purpose in gathering the people all in one place was twofold.

Obviously it was a means of disseminating information to the entire nation at a time when there was no email or other mass communication methods. But it also helped to unite the people.

When we are in the presence of like-minded people, who have a similar history to ourselves or who share the same desires and goals as we do, we become more resolute; our own spiritual ambition is increased. We realize that we are in this together and we derive support from knowing that there are others just like us.

The people of Israel had drifted away from God. More than that, they had turned to other gods and had engaged in very sinful behavior in worship of those gods. They knew they had made mistakes. And human beings don’t like to admit our mistakes to each other. We instead try to hide them.

But this does no good. In fact, it only drives us deeper into our secret sin. Being open and honest with each other about our struggles is the way to conquer those struggles.

This is what makes support groups such as Celebrate Recovery so successful. All the attendees are in the same boat. They’ve all been through the same things in life and are all working towards going to the same place. As such, they derive support from each other.

In the New Testament (the times under which we are currently living) gathering together is still part of God’s design for our lives. We are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:24-25].

This means we should not forsake going to church at least weekly where we can sing together to the Lord and can be taught together by the Holy Spirit. Being a part of a small group with a more focused agenda is also a good idea.

When believers are gathered in one place they become united. We gain spiritual strength because the Holy Spirit will be there too [Matthew 18:20].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Regret Without Behavior Change Is Meaningless


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


In yesterday’s passage we saw Samuel challenge Israel to turn away from their false gods and serve the one true God only. In today’s passage we read that they did just that. The people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.

Baal was the male fertility god of the nations surrounding Israel. He was the counterpart to the female Ashtaroth. Since both were associated with fertility, worship of them was very sexual in nature.

Over the years, the Israelites had turned from the true God who had led them into the Promised Land and instead had begun to worship the gods of their enemies. They didn’t entirely reject God, however, as we saw when they took God into battle with them, as symbolized by the ark of the covenant.

Yet neither these gods nor the Israelites’ superstitious attitude towards God could help them. The Israelites continued to suffer defeat at the hands of the Philistines and to be controlled by them for many years [Judges 13:1; 1 Samuel 4:10].

Eventually, Israel realized that they had been wrong. They were sorrowful [1 Samuel 7:2]. This was good, but sorrow alone was not enough. Sorrow without change is meaningless.

The test of whether our regret is real isn’t whether we verbally express that regret. It is whether we also change our attitudes and behavior. This is why Samuel challenged them to prove their repentance was for real [1 Samuel 7:3].

If we only state our regret then we are only sorry because we got caught or because we experience negative consequences as a result of our actions. But if we also change our behavior, then were are demonstrating that we are aware of our character flaws which invoked our actions.

When we turn from sin we are admitting that God is right and we are wrong. We are admitting that all the things that we’ve turned to hoping they will provide fulfillment only lead to emptiness.

It is only when we change our minds so they are in agreement with God and turn back to Him that He can wipe out our sins and refresh our lives [2 Chronicles 7:14; Jonah 3:10; Acts 3:19].

Repentance means to change our minds so that they are in agreement with God. It means agreeing with God that what He calls sin is in fact sin. It also therefore means agreeing with God that one has been, and is, a sinner. No excuses. No euphemisms.

The only way to gain the Lord’s protection and blessing is to surrender your whole life to Him, trust in the promises of His word, and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.  This is the same thing that we see the Israelites doing in these verses.

As we’ll see as we continue to study this passage, repentance and turning back to God are the first two steps. But they are not the final steps in surrendering to God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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All Religions Do Not Lead To God


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


After God took the ark of the covenant out of the public eye, the people began to lament after Him. They were under constant harassment from the Philistines at this time in history and with no good-luck charm to rely upon and nowhere else to turn, they turned back to God.

So Samuel confronts all of Israel in today’s passage. They were sorrowful. But Samuel challenges them to determine if they were returning to the Lord with all their heart – whether they simply wished for things to be better or if they were willing to repent – change their thoughts and actions. Doing so would be an admission that they were the cause of their own problems.

Specifically, Samuel commanded them to put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among them and to direct their heart to the Lord and serve him only. If they were willing to do this, then God would deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines.

