Such is the way the Israelites once took God and His power:
And when the troops 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.” So 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. (1 Sa. 4.3–4)
The Israelites were utterly defeated. Why wasn’t the power of the Lord with them? Or was He a fickle God?
God’s not fickle but steadfastly faithful. But the Israelites had taken the ark of the covenant with the wrong understanding: they trusted in the power of God magically empowering them in battle rather than in the Lord Himself winning the battle for those who looked to Him for righteousness, for wisdom, for success. As this event shows, woe to any who try to manipulate God.
God is holy, and His words and His signs of grace cannot be used as talismans. He does not call us to a life of amulets by which we try to influence His will toward what we think is our blessing. For what is man, that God should turn aside from His perfect, loving righteousness to do his impure will?
Now obviously not everyone subscribes to the health and wealth “gospel”. But that’s not enough. We cannot expect His blessing or His help of any kind if haven’t tried to follow the path that He has blessed, which is the righteous ways laid out in the Bible. Yet we love to assume that as long as we have “faith” everything will be fine. I fear that this may be the thing that we think of when we carelessly toss out this word in Bible study and in our daily speech.
Attempted manipulation, no matter how futile, is not faith. What, then, can we call true faith that doesn’t end in ignominy? Comments, please, while I try to write up some of my thoughts about godly, Christ-centred faith.