Religious Icons

October 25, 2012

1 Samuel 4:4-10
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”
When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, 7the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “We’re in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. 8Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert. 9Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”
10So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Religious Icons

This scripture in 1 Samuel captures a truth that is prevalent for us today and needs to be considered by us as God’s people.
There was no greater representative symbol of God and His presence in that day than the Ark of the Covenant. To the Israelites it represented the presence of God in their midst. In past times the Ark of the Covenant had not been taken into battle.
Here is a principle that religion has failed to grasp. God gives us natural symbols to show us spiritual truths. It helps us to conceptualize spiritual realities that we have a hard time grasping with natural understanding. Religion tends to take the symbols of truth and make them icons of idolatry because it teaches us to put our faith in the symbol rather than the reality of the truth that it represents. Our symbols, outside of the context of the truth they represent, become no more than good luck charms we believe will wart off evil and give us God’s favor.
God gave the tabernacle and all of its furnishing as type and shadow of that truth that would be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. They were all symbols of the truth, but not the reality and substance of it.
In this passage in 1 Samuel 4 we see the two priests, Hophni and Phinnehas who were suppose to be the representatives of God, but were living godless and sinful lives. Maybe the underlying thought was that if we the Ark of the Covenant and bring into the battle we’ll be holding God hostage, because surely He won’t allow the ark to be captured and He will give us the victory. One thing we learn about God is that not even the temple that carries His name is sacred if the hearts of His people are wicked. He is jealous over our spirits, not our religious icons. He will destroy even the most sacred natural thing in order to restore the spiritual reality and truth of it.
Look even at the example in 1 Corinthians 5 where a man was in relations with his father’s wife. Paul passes a judgement that the lesser be destroyed that the greater might be preserved. “When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” God will destroy the natural to preserve the spirit no matter how spiritual the natural may seem. He has done it with many great men of God that allowed sin to enter in.
How many times do we come naming and claiming in the “Name of Jesus”, but our lives are not aligning with His nature, character and purpose. Like the Israelites here, we may often suffer defeat because the spiritual reality of the truth is not in place and practice. If we want God to show up in our battles then we need to be carrying and practicing His presence. If we are relying on a symbol or icon to bring us victory then we have missed the greater truth. Truth is not in the icon, it is in what it represents and symbolizes. If the truth isn’t alive in us then the icon is not going to save us no matter how religious it is. You and I are the temples that carry and house His truth. If we want to see the victory in our battles then we must live out of the truth of the Christ that we carry, not in just the symbol of the cross, but in the reality of all that it represents.

Blessings,
kent

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