Ashtaroth was a pagan female deity. She was worshipped by the nations surrounding Israel (Ashtaroth was known as Ishtar by the Assyrians). Worship of Ashtaroth was highly sexual and very pornographic. Ashtaroth poles were common in cities in Israel and her neighbors. These poles were essentially giant phallic symbols.

The worship of these false gods had started in the land before Israel arrived and subsequently was adopted by the Jews. Sadly, this is the exact opposite of what God wanted.

When God gave Israel the land they were now occupying, it was with the intent that they would walk closely with Him, obeying all His commands. As a result, they would be blessed and the nations around Israel would see this and would give up their false gods and submit to the one true God [Deuteronomy 30:11-20]. But this did not happen.

Instead of other nations being influenced by Israel in a positive way, Israel was influenced by the nations around them in a negative way. Israel adopted their neighbor’s false religious practices.

Man-made religions often seem more appealing than the worship of the true God of the Bible because these religions tend to deny sin and instead espouse pleasure in sin. Many churches, for example, refuse to categorize homosexuality as a sin, despite what God says. Or they recognize and perform same-sex marriages. Other religions turn man into the god by professing that man can control God through his actions. We recently studied an example of this earlier in our study of 1 Samuel.

But Samuel told Israel they must direct their hearts to the Lord and serve him only for it is only then that He would deliver them – the gods they were worshiping were non-existent. Likewise, deliverance cannot and will not happen through Islam, Hinduism, or even Catholicism or Mormonism.

Any religion or faith that does not recognize the God of the Bible and does not teach that man is sinful and in need of forgiveness is a false religion. Any religion or faith that does not recognize that such forgiveness is only available through Jesus Christ, who is God on earth, is a false religion. Any religion that puts man in control of his destiny through certain rites or sacraments is a false religion.

It’s very interesting that Israel wanted to turn back to God. This very fact proved that their other gods did not exist. For if they did, they would have been able to help Israel and Israel would have no need to lament after God.

The people of Israel had very likely been praying to these other gods. But to no avail. After a while, they realized that these gods were powerless and did not exist.

Sadly – and dangerously – the world espouses that all religions lead to the same God. They claim that to believe in only one path to God is closed-minded. They claim that everyone can worship God in their own way. This is a very appealing theology as it puts ourselves in control. But it is not true.

Such teaching only accomplishes one thing. It sends anyone who believes in these man-made (and therefore non-existent) gods and religious practices to hell.

This is why Samuel commanded Israel to get rid of the gods they had adopted from foreign lands. Those gods were appealing (especially considering their emphasis on sex) but did not exist.

Belief in these false gods would not only not save Israel, it would destroy them. Man-made gods don’t lead people to God. They keep people from Him.

There is no Allah. There is no Vishnu, Shiva, or Brahma. Haile Selassie is not going to return to earth. There is no Igaluk.

There is only one God. That God is the God of the Bible. And He is the only one who should be worshiped. Anything short of that is a dangerous endeavor that will result in an eternity in hell, as other gods do not exist and therefore have no power to forgive sin.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God Is Our Only Hope


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


We saw yesterday how God removed the ark of the covenant from public view in order to also remove it from the people’s minds. The ark had become a magical idol to the people of Israel and as such the people had drifted away from God. They no longer put their trust in God as they had generations earlier. Their trust was now in mythology.

So the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim for a long time – some twenty years. It was not until David was king that the ark’s location was changed [2 Samuel 6:1-11]. Meanwhile, all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.

The word “lament” means “to express sorrow/regret for something considered unsatisfactory or unfair”. It was during this time period in which 1 Samuel 7 takes place that Israel was under the suppression of the Philistines. They had driven God away from their lives and had lost His protection.

Their lives were unsatisfactory and they came to regret their sins that had driven God away. This is exactly what God was trying to accomplish by allowing the Philistines to harass them and also by removing the ark from public life.

Many people who deny God’s existence believe that the proof of His non-existence is the overwhelming amount of sorrow and suffering on this earth. They think that God – if He exists – would do all that is within His power to fill our lives with nothing but perfect and never-ceasing joy. Sadly, even some professing Christians buy into this view. But this view is wrong.

