Show Me That Our God Is In The Camp Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Show Me That Our God Is In The Camp
And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
(1 Samuel 4:7)
The Prince of Preachers had a sermon with a similar name: "Is God In The Camp?" Charles Haden Spurgeon was a preacher without Peers. I am fond of his preaching, not because I have the gift, but because I can relate to his battle with depression. Depression has succeeded in stopping me from doing anything for the Kingdom except to write these sermons and Bible Commentaries. Oh, I have prayed that others would be blessed by them, but, to be honest, it blesses me more than anything else in my life. I wish I could say I did it forJesus Christ, or for this one or that one; but, the reality is, I write because I must. Now; let's see if it is possible that God has come to your camp
Israel had become disconnected from God. The people had forgotten God and were worshipping Baal instead. They had abandoned the things of God; consequently, they were given up to their enemies. When God had brought them out of Egypt, He had instructed them on how they were to live in the land, and He warned them that if they ignored Him they would be punished. His words were very clear: “If ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.” In carrying out His threat, the Philistines had been divinely allowed to conquer the idolatrous Israelites and to keep them in cruel slavery.
The only way for them to get out of their trouble was to return to God; to repent and renew their faith and covenant with God. If they would have done that, then everything would have been alright. But this is the last thing that men will do, for our fallen nature does not love spiritual things. We may perform rites and rituals, but our natural man will resist loving God and coming back to Him in faith.
Instead of attempting to get right with God, these Israelites began to devise superstitious ways of gaining the victory over their enemies. Most people, at one time or another, have acted the same way. We invent a thousand ways to escape our problems, but we neglect the one thing we need the most. Even at this moment, some of you may be passing through difficult trials, and you may think that they have come upon you because you have forgotten some little thing in connection with how you express your religion.
But no outward religious act means anything, unless you have faith, without which it is impossible to please God. We sometimes forget the main issue, which is to worship God and to do His will by faith in Jesus Christ. The answer to all of life’s problems is this: get right with God; confess your sin; believe in Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God by the death of His Son; then everything will be alright between you and God.
Today, I will attempt to show you how often, and in how many ways men try to find a cure for what ails them, rather than take the only treatment that will work, to take the case to God.
They manage to help themselves only slightly, because they look for a remedy in a thousand deceitful plans, rather than take the only remedy provided by the Great Physician for sin-sick souls. Instead of becoming right with God, these Israelites thought that, if they could get the Ark of the Covenant, which had been the symbol of Jehovah’s presence, and bring it into their camp, that they would then be certain to have victory over the Philistines.
So they sent for the Ark, and when it came into the camp, they were as enthusiastic as if they had already won the victory. They shouted so loudly, that the earth rang with their shouts. The Philistines heard all the shouting, and when they found out the reason for it, they were terrified. With trembling lips, thinking that they were certainly beaten, they turned to one another and said, “God has come into the camp. Woe unto us! For there has not been such a thing heretofore.”
Look at the great mistake that both the Israelites and Philistines made. The Israelites, instead of appealing to God himself, went to fetch the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was the sacred place where God revealed himself in the days when His people truly served Him; but there was no power there, without His presence. The Israelites were mistaken because they celebrated long before they were out of the woods. The sight of the Ark made them boastful and confident before they had won the victory. The Philistines made a different kind of mistake, because they were frightened, without a real cause. They said, “God has come into the camp;” but God had not come at all. It was only the Ark. God was not there.
The mistake they made was this; they mistook the visible for the invisible. God has given us some visible symbols-water, and bread, and wine. They are so simple, that I don’t understand how some men can make them objects of worship. They were given with the intention that they would be windows for beholding the Savior, and so that we could draw near to him. It is sad when the symbol takes the place of the Savior. However, men, by nature want to worship something that they can see, but a God that can be seen is no God. This Ark of the Covenant, which was only a wooden chest covered with gold, and with angelic carvings on the lid, was simply a token of the presence of God with his people, and these Israelites transformed it into a sacred object, to be worshiped and to be trusted in.
The elders said, “Let us fetch the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.” They credited to the Ark, what could be done only by God. This is a tendency that we share with them. We desire the things that we can see and touch. And therefore we trust in ourselves and in others, even though God has said, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” In spite of that, we want something that we can see and touch, a symbol or a token, and if it is something artistic; so much the better.
This is the great mistake that men still make today; they think that God has come into the camp merely because some outward religious rite or ceremony has been observed, or because some sacred shrine has been set up among them.
These Israelites fell into another mistake, which is also a common mistake today: they preferred the office to character. Instead of calling upon God, they sent for their priests, Hophni and Phinehas, because they had come to hold the priest’s office in such sacred reverence that they thought that it was everything. But these young men were sinners; they were not even moral men, much less spiritual men. They made the house of God a place to be despised, and they dishonored the Lord before all Israel. But because they held the office of priest, they were put in the place of God.
There are many today who have the same type of feeling; that they will be saved if their priest has been properly ordained and if the worship is properly conducted. But that is not how God’s word teaches us to recognize His disciples; we are to observe the holiness of his life, the quality of his character, the faithfulness of his preaching, his power in prayer, the blessings that come to his ministry in the saving of sinners. Those are the credentials that men who are misled think are unnecessary. Hophni and Phinehas were two of the grossest sinners in all the land of Israel, but because they were in the line of Aaron, they were trusted and put in the place of God. But God must be with any man that preaches the Gospel, or what he says makes no difference.