It was a time of great trial in Israel’s history before the establishment of the nation as a strong kingdom under David. The prophet Samuel was trying to keep the people together, but constant wars with their Canaanite and Philistine neighbours had undermined the spiritual confidence of the Israelites. The big blow came when the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines, However it did the Philistines no good, as God inflicted them with tumours and pestilence, so they soon passed it on to others! After a few months the Ark became part of the community at Kiriath Jearim, in the hill country of the tribe of Benjamin, a former Gibeonite stronghold. There it remained for ‘a long time’ - twenty years.
During this long time the people of Israel were restless and grumbling, challenging the old ways and seeking to have changes of leadership by the institution of a monarchy. Maybe because the Ark was not in the centre of their community it meant that they were not in such a close relationship to Yahweh as they had been. Whatever the reason was, this long time led to worship of other gods, compromise of the foundations of the nation and spiritual weakness. Then at last the people realised their mistake, and Samuel had to call them back to their Covenant God in repentance (1 Samuel 7).
We have recently been celebrating the 20th birthday of Ellel Ministries Glyndley Manor and there were folk with us who were there at ‘the beginning’. To those who have joined more recently those early days seemed a long time ago, but we were encouraged to see how the original vision and calling on the Ministry at Glyndley has not been weakened but rather has grown in strength and determination over the 20 years. A long time can serve to sharpen rather than obscure what the Lord has said, as we work through the challenges and consolidate His work through His Word.
There are many ‘long times’ in our experiences of life. Maybe it’s not always a matter of 20 years when things are apparently not happening, perhaps only a few days or hours – but it seems a long time nevertheless. The important thing is not to become disillusioned or to try to provide God’s solutions ourselves, but rather to keep faith, wait patiently on the Lord, and remember that God’s timing is rather different from ours!
Prayer: Dear Lord please forgive us for those times when we become impatient and try to speed up Your work with our own solutions, Help us to go through the ‘long times’ trusting in You and holding firmly to the vision You have set before us as we wait for Your next instructions. Amen.
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