Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Offering of Affliction

It's not often that we say, or that we are willing even to consider, that a non-Israelite nation, a non-Christian people, would have anything to teach us about honorable worship. It's not often that we say that we have something to learn from someone whose god is not the Lord. But here we are with the Philistines, who captured the Ark of the Covenant and brought the Lord onto their own turf, only to come face-to-face with the reality of who He is.

And they have something very important to teach us about worship.

As we saw yesterday, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into their own towns did not go well for the Philistines and because of the resulting plagues of hemorrhoids and rats, it didn't take long before they had nowhere in their own territory to even house the thing. It should be no surprise that, knowing what happened to the town where the Ark was stored, no other town wanted it.

So the Philistines sent the Ark back toward Israel, back to the place where it belonged, having placed inside of it their own offerings to the Lord - five golden hemorrhoids and five golden rats. And this is where our lesson begins.

Honestly, most of us would have taken a different direction. Most of us would have offered good and beautiful things, giving God all the praise and glory that He is due, even in our affliction. This is what we have been taught. We have a Christianity that puts God on a pedestal and protects Him from our unclean things. We have a Christianity that tells us that no matter what is going on in our lives, we're supposed to praise His incredible glory anyway. We have a Christianity that says that you give God the very best of all things, no matter what, and that anything else is unworthy. We have a Christianity that says that you offer to God only those things you want memorialized, build only those altars that you want to remember.

We have a Christianity that wouldn't have thought to offer Him our affliction itself.

But that's exactly what the Philistines did. They gave God, this strange God, their afflictions in the hopes that by doing so, He might heal them of these terrible things.

It's a very different approach. They have in their possession this sacred box, essentially, of the glory of the Lord, and as they prepare to send it back to its people, to His people, they want to add their measure to it. Every time Israel added something to the Ark, it was in remembrance of something incredible that God had done. That's how there came to be a jar of manna in there, to remember how God had provided for them in the wilderness. That's how Aaron's staff came to be in there, to remember how God demonstrated His choosing of the tribe of Levi for the priesthood. Israel, and most of us, put into our sacred box those memories we want to share, reminders of those moments of God's goodness and glory, so that when we see them, we say, "Hey God, remember that time when You....? That was awesome."

Hey God, remember that time when You afflicted us with hemorrhoids? Yeah, that was great.

One of these just doesn't seem to fit, and yet, the offerings fit perfectly in the Ark. It held them well. And you know what? God healed them. He did. He healed the Philistines of their afflictions, of their hemorrhoids. He drove out the rats so that their cities were no longer plagued. He heard their cry because they dared raise it to Him, and He answered.

We have a lot to learn from these Philistines. 

No comments:

Post a Comment