As I have been preaching through this series on worship at BBC, God has really put a burden in my heart to go after Him more and more. I seek to be in His presence more now than ever before! I often think about what would happen if God withdrew Himself from me. I must conclude like the hymn writer, "If though withdraw thyself from me, O whether shall I go?"
The story begins located in 1 Samuel 2. There is so much preaching in this story! I will try to limit it to a narrative, so that you may derive your own application from it. Eli, the high priest allowed his sons, Hophni and Phinehas to run rampant with the things of God. They were "abhorring the sacrifices" and alluring the servants in the temple.
Eli was warned about the behavior of his sons and talked to them, but to no avail. Finally a "man of God" came to him and pronounced judgment on Eli and the sign of this would be that his two sons would die in the same day!
It came to pass that the Philistine's came to fight with Israel and as my grandmother would say, "they were in the right field to get their hundred". Israel recognizes that the Ark of the Covenant was not there and sent for it (isn't that just like us, it would behove us to seek him out first). The battle went on and Israel was defeated and Hophni and Phinehas were both killed, just as the man of God said, and the Ark of the Covenant was taken away!
A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battle to Shiloh to tell Eli what happened. He told him about his sons, and the Ark being captured. Look at what happens, "As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy" 1 Samuel 4:18 (ESV).
1 Samuel 4:19-22 (ESV) 19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, "Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son." But she did not answer or pay attention. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, "The glory has departed from Israel!" because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured."
Both Eli and his daughter in law were greatly distressed over the Ark of God being taken away, so much that it forever changed them, one in death and one with a reminder of what had taken place. Do people today value the presence of God in this manner? How do we feel about cold, lifeless, mundane, and routine worship services, when the one that we are suppose to worship seems to be conspicuously absent?
I don't know about you, but I have to have His presence!! It really doesn't matter what else is taken away, I must have His presence. I am by no stretch saying that the death of loved ones, or some other tragedy will not have a profound affect on me or anyone else, but just imagine if you had to go through those things without the His Presence!
Every time I read this story, I gain a greater sense of gratitude for who God is in my life. In closing, I will quote the songwriter, "Without God, I would be nothing. Without Him, I would fail. Without Him, my life would be rugged. Just like a ship, without a sail!"