Good Questions; Bad Solutions

Good Questions; Bad Solutions

When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies…” (1 Samuel 4:3)

The young couple is broke; their marriage is a mess; their stress level skyrockets.  They ask a good question, “What do we need to change to make things better?”  But their solution—“Let’s get a puppy!”—is way off, and things only get worse:  the puppy needs expensive medicine; she’s up half the night; and the couple is still nitpicking each other to death.

When the Israelite army was defeated by God’s enemies, they immediately asked a good question, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today?”  But their solution was way off.  They decided to haul the Ark of the Covenant with them to war.  However, the idea that a god had to be carried into battle to bless the army was a pagan concept.  They were treating the Ark of the Covenant like a lifeless idol or a good luck charm, forgetting that the Lord of Heaven and Earth reigns everywhere, not just over golden boxes or gruesome battlefields.  Worse yet, this pagan notion was a way for them to avoid the real issue:  they were spiritually empty.  They didn’t need a rabbit’s foot; they needed to repent.

Beware of treating God like a good luck charm, especially to avoid repentance or personal responsibility.  Maybe the reason why our finances, relationships, or emotions are a mess right now is because we are lazy and careless, not because we skipped a lot of church recently, didn’t pray hard enough, or tweaked God’s nose a bit.  And the solution isn’t going to church a few times, giving more money away, or praying twice a day.  God isn’t a cosmic vending machine into which we pump spiritual quarters to receive the treats we want.  The solution is repentance, the recognition that I am the cause of much of my misery.  The solution is returning to a gracious God who sometimes lets us struggle so we will dive back into his welcoming arms.  The solution is turning to Jesus who made a new covenant so we can approach our Father without fear, confident that he will address all our needs in the best possible way.

Prayer:  Merciful Father, so often I ask good questions, but my proposed solutions are way off.  Help me repent and run back to you for mercy.  Amen.