Devotional Thoughts for Today
“‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.”
As a pastor, and especially as a church planter, it’s easy at times to gauge how well your church is doing by the number of people who show up. If the BIS statistic is good- BUTTS IN SEATS- then I feel good. If it’s low, it’s easy to feel discouraged. While numbers can certainly mean something, especially if new believers are being added to the kingdom, it isn’t everything, and it’s also potentially misleading. What then should we be looking for? What does it mean for a church to be doing well?
In Jeremiah’s day, there was a problem- the shepherds of Israel- her religious leaders, weren’t taking proper care of the sheep. They managed the religious affairs of the people- offering sacrifices, running the festivals, etc.- but they weren’t truly shepherding the people. What then does it mean to be a good shepherd, as our Lord Jesus was? What does it mean to be “shepherds after [God’s] own heart”? This is where things get interesting. Jeremiah shifts from discussing shepherds to the topic of the ark of the covenant. Why? And why does he seem to downplay its importance, saying that “It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed”? The answer is found the following verse, where Jeremiah describes a future in which “the presence of the LORD” seems to have taken on greater significance. At that time the ark will no longer be remembered because what it represented- the presence of God- will be a reality. We will see God face to face, no longer dependent upon an artifact as the basis of our relationship with God.
Coming full circle, what does it mean then to truly shepherd God’s people? It means to deliver them from empty religious practice based more upon superstition than a real relationship with God. If you’re a leader of any sort in the church, what are you hoping for in those whom you lead? Don’t settle for them just showing up or padding the BIS stats- make it your goal that each person grows in a relationship with God and not in empty religious practice. And if you’re a child of God- leader or not- don’t settle for anything less than a growing sense of God’s presence in your life.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may I not settle for the ark of the covenant when I should be seeking for the God of the covenant. Forgive me for wherever I have replaced relationship with religion. Draw me deeper and deeper into Your presence, day by day. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Hebrews 11
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Samuel 4:5-11:As 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. 6 And 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, 7 the 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.8 Woe 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.9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”10 So 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. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Questions to Consider
- In v.5, why did the Israelites give “a mighty shout”? What were they excited about?
- In the end, what happened? How did the battle go?
- What was the mistake of the Israelites? Do you see yourself relying upon any “arks” in your life?
- They thought that the presence of the ark ensured victory in battle.
- They lost- BIG TIME.
- The Israelites relied on superstition rather than God. Israel’s religious life was in shambles, but they thought that didn’t matter because of a religious relic. Do you think your relationship with God is ok as long as you ______?
Reflect upon the state of your heart. Forget your title at church if you have one or whatever else anyone might have said about you. What is the state of your relationship with God when stripped of everything?