Thursday, May 15, 2008

Taking the Name in Vain

Israel is under attack yet again from the daring and fierce Philistines. Crushed by terrorizing force of this battle ready tribe, the Israelites decide that it's time to use the awesome force of YHWH against these invaders. They call upon the ungodly guardians of the doorway (Eli's unpriestly sons) to extract YHWH from the tabernacle and bring His presence onto the battlefield.

As the Philistines spy the ark entering the camp and hear the shouts and frenzied joy of the Israelites, they feel a terror deep in the bowels. Should we proceed or run from this god who struck down the mighty Egypt? Choosing to be strong and courageous (much like Joshua's army of old), the Philistines mount attack on the camp of YHWH and are victorious.

There is no victory shout among God's people. There's is not terror like the terror of God's warriors overcoming Jericho. Instead, the wicked priests fall dead and the fallen people shrink in absolute defeat. Eli dies hearing the news and Eli's daughter-in-law names the desolate birth of her dying womb Ichabod: the glory has been taken away.

God's glory falls into captivity and made to serve before the great god Dagon. Or is He? The God who brought an end to Eli's rule; the God who killed Hophni and Phineas for their mockery of His holy name strikes out at the breathless image, breaking the head and hands and forcing obeisances even to the image of this false god.

Soon the captive YHWH reigns plagues upon these oppressors, and the Philistines fall before the terror of a holy God. Just like the soon to be destroyed Pharaoh sent Israel out from the land, the Philistines send out the ark with gold and treasure upon an ox cart.

YHWH is not captive to the rule of the wicked or the false worship of the chosen. He is not captive to the wisdom of the men whether among the counsels of the wicked or the courts of the godly. All fall down before his glory, his word, his holy reign.

Forgetting their high and holy calling, the Levites of Kirjath Jearim assume they have a right to handle the holy. And terror destroys the people. Instead of crying out for mercy, they send YHWH on his way.

In the midst of YHWH's travel, Samuel calls upon the people of God to humble themselves before Him, to forsake their false gods and to return to His covenantal rule. Israel falls before the holy call and responds in the only proper way to the Holy God: "Lord, we have sinned against you. Have mercy!"

As the people humble themselves, the holy power of God arises. Not limited to a mere box, God rests upon his servant Samuel and the enemies of the people of God are crushed. The Philistines fall before the Lord who remembers His people.

As we plan and plot our crusades, our towering temples, and glorious growth plans, may we fall down before the holy God. His name will be Holy among His people. And those who are not broken before our covenantal King, will be crushed. Lord have mercy on your people. Forgive the mockery of your commandments, the sin that runs rampant at the gate of the house of the Lord and the presumption that you must do our bidding. Lord have mercy. May your glory be raised high as a banner before your people.

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