Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Religious Wrecks and Rabbit's Feet

The first car accident I ever had was in a little bitty red Chevrolet car. I was coming up on a four-way stop and the radio cut. I looked down at the radio, then looked back up, then looked down and up again. The first time I looked up, I thought I had plenty of time. The second time I looked up I was crossing into an intersection, past a stop sign, with a massive black truck blocking my way. I nearly avoided the truck, only scraping its license plate off the front bumper. My car, however, was a mess and was missing the entire right front fender. I pulled into a little parking lot to exchange information with the other driver and he noticed the Bible sitting on my front seat. He remarked, "Well, I guess that Bible didn't help you any today!"  We talked a little bit, and it was obvious the man was only half-serious, but his attitude toward the Bible was that it was nothing more than a good-luck charm.

In Samuel chapter 4, we read about an experience where the children of Israel treated God in a very similar way to how that man viewed the Bible. The Israelites had gone into battle against the Philistines and been defeated, losing 4000 warriors in the battle. After the defeat, they returned to camp, and 1 Samuel 4:3 records their conversation: "Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies" (NIV).  The Israelites' response to the defeat wasn't to examine their battle strategy or to see if there was some sin in the community that was bringing about God's disfavor. They just decided that they needed to bring their good luck charm.

So the Israelites retrieved the Ark of the Covenant, and went to battle where they were once again defeated and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. Eventually, the Ark was returned to Israel in a display of respect by the Philistines that far-exceeded the honor the Israelites had shown the Ark. The Israelites who received the newly-returned Ark opened it and looked inside and were immediately struck down. So the people of Israel decided to deposit the Ark in Kiriath-Jearim, which was not a center of worship, where it was left for twenty years.

Sometimes, I think we treat the Word of God a lot like the Israelite's treated the Ark.  We're not really interested in spending time with God, getting to know God and allowing God to re-mold us into the image of Christ. We're only interested in the good-fortune it can bring us. We treat the word of God like a lucky rabbit's foot that, as long as we read it once a day or right before an important event, we'll have good luck in our ventures. And when using God word doesn't work the way we want it too, we stick God and God's word on a shelf and forget about them until the next time we think they might be useful.

God's word is not a lucky charm, and a relationship with God is not supposed to make life easy. In fact, Jesus warned us that following him would lead to persecution, hardship and being hated. But God's word does help us to do something incredibly important; it helps us to discover the very Creator of the Universe, to encounter God as the revelations of the past collide with the power of the Holy Spirit in the present and create us anew so that we can move into the future, confident of our Savior.

God's word is not a lucky charm. Let's not miss God by reducing it to one.

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