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Before A Holy God

Read: 1 Samuel 4

The Ark of the Covenant was a gold-plated wooden chest that housed the two tablets of the Law given to Moses by God. To the Israelite people, the Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence and they fully believed that wherever it was, God was.

Carried by the Levites during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, it had finally found a home in Shiloh. That is – until the Elders of Israel felt it needed to come join them on the field of battle.

Why? Because they were losing.

5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” (1 Samuel 4:5-9)

The Philistines feared the God of Israel. They trembled in His presence. The stories of Egypt's defeat had been told and retold. Everyone knew how the God of Israel had destroyed the armies of Pharaoh. To fight such a God terrified the Philistines. Oh, that Israel would have walked in such fear of the Lord.

The story continues and the Ark of the Covenant is taken by the Philistines. They walk away conquerors - bringing the Ark into the temple of their god, Dagon. Surely their victory has proven his power! Oh, Philistines - just you wait.

When news of Israel's defeat, the ark's capture, and his sons' death reaches the ears of Eli, the High Priest, he falls off his chair and dies. It wasn't the news of his son's death that broke him or of Israel's defeat. What devastated Eli was the loss of the Ark - the loss of God's presence (see verse 18).

When his daughter-in-law hears of her husband's death and the capture of the ark, she goes into pre-term labor. The delivery was too much for her, and as she slipped into eternity she named her child Ichabod. Why? Because "the glory of God" had departed from Israel and the ark had been captured (Vs. 22)." Her agony over the loss of God's presence overwhelmed her sorrow of her husband's death.

And I wonder...would we feel the same way?

Would we ache with loss? Would we even notice it was gone?

Is His presence that dear to us? That treasured? That...important?

Or do we take it for granted?

Do we treat it as a small thing?

Years ago, I set my heart on writing a song about God's presence. I had one line that repeated over and over in my head: "Full of wonder, full of reverence, as I stand here in Your presence." I sat at the piano and sang it over and over again. As I did, I began to weep. More words came, but only a few...never enough to complete the song. Until one day, as I wept and sang, I realized - THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE THIS GIFT.

"I stand before a Holy God!"

I get to stand here...

"I stand before a Holy God!"

Me! After all I have done...

"I stand before a Holy God!"

I am so undeserving and yet...

"I stand before a Holy God!"

I am undone.

"Jesus," I prayed through my tears, "may I never take this lightly. May I always stand in wonder."

Today, I pray this prayer over you.

May you never take His presence lightly.

May you always stay in wonder.

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