Faith Covenant Church

Faith Covenant Church

From The Desk of the Bishop...

"When God Stops Listening"

 

Memory Verse :
 
 
"And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist [knew] not that the LORD was departed from him."
-- Judges 16: 20
 
 
This is one of the most heartbreaking and tragic verses in the entire Old Testament. Samson "wist not," he did not know that the that the LORD was no longer with him as He had been in the past. He awoke from his sleep thinking that God was with him only to find that he was alone and powerless before his enemy. Samson didn't know...
 
 
He apparently didn't know the consequences of having betrayed his calling in God. He didn't appreciate the significance of having been set apart to God from birth. He took his awesome, God-given strength for granted, thinking that it was his own and could be used as he pleased. And because he didn't know, he allowed himself to be robbed of the sign of his special consecration to the Lord, his hair. The heartrending consequences of his indiscretion? He who had been the hero of Israel ended up bald, blind, and bound -- shamed before the very adversaries he had effortlessly defeated in the past.
 
 
Samson didn't know that he was sleeping with the enemy. The most dangerous enemy is not the one from outside. We can build defenses against those enemies from with-out. What of the enemies within? Samson was sleeping with the agent of his own destruction. The LORD's champion lays asleep and helpless in the arms of a treacherous paramour. Countless men and women of destiny have been brought low by becoming intimate with the wrong people. But can we go a little deeper? It is possible to "sleep with the enemy" alone and in a single bed. Sometimes my greatest enemy is "in-a-me." How often we blame others, or the devil for things that we have brought upon ourselves. There can be no deliverance in our lives as long as we play the "victim card" and refuse to take responsibility for our own sins and failures.
 
 
Samson didn't know that he was sleeping too long. I have at times been kidded and at other times chided by friends and loved ones for a tendency to sleep behind the wheel of a car. I confess (and I hope not to hear this again) that there have been times in the past when I have been so tired that when I arrived home, I couldn't remember the drive. God has been awfully good to me. At times when I have dozed off, He never let me sleep too long. He has always awakened me before I could go off the road or into oncoming traffic. Merciful God. Disaster results from sleeping too long at the wrong time. As in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Destinies are devastated, ministries are undermined, entire churches have been shipwrecked because people "sleep" through warning after warning from on high. One preacher preached, "Lord, Shake Me, Wake Me, Don't Let Me Sleep Too Late!"
 
 
Perhaps the most depressing image in this verse is that of Samson shaking himself as he had at other times, but to no avail. He was "going through the motions," doing what had worked before only to find that it was in vain. Can you imagine the smirks on the faces of the Philistine soldiers as this man who had been such a powerhouse now shakes himself but with no results? Could it be that Samson thought that his strength would come from how he moved or positioned himself before the enemy? He had reduced the favor of God down to a formula: "I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself."
 
 
This verse, Samson's dismal downfall, is enough in and of itself to evoke tears. But I hope you know as I do, that this verse is not just a commentary on Samson's folly. Its about us too. Tragically, the people of God throughout history and even up till now have too often relived and repeated Samson's mistakes -- betraying our destiny by following our own fleshly agendas, sleeping with the enemy, sleeping too long, and going through meaningless motions thinking that God is somehow obligated to continue to bless our mess. Paul speaks of the danger of " having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof..." (2 Timothy 3: 5). Going through the motions with God...
 
 
Did you know that it is possible, through our own folly and disobedience to find ourselves in a place where praying is pointless and even fasting is futile? Business as usual becomes no longer acceptable with God! Sometimes we take the grace of God for granted, and feel that because He has favored us in the past, He will continue to strive with us. Not so. The Lord reminded me last night and this morning -- from two poignant examples from His dealings with His chosen people -- that God can lose patience with our "going through the motions" devoid of true obedience, repentance or amendment of our ways.
 
 
In Isaiah, the LORD speaks to His people in harsh terms: "Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense [prayer] is detestable to Me...I cannot bear your evil assemblies...When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1: 13, 15, NIV). The people of Israel felt that they could manipulate God with their fasting, prayer and offerings. But God was not impressed. On the contrary, He says, "I will hide My eyes from you..." The reason? Their fasting, prayer, and giving was from sinful, disobedient, and unrepentant hearts. It was just "going through the motions." Fasting and prayer with unchanged hearts are nothing more than religious "witchcraft" -- charms, spells or incantations to control the heavens! And so it is even today.
 
 
We can't fool God. We can only deceive ourselves. In Jeremiah, God warns against that kind of self-deception when He says,
"Trust ye not in lying words, saying, the temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these....But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works, saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking , but ye heard not; and I called you, but you answered not....Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee" (Jeremiah 7: 4, 12-13, 16).
False prophets were telling Israel -- just as false teachers are telling people today -- that God would not send destruction and judgment for their sins because of the church (temple) to which they belonged. Because God had wrought miraculous deliverance in the past (2 Kings 19: 32-36), they felt that He was obliged to again overlook their ongoing rebellion against Him. Isn't it amazing how people even today, feel as if they can tie God down to one place, one people, one pulpit? The people of Jeremiah's time were vainly going about saying, "This is the temple of the LORD." In other words, "God has to overlook our sinful behavior because His house is here."
 
 
God's response to their religious arrogance must have been shocking. He invited them to another place where His name had also been attached, ancient Shiloh. Jeremiah's listeners immediately understood what God was saying. Shiloh lay in ruins. It had been destroyed by the Philistines -- God's judgment upon the wickedness of His people. In other words, God was saying that His name having been invoked upon a place was no deterrent to His judgment coming because of sin and disobedience. Even more shocking, even more disturbing is the injunction that the Lord places in Jeremiah 7: 16 against prayer and intercession. The Almighty says that He will no longer hear prayers on behalf of this proud and rebellious people. His ears are closed. He is no longer listening. In such a case, to pray, to cry, to intercede -- all of these are just meaningless "motions" based on empty emotions.
 
 
Ancient lore? Irrelevant today for New Testament believers? I think not. Jesus on more than one occasion spoke of the danger of going through the motions -- "...They think that they will be heard for their much speaking"...."Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven"...."This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth...but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 6: 7; 7: 21; 15: 8). Is there a more catastrophic waste of time than fasting, praying, giving or worshipping without obedience and personal transformation? What could be worse than doing all the right religious 'gyrations," only to find that God has stopped listening?
 
 
God, deliver us from "going through the motions," thinking that because we are "shaking ourselves" like Samson, God is with us. May we determine today that we will not waste time and energy "playing church." Let us make a solemn commitment that we will not engage in pointless prayers and futile fasting in the face of our own disobedience, but rather that we will truly amend our ways and to 'seek the Lord while He may be found.' No more unheard prayers!
 
 
Thoughts for your Journal :
 
 
1. In what (if any) ways have you used prayer, fasting, giving, worship or service as "good luck charms" to manipulate God?
 
 
2. What areas are you being called to revisit and repent of or come into proper alignment in?
 
 
3. In what ways have you been guilty of putting God in a box -- as to what you feel He is obliged to do?
 
 
Prayer Focus for Today :
  • Lord, help me to realize that Your Spirit will not always strive with man. Forgive me for using my acts of consecration as acts of manipulation. Search me, try me and change me...today!
Bible Reading Plan :
  • Proverbs 8
  • Isaiah 1
  • Jeremiah 7
  • Matthew 7
Blessings in all you do,
 
 
Bishop Mark Moore

 

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