Posted in theology

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”

By Elizabeth Prata

1 Samuel 4:1-11

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. 2The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

5As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, 7the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”

10So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.


So many of the things…

Hindsight is golden, isn’t it?

In verse 3a, we see that the Israelites are aware that it is the LORD who gives them the victory in any particular battle. So they are aware of the LORD and His power and His presence. That’s good.

But then they show their misguidedness in verse 3B. The defeat of their army was a sure sign that the LORD was displeased. They acknowledged the LORD’S power, but then went on a misconceived plan of action. They did not consult the LORD. They embarked on a course absent His will.

1 Samuel is a record of an actual event, with real people in a real place, in a past actual time. Picture the hills and the camp all around. Picture the Israelites in their gear going to and fro in hastened activity. Picture their confidence and their purposefulness as they decide to bring the ark. Picture the men being selected to go up to Shiloh, and then came back down in a great burst of energy, carrying the ark. The ark arrived in camp and all the preparations had been made ready. As it was settled to its place, there was a great shout from the Israelites.

Their feeling was, ‘NOW we have the ark! NOW we will be victorious! We are doing the right thing!’


They thought they were worshiping. They thought they were obeying. They thought they were going to have what they wanted, which in this case, was victory over an army that they hated. Yet was it only a wayward scheme full of self-reliance and self-assurance.

How often is it that we see some kind of massive Christian event going on, just like this one depicted in 1 Samuel? IHOP OneThing. An Angus Buchan Mighty Men event. The Send. Benny Hinn Holy Spirit Miracle Healing Service.

We see the hustle and bustle of the people there. They think they are worshiping. They think they are obeying. They think they will soon be in favor with the Lord. They think they will be able to obtain what they want.

The Israelites in 1 Samuel had made two fatal errors. These are the same errors that we see today in the large-scale events of the wrong-headed.

1. They failed to consult God before embarking on their plan to go to war. They acknowledged God, but then did not consult Him. Classic example of Proverbs 14:12,

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.


In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25).

2. They substituted the power of God from God for a talisman, good luck charm in the form of the ark. The ark itself had no power. God had made a conditional covenant with the people of Israel through Moses. It was an if-then promise. If you do this, then that will happen. If you do not do this, then that will happen. As a sign of this promise, He told the Israelites to make a box according to His design and in it was placed the ten commandments. The ark was a sign. When you’re traveling on the highway and you see “Welcome to Maine” it’s announcing something, but the sign is not the state of Maine. That’s something else entirely. There is a vast difference between the sign of God and Gd Himself.

Today we see a focus on seeking signs. When they allegedly manifest, the sign is worshiped. Today’s people (many of them) have substituted the sign for the reality.

As French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

change the same

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Parables in the Old Testament

We know and love Jesus’ New Testament parables. Here is the parable of the mustard seed.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade”. (Mark 4:30-34)

The seed is the word of God.

The work of grace is small in its beginnings, but comes to be great and considerable at last (v. 30–32); “Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God, as now to be set up by the Messiah? How shall I make you to understand the designed method of it?” Christ speaks as one considering and consulting with himself, how to illustrate it with an apt similitude; With what comparison shall we compare it? Shall we fetch it from the motions of the sun, or the revolutions of the moon? No, the comparison is borrowed from this earth, it is like a grain of mustard-seed; he had compared it before to seed sown, here to that seed, intending thereby to show, Source: Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible

The illustration is, that the smallest seed takes root and grows to something that is strong and fruitful- even mighty. Who doesn’t look on a strong, tall, might tree and feel awe and marvel at its strength, symmetry, and beauty? The seed does not do this of itself, the Grower grows it.

I stopped on my way to work at dawn to admire this tree in the pasture, cows around it, ground mist rising, pond glittering, sky just pinkening:

dawn in ne ga

The parable/allegory of trees is seen in Old Testament texts as well. Yes, the OT has parables! The use of the words parable and allegory are specifically stated in Ezekiel 17:1-2 (NIV). Then the LORD continues after verse 1 in relating to Ezekiel the parable Ezekiel is to relate to the Israelites. From Ezekiel 17:3-10 the parable of the tree continues, with the trees representing kings. In the latter part of the chapter, the LORD explained the parable to Ezekiel (and us!)

There are still other symbolic comparisons to trees in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 31 in its entirety reveals Assyria’s fate. Here, the tree is likened to nations. In Ezekiel 17 the tree was likened to kings.

