Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Bleak Situation

Into the Unknown: Part 2

Israel faced an impossible situation. The Philistines occupied the land with 30,000 soldiers and Israel had an army that had dwindled to 600 men with just two swords among them. How could they ever defeat the Philistines when they were out-equipped and out-manned?

Life throws difficult situations at us all the time. From the overwhelming situation of a continually more perverse culture seeping into our homes and influencing our families to wondering if you should help with youth group or pick up a few overtime hours to help the budget situation a little easier. Life is out of our control and the result is that often our circumstances are not what we would like them to be.

Here is where I would like to draw the first parallel between the circumstance Israel found herself in and the circumstance we find ourselves in as we try to live a Christian life. The parallel is this: Circumstances look bleak. It is easy to be discouraged. I know that I have been there, and have been there recently. The church family I minister is in decline. They were declining before I accepted the position, and while we have held steady the last year and half, it will only take a couple of funerals to send us over the edge. It is discourage and the future doesn’t look very promising. I don’t know what situation you are facing, but I sure that you have experienced equally discouraging circumstances.

Saul’s response to such a hopeless situation was to hide. He took his 600 men and hid rather than engaging the enemy:
2 Now Saul was sitting under a pomegranate tree in Migron, on the outskirts of Gibeah. The army that was with him numbered about six hundred men. 3 Now Ahijah was carrying an ephod. He was the son of Ahitub, who was the brother of Ichabod and a son of Phineas, son of Eli, the priest of the LORD in Shiloh. The army was unaware that Jonathan had left. (1 Samuel 14:2, 3; NET)

Who could blame Saul for hiding? What chance did he have with 600 poorly equipped men against the vastly superior army of the Philistines?

Something that we have to remember is that Saul knew God’s desire for Israel to be free. It was one of the great promises God gave Abraham that his descendants would occupy the land of Canaan. That is why it was called the Promised Land. Not only did Saul know of God’s desire, but God had give Saul authority to lead. Saul had the political, military, and the religious authority (as evident by the presence of the priest) to lead this small band of Israelites. But the risk seemed too great, and so Saul hid waiting for the secret formula that would ensure success and eliminate the risk.

Faith is stepping into the unknown even when things aren’t in our favor. It requires us to trust God to provide along the way rather than insisting that He provides before we set out. James writes about the great icon of faith:
20 But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:20-24; NET)

Abraham knew God’s desire and was willing to trust God to provide what he needed. Abraham lived that way when he left his homeland to follow God into the unknown of Promise Land. He lived that way when he went to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham trusted that if God asked him to do something then God would provide to make it possible.

Our situations may be bleak, but we know what God has called us to do. We have been called to make disciples. Now that will look different for all of us, but if God has called us to make disciples then we can be certain that He will provide what we need to accomplish that task. There is no reason to hide and every reason to step out in faith.

  • Point to ponder: God will provide what we need.
  • Passage to remember: James 2:20-24
  • Question to consider: What makes your situation bleak?

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