Show Me That Our God Is in the Camp Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Then these people who faced the Philistines made another error; they mistook enthusiasm for faith. When they saw the ark they shouted so that the earth rang. You may say, “those are the kind of people I like; people that can shout.” Those Israelites shouted, but there was nothing in their noise. Anyone who passed near the camp of Israel, that day, might have said that they had the type of service that people like, you know, nothing dull about it. They shouted, but they had very little to shout about because in a short time their corpses littered the fields. The Philistines put an end to their shouting. Now, brothers and sisters, when you are worshipping God, shout if you are filled with holy gladness. If your heart is so full, you should not hold back.
God forbid that we should judge any man’s worship! But do not be so foolish as to believe that because there is loud noise that there is faith. Faith is a still water, which flows deep. True faith in God may express itself in leaping and shouting, and that is a happy thing; but it may also set still before the Lord, and that perhaps is an even happier thing. Praise can set silent on the lips, but be heard in heaven. Sometimes our mouths are not big enough to express the deep feelings that are in our hearts. Do not make the mistake of confusing enthusiasm for faith in judging the external things of faith.
The person who worships God may shout until the earth is shaken, and God may accept him, but the person who sets in silence before the Most High God may worship just as truly, even though he doesn’t say a word. It is the spirit of our worship that is most acceptable to God, not those external things that we do. It is the heart that has fellowship with the Lord; and it does not need any assistance in expressing itself. And God has not tied us down to this way or that way when we worship. Worship may find its own way, so long as it is truly moved by the Holy Spirit.
There was a mistake made on the battle field, which nowadays is often imitated. We commit this error when we confuse ritual with spirituality. Now, every form of religion has its ritual.
The Quaker, who sits still, and doesn’t say a word, has a ritual; and those who have a thousand rites and ceremonies have even more ritual. But if I go through the general routine of worship of my church, and think that I have done something acceptable to God, while my heart has not expressed to Him humble repentance, or faith, or love, or joy, or consecration, I have made a great mistake. Worship amounts for nothing unless the soul has fellowship with God. Godliness is a spiritual thing; for “God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Our form of worship is good only if it helps us reach this spiritual communication. I pray that all of us might feel our soul lifting up to God in worship and that our ritual, whether great or small, will be our guide to God, and not a chain that holds us back from God.
We have observed the great mistake these people made, but there is also a great truth of which their mistake is an illustration. Although what the Philistines said, and what the Israelites thought, on this occasion, was false, it is often true. We have seen that God does not always come to the camp of His people, but we seek His presence because His presence is the great power of his church. My friends, what joy comes to us when we have His presence with us! Let’s look briefly at the scene that takes place when God comes into the camp.
When God comes into the camp, the truth of the Gospel becomes vital. Christ becomes truth to us, but He is also the Way and the Life. The Word of God becomes both a hammer and fire, smiting and melting those whom His power comes to rest on. Whoever preaches the Gospel, when God has come into the camp, speaks with power. He may lack eloquence and learning, but if God is with him, he will speak with power, and people will say, “Surely, God is in this place.”
When God comes into the camp, new life is put into prayer. Instead of the repetition of holy phrases in a cold, feeble and lifeless fashion, the soul empties itself out before the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit that leads the prayer, for He knows best how you should worship, and what you need.
The presence of God in the camp brings fresh energy to service; He shakes men up and awakens their spiritual muscle. When the Lord comes to us with power, He makes us alive all over; every part of the man is speeded up with a divine energy; then men really work for Jesus and work successfully, too.
When God comes into camp, His presence has an effect on unbelievers. Sinners turn to the Lord, in so marvelous a way that we may be astonished. The last persons in the world that we expected to be saved come to our service and they find Christ. Many have heard the Gospel for years and their hearts appear harder than steel, but they are melted by the Word. When God comes into the camp, the Holy Spirit convinces men of their sin, and many turn to Christ in faith and love and are saved.
When God is in the camp, His presence infuses daring faith,
and a greater height of dedication. Adventurers for God are
Weak men begin to grow strong, young men dream dreams and old men see visions. Many begin something for Jesus, which they would not have thought to do in their timid days. Other men reraised up; missionaries to the poor and shameful sinners that are not the popular objects for Christian workers. Because God is in the camp, many take up the work which at first only the truly brave believers dared to try.
When God is in the camp, His presence cannot be hidden, since in a delightful way it transforms joy into worship. People do not think that sermons are dull when God is in the camp, and prayer-meetings are not thought to be “a waste of time.” God’s people enjoy fellowship and when Christians meet, and God is in the camp, they speak cheerfully about the Master. I hope that you have enjoyed many such pleasant occasions. We should be like those people mentioned by Malachi: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name.”
They had such a heavenly conversation that God Himself turned eaves-dropper to listen to what they had to say, and He liked it so much that He had it recorded, and He thought so much of it that He said He would preserve it; and a book of remembrance was made for them that feared the Lord, and that thought about Him often. The question is, would God think so much of our conversation that He would make a book of remembrance, in our day?
I cannot tell you of the infinite blessings that come to the camp of the Christian when God is there. I hope that we know a little bit of that right now and that we will in the future know a great deal more of it. It is hard work to preach or to teach Sunday School when God is not in the camp. Perhaps we should pray before every duty, “If thy presence is not with me, do not take me from this place.” But if the Lord is with us, we will rise up as if we have eagle’s wings. Everything is done gladly, happily, thankfully, believingly, “When God is in the camp.”