No Substitutes for the Real Thing
“You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.” John 5:37-38
Wow, do I have a lot of scriptural meat to share with you this morning! As I was reading in both 1 Samuel and in John this morning God opened my eyes to the connections between the two sets of scripture verses and from the lesson I have taken away from that revelation I will try my best to impart what God has shown me as I write this morning.
In the book of 1 Samuel, after Samuel is dedicated to the temple and becomes a helper to the priest Eli, an unnamed “man of God” comes to Eli and rebukes him and his sons for the disgrace their sloppy and irreverent service is bringing to the temple and before the Lord whom they were to be serving in their priestly roles.
This man goes onto prophesy what will become of Eli, his sons, and their family for generations to follow because of their disregard to the Lord and His commands. At first I didn't take much note of this prophesy and in the fact the word of the Lord was not “widespread” at the time of Eli the priest, as the following verse states, but as I read on I came back to this verse because it connected another verse to follow for me that I had never connected with it before. I will explain as we move on.
“And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.” 1 Samuel 3:1
So, not only did the Lord speak to this unnamed man who gave the prophesy to Eli, but also He spoke to Samuel as scripture states in the following verses and the previous verses the lead up to Samuel realizing it was the Lord speaking to him (one of those great Sunday School stories from our past).
And not much further on we learn that the prophetic gifts of Samuel became known all around the land:
“So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord. Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” 1 Samuel 3:19 – 4:1
But, here it the point that I really wanted to get at and how the verse above from John connects in. When the arc of the Lord was subsequently brought into battle and the sons of Eli went with the arc only to be completely defeated by the Philistine army, have the arc stolen, and the sons of Eli killed, and Eli die of shock from the news not too soon afterward (all which you can read about in 1 Samuel 4:1-18) the following sentiment of the daughter-in-law I believe reflected the sentiment of the Israelite people of the time:
“Now [Eli's] daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her... she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:19-22
Did you see it? She connected the glory of the Lord with the physical arc and the corrupt priests of the temple. She did not acknowledge that the only prophetic voice at that time had not come from either of those sources but rather from Samuel and some unknown man. Also, is was not Samuel who the Israelite army asked for when they went into battle but rather the arc and the corrupt priests!
It is now I want to go back to the scripture from John that I have at the top and point out the real error in thinking that the Israelites had and how many Christians also error in their thinking about where the glory of the Lord is to be found. In verses 37 and 38 of John 5, not only did the people have the revelation of God with them, in Jesus, but they chose to ignore Him and His word for the more physical manifestation of what the law and traditions of that time had always said about how God reveals Himself to His people. But over time, in both instances, the traditions and the modes to which people came to God became corrupt, but instead of turning away from the corrupt practices they continued to pursue them and ignore the revelation of the Lord through the prophets of their time.
We need to realize that as the body of Christ today, we too fail to heed the prophetic voice of the Lord as He reveals Himself to us through His word and through His prophets of our time. The practices in the church that have been corrupted by man cannot bring glory to God and cannot bring us victory over the enemies we fight in the spiritual realm – only God alone and His revelation to each of us can do that.
It would be wise for each of us to take some time today to evaluate where God is speaking and working in lives. But also, we should take note of where God is not at work and where influences have been brought into our lives which have become a means of corruption to the pure truth of God – and then rid ourselves of them.
Be encouraged. God is still at work revealing Himself to His people. But we must be on our guard to make sure the source of His revelation is pure and true and points to His eternal and never-changing nature, not just a never-changing practice of man.