Today’s Reading: 1 Sam 5:1–7:17, James 1:19–27, Ps 119:33–48
Today’s Theme: God’s Dangerous Presence, Live the Bible
God’s presence is dangerous to every demon, to the flesh and the ways of the world, but is wonderful to those who love God and love His word, seeking to live out the word by being doers of the word and not just hearers.
1 Samuel 5:1–7:17
Demons must bow
But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 1 Samuel 5:4 (ESV)
Demons must bow down in God’s presence. For these false gods, which are really demons, the presence of the true God is a terrible and frightening thing.
Dagon had fallen face down before the ark of the Lord. Paul taught us that every knee will one day bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, even demons will have to bow. Philippians 2:10 says “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”.
Later we see that both the head and hands of the idol were cut off. This is symbolic of God cutting off the enemy’s ability to strategise (head) and his strength (arms).
God’s hand on the flesh
So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? 1 Samuel 6:5–6 (ESV)
God’s presence represented by the ark, did not only affect the idol / demons, it had an effect on the flesh of the people, causing great discomfort and sickness.
The presence of God will bring discomfort to the flesh, leaving man with the option to either flee God’s presence and remain in sin, or humble themselves in repentance and become conformable to God, His presence and His word. Romans 8:29
The most dangerous response to the judgement and conviction that comes in God’s presence, is to harden our hearts like the Egyptians did, which resulted in their destruction. This is possible in church; to hear God’s word and harden our hearts, not leaving His presence, but not responding in humility. This is very dangerous, we must humble ourselves before God.
Our flesh must bow and repent in God’s presence. Jesus said in John 16:8, “when the Holy Spirit comes… He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”.
God is not safe, but He is good.
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. 1 Samuel 6:19 (ESV)
“In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the children is told about Aslan the lion (who represents Christ in the story). She asks the Beavers, ‘Is he—quite safe?’ Mrs Beaver replies, ‘If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most, or else just silly… Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”*
We should not have a flippant attitude when it comes to the things of God, the presence of God is dangerous and should be handled as holy and sacred.
These men looked into the ark which contained the covenant (now represented by the bible), and it was because they looked at it that God struck them down. This ties in well with our NT reading.
We should honour God, His word (the bible) and His presence (The Holy Spirit), humbling ourselves to approach God and respond to God appropriately, or suffer the consequence in our own lives.
*C S Lewis quote taken from Opening Up 1 Chronicles. Leominster: Day One Publications.
God helps His people
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. 1 Samuel 7:10 (ESV)
Samuel was the last great Judge of Israel, he served a dual role (like Jesus), as the high priest and prophet too. He turned the hearts of the people back towards the Lord.
Here we see Samuel invokes the presence of God through this burnt offering and cries out to the Lord to deliver the people. God responds to Samuel and thunders against the enemy, sending them into confusion, leading to victory for Israel.
Samuel had experience with God’s presence and knew that it was only God who would allow them to defeat their enemies. This is why he calls the people to repentance and then calls urgently upon the Lord.
As God’s children we must walk right before God and call upon His presence, through the Holy Spirit in our lives, to see the enemies of our soul defeated.
God gave Samuel peace for all his days as a judge, after this. God’s presence is like a weapon in our spiritual warfare, that will bring us peace.
Do the word, don’t just read it
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)
James is so plain in speaking, that the letter requires very little comment.
We should be changed by God’s presence and by God’s word. God’s word is a mirror, it shows us ourselves and God’s Holy Spirit shows us where we need to change.
We must think about what we read so that we do not forget it. If we forget it, we cannot apply it.
Don’t just plough through the bible reading plan, take time to pray over what you read and apply it to your life.
We have a “relationship with God”
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)
It has become a common saying with Christians, that faith in Christ is all about a “personal” relationship with God (as opposed to just religion). This opens the door to all sorts of private interpretations and heresy and gives people all types of licence for sin, as they form God in their own image.
We were out evangelising one evening and we met a young man whose dad was a minister. He was clubbing but said that he had a personal relationship with Jesus.
Rather than having a “personal” relationship with God, we actually have a “relationship with God” that includes a relationship with a local fellowship of believers; a Pastor, the bible and the world around us. We cannot isolate our relationship with God from the wider church.
True religion rather than man’s futile attempts to reach God, is to live in purity before God and to live out the word of God, by serving and blessing others.
Delight in the Bible
for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. Psalm 119:47 (ESV)
We should, like the psalmist, have a deep love for God’s word and a strong desire to hear it and understand it. Mediate on this wonderful portion of Psalm 119 today.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
Desiring God on James 1