The crazy cycle of the judges continues in 1Samuel. Israel had again hit rock bottom. Having been handily defeated by the Philistines in a war undertaken in their own strength, the people of God saw the ark lost and the priesthood wiped out in single day (1Samuel 4). The result? Ichabod–“the glory has departed” (1Sam. 4:21-22).
That’s what happens when the presence of God is viewed more as a good luck charm to be rubbed when convenient than a holy privilege to be pursued. When those who should be mediating on behalf of God have grown fat, lazy, and corrupt, content to mock heaven by saying, in effect, “Not Thy will, but mine be done.” Ichabod.
And while the ark is eventually recovered, the vacuum remains and the oppression continues. And so, says the holy record, “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD” for twenty years (1Sam. 7:2).
They groaned for Jehovah. They mourned to know again the light of His face shining upon them. They cried to heaven to again know the glory. And God graciously responds through Israel’s last judge and first prophet.
And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only.
(1Samuel 7:3-4 ESV)
Samuel, led of the LORD, deals with the heart of the matter . . . literally.
Favor would be found in faithfulness. They would again have His face when He again had their heart. Not some divine quid pro quo, where if we do this then God owes us to do that, but a divine dynamic based on a divine reality–God shares His glory with no other (Isa. 42:8). A heart set on idols, is heart that has no room for God’s glory.
It’s a matter of the heart. Jesus said so.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
(Matthew 5:8 ESV)
And so, we need to direct our hearts.
Those serious about returning to the LORD, those sincerely wanting to know His glory in their midst, are those who realize it starts with directing their heart toward Him. First by dealing with the competing gods. Recognizing and removing those idols which, in effect, dethrone God and deplete time and energy otherwise available to pursue His kingdom. Then by determining, as much as lies within them, to serve the LORD only. To so align their motives that, whatever their hand finds to do, their desire is that it all be done for the glory of God.
If we sense the glory’s departed, then perhaps we need to examine our hearts. If we desire to know afresh His face, then maybe we need to clean house and put away the foreign gods inhabiting our hearts. And this too, by God’s grace and through God’s power.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
Direct your heart . . . and He again will deliver you . . . and make known anew His presence.
By His grace. For His glory.