God allows suffering. As we learned when we studied the book of Philippians, there is a purpose behind suffering. God uses our sorrow to turn us away from earthly things that keep us from knowing Him and to lead us to salvation [2 Corinthians 7:10].

God could, of course, eliminate all suffering on this planet in the blink of an eye. But just as no parent would try to shield their children from all the difficulties in life, neither will God. Difficulties build character. And, hopefully, they make one realize that it is fruitless to place our hope in anything this world has to offer.

We should not place our hope in any other human being. Not Donald Trump. Not Hilary Clinton. We should not place our hope in any ritual. Not baptism. Not making a Haj. Only God Himself can save us. And that is what God desperately wants us to realize.

The problems we have on this earth are allowed by God to give people the impetus to seek Him. Some do. Many don’t.

Whether one is an atheist who denies God’s existence or is one of His adopted children through faith in Jesus who has backslidden, you must realize that nothing on this earth can help you. Some things can make our lives more convenient, no doubt. But nothing can save us from our biggest problem: sin

All of us are living in temporary bodies. Someday each of these bodies will die. Then we begin a new life in eternity. If one accepted God’s offer of forgiveness before their earthly body died, their sins will be forgiven and they will be a part of God’s eternal family in heaven forever.

If on the other hand, one does not accept God’s offer – if they’ve decided to seek the solution to all the bad things that happen on this earth by turning to man-made solutions – they will not have their sins forgiven and will spend eternity apart from God in hell.

This is the purpose of the suffering we experience on this earth. God is trying to get our attention. He’s trying to make us realize that there is no solution to be found on earth. He’s trying to make us realize that He is our hope. Our only hope.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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It Is Possible To Turn Good Things Into Bad


1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people 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.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)


Yesterday we read how the people of Beth-shemesh sent the ark to the town of Kiriath-jearim because they were too afraid of the trouble it might cause. Of course, the ark itself didn’t bring about any trouble. It was the people themselves and their attitude towards the ark that caused problems.

But the people of Beth-shemesh weren’t willing to open their eyes to the fact that they were the problem. So they sent the ark – a symbol of God – away.

Notice that the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They wanted the ark. Otherwise they would not have come to get it. They could have declined to accept it. There was no one forcing them to take the ark to their town. They did it because they wanted to.

It’s interesting that the ark was not returned to Shiloh. Shiloh was the place where it has been until it was taken from the tabernacle and brought into battle against the Philistines, who then captured it and possessed it for seven months.

It is likely that Shiloh had been destroyed by this time, perhaps as part of the battle with the Philistines. Archaeological data show that Shiloh was abandoned around 1050 B.C.

Shiloh was where God’s tabernacle was located. But due to the sinful behavior of its leaders, God allowed it to be deserted [Jeremiah 26:9]. For many years after, there was not seat of national worship in Israel.

There is no record of any animal sacrifices being performed in Kiriath-jearim or any of the annual feasts being celebrated there. It seems that this was an obscure town that was simply used by God to temporarily house and protect the ark.

The ark was brought to the house of Abinadab on the hill where his son, Eleazar, was consecrated (identified and dedicated) to have charge of the ark of the Lord.

We don’t know anything about Eleazar but he was obviously a trustworthy man who had a strong relationship with God. As there is no indication in Scripture that God was displeased with the location or care of the ark, we can assume that Abinidab and Eleazar took proper care of it. Apparently this is where God wanted the ark at this time.

Since it was “hidden” from public view it’s likely that the people forgot about it. Out of sight, out of mind. The ark had become a security blanket for Israel. But God took that security blanket away because He wanted to teach Israel that there was no power in the ark. It was not a good-luck charm, as the people of Shiloh thought. Nor was it a bad-luck charm as the people of Beth-shemesh thought.

God wanted the people of Israel to turn to Him. He wanted them to see His power and presence in their lives. So He removed the ark.

God still works the same way in our lives today. He is not averse to removing something from our lives that distracts us from Him. That “something” isn’t necessarily something bad. The ark was a good thing. But the people had turned it into something that it wasn’t – something mystical that had power in itself.

