We Need God And He Wants All of Us . . . It's Time to Surrender
When my oldest son was a baby, I worried about him going to the babysitter after maternity leave ended. Would he be scared without me? How would he know I still loved him? What would bring him comfort when I wasn’t near?
I couldn’t stand the thought of him feeling alone, so I found these small, soft tag blankets. I bought two of them thinking he could leave one at our house and take the other to the babysitter, so he’d have the same comfort in both places.
He loved those “blankies” . . . probably for a little too long. He became attached, clinging to them as his comfort, his protection, his peace even as a toddler (and beyond). He took them on overnight trips to grandma and grandpa’s. They were tucked inside his backpack on the first days of school. In any situation he needed assurance, they were there. The blankies, themselves, had no power of course. They were simply tokens of comfort, protection, and peace that came from the love of the ones who gave them to him—mommy and daddy.
But don’t we all want those feelings of comfort, protection, and peace? Don’t we all want something to cling to when we need assurance, when life is hard and scary?
We’re not alone. The Israelites felt that same desire. In 1 Samuel, we learn about how they were in a battle against the Philistines. “The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield” (1 Samuel 4:2).
Defeated and in need of protection, they looked to God.
Well, not really God, himself, but the ark of the covenant.
”When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, ‘Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies’” (v.3).
The elders were confused about why they had been defeated in battle, so they moved the ark of the covenant to the battlefield, assuming it would bring them victory. Notice that they didn’t pray, they didn’t offer sacrifices, they didn’t turn to God; instead, they simply moved the ark.
While it’s true that the ark was a symbol of God’s presence and power, its presence alone did not guarantee victory. We learn that the Philistines, once again, defeated Israel. More than that, they lost 30,000 soldiers and the ark was captured.
They could no longer cling to the ark that they had expected to bring them comfort, protection, peace, and victory—it was gone. What they had yet to learn was that the ark couldn’t really provide any of those things, only God could.
If we continue reading and follow the ark as it moves through city after city, we see that the power of God moved with it, bringing death and destruction everywhere it went. Finally, after seven months, the Philistines returned the ark to the Israelites. This time, however, they understood that it was more than a token to cling to, a “blankie” to carry into battle, and that the power it held came from a living, all-powerful God who wanted all of them.
A God who longs to be everything to his people, not just a something they turn to in distress.
“So Samuel said to all the Israelites, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only” (1 Samuel 7:3-4).
Rid of the “curse” of the ark, the Philistines prepared to attack the Israelites once again. But this time, it was a different story.
“While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (v. 10-12).
When the Israelites realized that the ark itself had no power, they surrendered to the power of the Lord. They gave up their idols and chose to serve God alone.
Only when they chose to surrender to God, did he help them. He led their surrendered hearts into victory with a power that the ark alone did not have.
My son and his blankies. The Israelites and their ark. I think we might have a lot more in common than we’d like to admit. Because I think, sometimes, we cling to our tokens of Christianity or things of this world looking for comfort, peace, and protection rather than surrendering everything to our Lord and living for him.
Let that be our challenge . . . that we might open our hands to let go of anything we are clinging to as our comfort, protection, and peace. And with our open hands come before the Lord, willing to do what he asks, to go where he leads. Then we can sit at the throne of our Heavenly Father and wait for him to work, to produce victory in our lives like nothing else can.
I’m sorry for clinging to idols of this world for my comfort, protection, and peace. Lord, I know these things are simply that—things—they hold no power. But you, God, you are powerful and you want me . . . all of me. Father, help me give that to you today. Help me open my hands and let go of these powerless tokens. I want you and only you. Thank you for loving me and pursuing me even though I’m stubborn and forgetful. Help me turn to you for comfort, protection, and peace. Help me choose you today and live for you every day.
In Your will, through Your power, and for Your glory,