Focal Passages: 1 Samuel
4:3-5, 10, 20-22; 5:1-4; 6:19-21
Christianity is not a
religion. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God, while Christianity is God
reaching down to a sinful man to provide salvation and fellowship.
Christianity is not a
religion, but it is a perfect relationship initiated by God and sealed with the
blood of Jesus, the Messiah. Religions always fail.
The passages we will be
studying this week show us how religious actions on our part do not influence
God to follow our lead or for God to support our choices and actions.
Our study this week picks up
where we left off in our June 6 study. Samuel confronts Eli, the priest, with
the behavior of Eli’s priestly sons, and he informs Eli of God’s displeasure.
A period of time has passed,
and Israel is encountering issues with the Philistines.
The sons of Eli (Phinehas
and Hophni) take the Ark of the Covenant to lead Israel’s army to battle the
This initially looks to be a
good idea, but what happens is a disaster for Israel, because God had not
authorized the Ark to be moved.
The Ark ends up being
captured, the armies of Israel are defeated, and the sons of Eli perish.
Eli is so distraught that he
falls out of his chair, breaks his neck, and he also dies. Things don’t go much
better for the Philistines. They do not respect the Ark of the Covenant, and
God sends a curse on each city that ends up housing the Ark until the
Philistines, in desperation, send the Ark back to the people of Israel. The
people of Israel were misled by the leadership of the priests, Phinehas and
These two priests treated
the Ark as a good-luck charm instead of something holy that belonged to God.
They had wrapped religion
around the Ark, and it had replaced the leadership of God.
Today, it is so easy to fall
into the same trap that the people of Israel did. Our society displays crosses
on common jewelry not as a declaration of the crucifixion but more as a
good-luck charm just like these priests did.
I can remember a co-worker
from many years ago that had a keychain full of various religious symbols that
she kept attached to her purse.
When I asked her about it,
she said that she had them “just in case.”
Well, that is not how God
works. He wants us to have a relationship with Him and to follow Him by active
prayer, Bible study, and meditation on Him instead of trying to use some
religious symbol, donation, or some other religious action to influence God’s
hand into standing with us.
Do you treat your time with
God as a religion, or is it a growing relationship where we become more like