Likewise, God might remove something from our lives for the same reason. Perhaps there is another person upon whom we put too much emphasis, such as a friend, spouse, or relative. Perhaps that person becomes our source of joy or where we turn when things aren’t going well in our life.

Having a friend is not a bad thing. And that person doesn’t have to be evil for God to remove him/her from our lives. But if that person distracts us from God then they’ve become a bad thing (not through any fault of their own).

We can treat other things similarly. We can put our security in our job, or money, or sex, drugs, or any number of other things.

Notice not all of these things are bad. Most are good and necessary. But it is possible for us to turn good things into bad, by exalting them over God. And if we do that, we should not be surprised if God takes it from us so that we’ll turn back to Him and give Him His proper place in our life.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God’s Holiness Is Exciting And Frightening


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


Today we conclude the story of the ark of the covenant being returned to Israel after having been captured by the Philistines in battle some seven months prior. In yesterday’s passage we saw how God’s holiness was not respected by some of the people of Beth-shemesh resulting in God killing seventy men for violating the command not to touch or look into the ark itself.

The response by the men of Beth-shemesh is sad. They had just seen an example of God’s holiness and His desire to maintain that holiness. As such, they did recognize that God was holy.

God is holy because He is separate – He is above all He created, including us. God is not our servant. God is not our peer. He is our superior.

But instead of letting that knowledge draw them closer to God, the people of Beth-shemesh decide to send God (as symbolized by the ark) away. Rather than recognizing their own mistakes, humbling themselves and repenting (changing their attitude and behavior), they blamed God for being too strict with them.

The people of Beth-shemesh knew they were in the wrong and that God was right. But instead of encouraging themselves to raise their behavior to God’s standard they in-effect lowered the standard by removing God from their lives. Without God in their lives, they were the standard and, hence, they didn’t have to find any fault in themselves.

So rather than accept God’s holiness, they decided to distance themselves from Him. Just a few hours before they were delighted to have God back. Now they want nothing to do with Him

This, however, is not the proper reaction to God’s holiness. The holiness of God should draw us closer to Him. Although, admittedly it can be quite startling to encounter it.

God holiness is a double-edged sword. It is simultaneously exciting and frightening.

God’s holiness reveals the evilness and sinfulness of the world. It should, therefore, invite us to leave the world behind in exchange for being a part of God’s family.

But at the same time, God’s holiness is daunting. When we are exposed to it we are made woefully aware that we are a part of the evilness and sinfulness in the world because we are evil and sinful ourselves [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23].

It is man’s natural reaction to want to be removed from the presence from a holy God [Genesis 3:8; Luke 5:8]. But God does not want us to be frightened of Him. He wants us to draw closer to Him so that we too can be holy [Leviticus 20:26; 1 Peter 1:16]. While many people think God is talking about moral purity here, there is much more too it than that.

God’s standard is too high for us. That is a fact that God Himself admits [Isaiah 55:8-9]. We know that none of us can keep God’s laws; we all sin. But keeping the laws was never God’s intention. God’s laws exists for one reason: to reveal our sinfulness [Romans 3:20].

God’s call to holiness is about relationship. God calls us to be like Him – separate from the world. While this does have moral ramifications, it must precede any morality-based behavior change.

God’s holiness is a beacon of light in a dark world. It is a light at the end a dark tunnel. It is not the light of an oncoming train. It is not something to run from, but towards.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Respect The Holy Things Reserved For God


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


During the celebration upon the return of the ark of the Lord to Beth-shemesh apparently some of the men looked upon (within) the ark. As a result, God  struck down (killed) these men.

The ark was the most holy object in all of Israel. It was so holy that no one in the country ever saw it except for the high priest. And even then he only saw it once a year on the day of atonement when he went into the innermost part of the tabernacle, where the ark was placed, to sprinkle blood of a sacrificed animal on it to receive forgiveness for the people’s sins.

The lid of the ark, known as the mercy seat, was where God met with the high priest annually to receive the sacrifice. Inside the ark were the two tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments along with a jar of manna and Aaron’s rod [Hebrews 9:4].

The ark itself was only to be handled by the Levties, specifically those of the family of Kohath. But even they were commanded not to touch the ark itself – the ark was always to be carried via poles [Exodus 25:10-16].

