John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

God In A Box

I'm preaching the next two weekends at a church near my home. It's rare anymore that I get to do more than a one shot sermon; I actually get to develop an idea over the course of two messages! I've chosen a quirky story from 1 Samuel 4-6 -- the story where the Ark of the Covenant gets captured by the Philistines.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the story, it goes like this:

The Israelites had an archenemy -- a people called the Philistines. These Philistines were sea-faring people, and the sea scared the bejeezus out of the Israelites (who were a thoroughly land-lubbing people). To make matters worse, the Philistines had discovered new technology that the Israelites did not have. They knew how to make iron. That made their weapons way better than anything the Israelites could trot out in battle.

It's like one side using tanks and artillery while the other side is riding on horses using bows and arrows.

The Israelites go out to fight against the Philistines and get clobbered. They retreat and gather for a debrief where someone gets this bright idea: "Let's go again, only this time we'll bring out our secret weapon: The Ark of the Covenant."

The Ark of the Covenant was a box made of wood and covered with gold. Inside it were the original stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments, some manna and Aaron's staff that had miraculously bloomed. These were all symbols of God's abiding presence with his people. Outside the box were two angels, and it was said that God literally sat there between those two angels.

In other words, the Ark of the Covenant was the presence of God.

The assumption was that if they took the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them, it wouldn't just be their reputation at stake; it would be God's reputation as well. If they lost now, people wouldn't just think of the Israelites as losers; Yahweh himself would be considered a loser.

They thought they had God in a box. God stopped being someone to be honored and obeyed and became something they could use and manipulate for their personal interests.

Aren't you glad people aren't like that anymore?

Oh...wait....

What are some ways you think Christians today sometimes act like they've got God in a box?