Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth (Deut.28:1).
Christians know that God expects us to change as individuals, and that the nation we are part of should be changed and influenced by our presence and testimony. But how much do we really want to change? Change can be painful, even expensive. It will mean at the least, the change of attitudes and behaviours that we have held for a long time- even generations.
So, when we are called upon to change, we tend to say, “Yes, but not too much. Let’s not get too radical. We wouldn’t want to surprise our friends, let alone the neighbours. They might think we are rather strange or way out, or religious.”
In one way, this is what Israel did. After they had been defeated in battle, and lost four thousand men to the Philistines,
the elders said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God (I Sam. 4:3-4).
What had happened? They knew they had been defeated in battle-that God had not helped them against the Philistines. So, they acknowledged that something had to change. (In this, they were certainly correct).
But what did they do? They chose the superficial route. They pushed the responsibility for military failure aside, and tried to use the ark of God as some kind of good-luck charm for deliverance.
Could we do something similar? Well, we’re doing it now. It is obvious that Christians are essentially ignored in politics. This has happened for generations now, and we haven’t liked it. We say, “We want to get better representation in the Parliaments. We want things done God’s way. We want legislation that isn’t humanistic and pleases God.”
So far, so good. But what did we do next? About eight years ago, some Christians decided that what we needed was a lobby group in Canberra: people who could influence parliaments to do the right thing. So, a number of Christians founded the Australian Christian Lobby. Now that sounded like a good idea at the time, didn’t it?
Israel sent the ark of God into battle for them, hoping it would help in their deliverance. But it didn’t. The Philistines were not convinced they should run away, and God didn’t give them victory. It was a gimmick that failed, and thirty thousand soldiers died (I Sam.4:10) in a fruitless battle. Why? The change that Israel made wasn’t what God wanted. No repentance, no change of heart, not even a token effort.
Why is this Old Testament story relevant to today?
We hoped the Australian Christian Lobby could “do the trick” for us. We foolishly thought they were just the thing we’d need to get rid of bad policies. But we found out that there are plenty of lobby groups competing for the ear of politicians: ACL is just one. Politicians aren’t convinced by a Christian lobby group to change their policies: the biggest lobby group they’ll take note of is the electorate at large. So, after ACL’s many years in Canberra, the values there are … worse.
Now, what happened next time in Israel?
From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hands of the Philistines.” So the sons of Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtaroth and served the Lord alone…
Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel (I Sam.7:2-4, 10).
It wasn’t enough to “send the ark.” God wanted so much more from His people then, and now. He didn’t want His ark sent off as a good-luck charm against the Philistines: what He wanted was His people’s obedience. Without that they were defenceless, and without it we are defenceless.
If we want change in Canberra, it begins in the homes, workplaces and churches of Christians. There is no other way for the nation to be really changed for the good. Think about this:
Please Don’t Tell Me That
- Don’t tell me God is a holy God and I must regularly repent of my sin before Him.
- Don’t tell me God doesn’t love everyone unconditionally.
- Don’t tell me hell is a real place.
- Don’t tell me I should tithe to my church a tenth of all I earn.
- Don’t tell me sex is only for marriage, and that what I do with my girl-friend in the car does matter.
- Don’t tell me that if she falls pregnant, we shouldn’t have an abortion.
- Don’t tell me my wife should give up her job, take our children out of Child-Care and that we are both fully responsible for their upbringing.
- Don’t tell me that Education and Health are family and Church responsibilities, never given to the State in scripture.
- Don’t tell me Christians should withdraw their children from the Local Centre of Humanistic Indoctrination, the State school.
- Don’t tell me my wife and daughter shouldn’t show their cleavage in Church.
- Don’t tell me the Church shouldn’t go to governments to help pay for Christian endeavours.
- Don’t tell me the real and lasting answer to national evils is Christians obeying God’s Word.