The men of Beth-shemesh looked into the ark. But to look into it, they had to touch it to lift the lid. These seventy men treated the ark like a curiosity or possibly as entertainment. Human beings are naturally curious. Sometimes that curiosity can get us into trouble.

Man wants what God has forbidden. Such has been the case since the beginning. God gave everything in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:17, 3:6]. Yet Adam and Eve weren’t satisfied. They wanted to know what it was like to be like God – to know good and evil. So they ate the forbidden fruit.

The men of Beth-shemesh wanted to know what was in the ark so they looked into it even though they knew they weren’t supposed to. Unlike the mistake the people made in yesterday’s passage, their actions today were intentional. No one accidentally lifts a lid of a box and looks inside.

The ark was holy. The word “holy” means “separate”. God, too, is holy. He is separate from us; He is not like us.

We should not treat Him like our servant. He is not beneath us. Nor should we treat Him like our friend. He is not our equal. God is greater than we are and should, therefore, be treated as greater.

We need to keep this in mind. If we treat God as beneath us or as our equal we will lose our reverence for Him. We will raise ourselves up to be the authority in our lives. And this is clearly not true.

This also means that we should treat the things of God likewise. We should take them seriously and honor and revere them without trying to understand more about them than we are able.

While God has shared much knowledge with us, there are many subjects that exceed the capacity of the human mind: free-will, election, hell, just to name a few. We cannot understand these things in their entirety. Therefore, we should not try.

Just like Adam and Eve and the men of Beth-shemesh found out, trying to be like God and looking into the things reserved for Him will only bring trouble.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Non Believers Will Take Notice At Our Joy In The Lord


13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. 17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. 19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
(1 Samuel 6:13-21)


Yesterday we read about the public worship conducted by the people of Beth-shemesh upon receiving the ark of the Lord back into Israeli territory.

Notice that the five lords (or leaders) of the Philistines were watching. It would have taken quite some time for the Israelites to perform all these sacrifices. These leaders clearly sat and watched for quite a while with no small amount of interest in what the people of Beth-shemesh were doing. Eventually they returned to Ekron, one of their own cities.

The leaders of the Philistines witnessed the great joy the people of Israel had in their God. Then they returned home. I’m sure they told their friends what they saw. And their friends told their friends, and so on. When people see the joy that God’s children have in their God, they will notice. And they will talk about it.

During their celebration the Israelites set the ark of the Lord upon a great stone. And that great stone was a witness to all that took place on that day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. When people saw that stone they were reminded of the events of that day and of God’s grace and love.

We’d be inclined to think that the stone was a reminder to the people of Beth-shemesh, and it certainly was. But Beth-shemesh was a border town. It bordered the land of the Philistines. So its also true that the stone was a reminder to them as well. When the Philistines saw the stone they, too, were reminded of the great joy of the people of Israel when they were in the presence of God.

The Philistines did not worship God. They worshipped Dagon, a non-existent God [1 Samuel 5:2]. He was a god who had to be appeased. In fact, all man-made gods are like this. When human beings invent a god that god is one who is angry and threatening but who can be appeased through our actions. In other words, man is in ultimate control, not the god.

It’s interesting to think this through. When one does it becomes evident that the human race knows it is evil. Otherwise we wouldn’t invent gods who are angry with us for our behavior. And we wouldn’t think we need to atone for that behavior.

So when people who believe in these false gods (or who don’t believe in any god at all) see God’s children filled with joy and so happy to be in His presence they will pay no small amount of attention as such joy goes against their understanding.

Notice that the people of Beth-shemesh made some mistakes. They sacrificed female cows when God commanded only male cows be sacrificed [Leviticus 1:3; 22:19]. They also apparently displayed the ark for all to see when God commanded that the ark be covered when in public.

Nevertheless, their actions spoke to the Philistine leaders. These leaders didn’t know the Israelites had gotten some things wrong. And the Israelites didn’t worry about getting everything right. They did their best.

If you have willingly joined God’s eternal family by having your sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus [Acts 4:12, 15:11; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7], then you should be filled with joy. And the most important thing you can do is to outwardly express that joy, even if it isn’t done perfectly, so that those who are not a part of God’s eternal family take notice.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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