Daniel 4 also has a parable of a tree. This time the LORD did not say it as a parable but gave it in a dream to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king did not understand it. He called for Daniel to interpret the dream, which Daniel graciously did, thanks to wisdom from God. In this case, the tree was Nebuchadnezzar, whose kingdom had grown strong and tall, will be cut down, but the stump is banded, and will grow strong once again.

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (Psalm 92:12 NKJV).

I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. (Psalm 37:35 NKJV).

When we say we would like to “dig deeper”into God’s word, this is one way. We can ponder the symbols and parables and allegories in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Did you know there were parables in the OT? The Bible is rich in learning for us, lyrical as a written form, full of depth and power.

Most important of all, it is where we find truth and life.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Old Testament Briefs: The Ark was a box

I love the Old Testament and I study it a lot. I’m blessed with a great teaching pastor who loves it too. He frequently exposits chapters from the OT. When he’s in the NT, he always makes connections to the Old. As a matter of fact, our church held a community-wide seminar last Saturday called “Christ in Context”, where our teaching pastor and one of our elders led us in three sessions that connected Christ from the OT to the New: Continue reading “Old Testament Briefs: The Ark was a box”

Posted in Uncategorized

A Tale of Two Gods?

In this corner, with the wizened face and long white beard, God, also known as Ancient of Days and sometimes as simply I AM. Aged, ancient, and some say, outdated. Audience, give it up for God in the white robe, the Old Testament God!

In this corner, with the scarred face and hands, smallish stature and nothing beautiful or majestic to attract us to Him, don’t underestimate this Humble Servant, the Man of Sorrows, whose name is Jesus! Give it up for the man in the crimson-stained robe, the New Testament God!

Through this playful anecdote I hoped to bring to your mind a vivid picture of what I see as a problem today in the mainline churches. They try to say that there are two Gods, an “Old Testament God” and a “New Testament God.” This reveals a basic misunderstanding of who God is in both testaments. He is the same God. The Old Testament God as He has revealed Himself is a holy God concerned with sin, redemption, and righteous living for the sake of His holy name. In many, many OT chapters, He reveals His profound love for His creation, man, in promising a better future and adhering to those promises again and again.

In the New Testament, God as He has revealed Himself through Jesus is a holy God concerned with sin, redemption, and righteous living for the sake of His holy name. While throughout many, many NT chapters, His Spirit reveals Jesus’s profound love for man, His creation, in promising a better future and adhering to those promises again and again by dying on the cross and resurrecting, He also promises wrath. Just read Revelation. It could be just as factually stated that the ‘OT God’ is a God of love and the ‘NT Jesus’ is a God of wrath. Think about it.

In the entire bible there is wrath and there is love. There are plagues and there is redemption. There are covenants kept by God and broken by man. There are prophesies made, fulfilled, and to come and there is a hope and a future. There is no Old Testament God and there is no New Testament God. There is just I AM.

In the New Testament we see that the wrath of God is still “being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). The God who came to earth and cleansed the Temple with a bullwhip (Mark 11:15-19) is the same God who in the Old Testament “abounds in love and exceeding patience” (Exodus 34:6).

Though the Jesus of the New Testament is depicted all too unfortunately as a meek and mild, politically correct good teacher holding love-ins on the hill while making daisy chains, He was not. He directly confronted evil, He pointed fingers, He spoke hard sayings, and when the people left, and they did, (John 6:66) He let them go.

God is the same God as He lovingly and compassionately reveals Himself throughout the 66 books of the bible. He is love, He is wrath, but utmost, He is HOLY. His concern for His people is of our sin, and repentance. There is no comparative religion, there is only the superlative religion (L. Ravenhill). There is no OT God and no NT God, there is only God. He is unchanging.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. (James 1:15.)

And deep down, aren’t we relieved that there is no difference in our God from one covenant to the next?

He reveals Himself to us in various ways. We know of Him through the the creation (Rom 1:18), directly person to person (Gen 3:8, Gen 5:22, Ex 33:11; Adam, Eve, Enoch, Moses), through the prophets, (Heb 1:1), through Jesus (Col 2:9), through his Spirit (2 Tim 3:16), through the Word (John 1:1-5). But though He reveals Himself in various ways, the qualities inherent in that revelation of Himself do not change from covenant to covenant, testament to testament. He remains the same.

If you find yourself saying “Old Testament God” stop for a moment and ponder the gravity of those words. He does not change. He reveals Himself to us as He does and as He will. Is it fair to say ‘OT God’ and ‘NT God’? Is it right? Does it send a good message to hearers? It doesn’t. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). “I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)