In 1 Sam 4-7 Israel goes to war against the Philistines and is seriously defeated, loosing four thousand men. They gather back to their camp and analyse the defeat. Curiously, they don’t engage God but do their own human analysis and evaluations. The elders advise that the Ark of the Covenant be brought from Shiloh to the Camp to assure them of victory.
The Ark of the Covenant soon arrives in the Israeli camp and a great shout breaks out, the ground shakes, their confidence is up and they get hopes and assurance of victory while their enemies the Philistines shake in fear. The battle soon starts and Israel losses again, so bad is the loss that the Philistines even capture the Ark of the Covenant. Indeed, this is Echabod- the glory has departed.
Israel missed the point! Empty religion cannot replace the place of a true and vibrant relationship with God. Symbols of religion does not imply God’s presence and approval in your life. Having the Ark of the Covenant with them in battle while their relationship with God was broken wasn’t helpful at all.
It seems most of us haven’t learnt the lesson yet; some rushed but not genuine last minute prayers or audience with the priests or pastor won’t help you out until you work on your relationship with Him. Those short- term appearances in Church during trouble won’t help you out either.
And what of those religious stuff and rituals we often carry or undertake without a genuine relationship with God ? Baptisms, sacraments, christian namings, holy water, rosary, candles, bibles and whatever else…. all won’t assure you of a victory save for a personal vibrant relationship with God! The confidence you get from all these are just but hot air.
The Pentecostals too have their versions of religious stuff that can falsely boost their confidence; tithes, offerings and church donations, church attendance, ministry engagements, biblical information and quotes, spiritual gifts, talents and many other church activities- all done without the backing of a genuine active relationship with God.
Talk of those church burials where people are rushed to church for prayers to apparently secure them some good place in heaven. And what of those weddings, birthdays etc where the services of the clergy are sought, just for some good- luck prayers?
Well, all these are good but not helpful at all without the backing of a true, vibrant/active and growing relationship with God Himself.
Instead of dealing with their relationship with God through genuine repentance and seeking God, the Israelites decided to put their trust in the symbols of their faith. Yes, their confidence was highly boosted but they were still defeated.
Be warned, without a genuine and serious work on your daily relationship with God, all your religious efforts and symbolism won’t help you out. At best, they will only give you false hopes!
Time to get out of religion and work on our relationship with God! Yes, it takes grace and the same is available….