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by Jacob Ninan
When the daughter-in-law of Eli the priest heard that the ark of the Lord had been captured by he Philistines, she said, "The glory has departed from Israel", and called her son Ichabod (1Sa. 3:21). The ark represented for Israel, God's presence in their midst. It is when God's presence or anointing departs from us that it can be said about a person or a church that the glory has departed.
The ark being captured by the Philistines was not the reason for the glory to depart. The glory had already departed, and this was only an open manifestation of that fact. It is possible that this was evident much earlier to the priests in charge of the ark. We read in 1Ki.8:9 that when the ark was placed in the temple that Solomon had built, there was nothing in the ark except the tablets of stone on which the ten commandments were written. What happened to the pot of manna and Aaron's rod? (Ex.16:33;Nu.17:10; He.9:4). It was the glory of God in the ark that was to keep these two items fresh throughout the generations. The manna must have bred worms and the rod must have withered up, as soon as the glory departed, and so these would have been quietly thrown away by the priests. But the people of Israel recognised that the glory had departed only when the ark was captured.
This teaches us that God's anointing may depart from us at a particular time, and it may be only much later that this becomes evident to people around us. When worldliness or sin becomes manifest in us as individuals or as churches it is clear to everyone who has some understanding of God's ways that God has departed. But the fact would be that the decline happened much earlier. We do not really mean to let things go so far. But the only way to prevent this is to make sure that there is no decline in the first place itself. The best way to avoid becoming lukewarm is to ensure that we keep ourselves hot. How do we do that? It is well known that most believers of today are really more interested in their earthly welfare than their spiritual welfare. So they usually conclude that God is pleased with them when they are not facing any serious problems in life, and when everything earthly seems to be going not only smoothly but also prosperously. But remember that God gives His sun and rain (earthly blessings) even to the wicked (Mt.5:45).
We must also not forget that God was angry to the extent of destroying the people of Israel in the wilderness, even while He blessed them with perfect health, and with food, clothing and footwear supplied supernaturally (Ne.9:21;1Co.10:5;He.3:8-11). God was angry with them because of their unbelief and disobedience (He.3:17-19). Yet He provided generously for their material needs. Perhaps some think that spiritual gifts and the fact that God uses them are indications of God's favour upon them. We must remember that God's heart is wide open towards us, and He longs to bless us. He does not wait for us to become perfect or free from sin first before He starts blessing us spiritually or even using us to bless others. If He did wait, there would be no hope for any of us.
It says about Solomon that he loved the Lord except in the matter of the high places (1Ki.3:3). The high places were places of idol worship and God hated them and the people who worshipped there. Yet He accepted Solomon's love for what it was worth, and came down to his level and blessed him, at a great high place! (1Ki.3:4,5). That shows only God's large-heartedness and nothing about His approval of high places.
When Moses the servant of God disobeyed Him by beating the rock instead of speaking to it, God still poured out water for the people (Nu.20:8-11). This tells us about God's love for the people and nothing about God's approval of Moses' action. When God raised up a Deborah to judge Israel when He could find no man who could lead them, it shows us His love for the people rather than a sanction for women to rule over men (1Ti.2;12).
When we see God's hand upon different people in spite of their disobedience to some word of God, what we can learn is not that God condones such disobedience or that obedience to such small 'matters' is not really important (Mt.5:19).
On one hand we see the wideness of God's love, mercy and patience. On the other hand we must realise that God's hand upon our own lives does not necessarily mean that He approves of everything in our lives. If He uses us to bless others, it certainly proves that He loves them. But it does not follow automatically that He approves of us. He could use a disobedient Moses to bring water for Israel, and a money loving Balaam to bless Israel. He could even use ravens to feed His prophet and a donkey to speak to an erring prophet.
The best of us see only in part, and we have to reckon that there are many things in our lives which God disapproves of, but over which He has still not been able to give us light. We must also recognise that just because God's wrath has not come heavily upon us when we sinned, it does not mean that He has ignored it (Ec.8:11).
Just as the priests who ministered in the tabernacle could see that the manna was beginning to rot, before the people could recognise that the glory had departed, we can know in our hearts when the anointing of God is fading. That is the time for us to humble ourselves and seek the Lord afresh. Instead, if we console ourselves because everybody still thinks well of us, the manna will begin to rot and the rod to wither. Then one day the Philistines will capture us, or else we will get into a life of pretence, with bronze shields in the place of golden ones (1Ki.14:25-27).
God told His people to go and learn from what happened to Shiloh (Je.7:12). This was the place where the ark of the Lord was, before it was taken away by the Philistines. Eli was the priest in charge of the tabernacle. His sons were immoral men who made use of their priesthood to live for their pleasure. God told the young Samuel that Eli's house was to be punished "because of the iniquity which he knew ... and he did not rebuke them" (1Sa.3:13). When the priest's own household was corrupt, one can imagine how the people would have been. When the judgment of God fell on Eli's family, the ark was also captured at the same time. It is when we know that there is sin in us, and we do nothing about it, that God removes the anointing from us. Saul was told about his sin, and he only justified himself. As a result the Holy Spirit was taken away from Saul. David who had done greater sins repented and was forgiven, and the anointing did not depart from him.
God wants us to walk before Him and be perfect (Ge.17:1). But yet He does not forget that we are but dust (Ps.103:13,14). He forgives us when we confess our failures (1Jn.1:9), showing us kindness, hoping that we would realise how we have received something that we do not deserve, and repent and fear Him more (Ro.2:4;Ps.130:4). But if we hold on to sin, He will not even listen to our prayers (Ps.66:18). This is what grieves the Holy Spirit (Ep.4:30).
This is true of us as individual children of God and also as churches. If we accept certain sins or foolishness as normal, we no longer pray seriously for deliverance. Our zeal can then shift from fighting against sin to keeping up the appearances with doctrines or 'Christian' activities such as Bible reading/teaching, prayer meetings or evangelism. Soon our life becomes unreal, with a form and no power (2Ti.3:5).
It is up to each of us to preserve ourselves in humility, the fear of God and the love of God. If we learn to sense when we are slackening in any of these, we can be protected from having to wake up only when it is too late to do anything about it.
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