It was on this day in the 1st century that Jewish forces captured the Antonio Fortress in Jerusalem and, consequently, initiated the Jewish revolt against Rome. This revolt would eventually lead to the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and the scattering of the Jewish people.
Had those who started this revolt been able to predict the end result, perhaps they would have thought better of it. It’s likely that these zealots felt the revolt was justified and that history was on their side. You see, centuries before, the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks ended in victory for God’s people. Unfortunately for these 1st century warriors, deliverance from the Romans was not to be. History did not repeat itself.
Now consider the story of Samson and Delilah. Time after time, the Philistine woman sought to discover the source of his strength only to be frustrated. Despite her best efforts to weaken him (and his best efforts to assist her), God allowed Samson to retain his strength, that is, until:
“Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ So he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.” (Judges 16:19-21)
For Samson, that he had come to depend upon – his strength – had left him. This time God did not permit him to continue in the patterns of the past. History did not repeat itself.
There are many other stories that follow this same line. In the days when the Tabernacle was in Shiloh, Israel went to war against the Philistines. Many Israelites were convinced that, if they carried the Ark of the Covenant into the battle, the LORD would go before them, thus, ensuring them of victory. On this particular occasion, however, history did not repeat itself: thirty thousand Israelites were slaughtered and the Ark of the Covenant was taken captive.
The point is that God’s people are mistaken to assume that God will respond to our actions in the manner we think He should just because He has in the past. We also are mistaken to confuse God’s mercy with His approval. As we see with Samson, what may have worked before doesn’t necessarily mean that He approved of our past actions. It might be that He was showing us mercy and allowing time for us to change our ways.
It should also be noted that, sometimes, we may find that, though we think we’re fighting for God, we’re actually fighting against God. Though it may be an extreme example, Paul persecuted Christians before his Damascus road experience all the time believing that he was doing God’s work. And if it’s possible that we, at times, are actually fighting against God, then it’s also possible that, sometimes when we think we’re resisting the devil, we might be resisting God.
The point is this: the Bible is full of stories that demonstrate these kinds of potentially deadly errors and, in each case, the problem was the current condition of people’s hearts. They had convinced themselves that “all was well” and, therefore, were not inclined to hear God’s voice. Especially in this day and time, it’s imperative that we learn to discern His voice. We can’t make the mistake of thinking, “If I do this, then He’s going to do that,” just because it worked that way once before. Frankly, His purposes and His methods often run contrary to what we desire. Furthermore, there are times when He has to allow us to suffer in order to get us to truly listen to Him and come to our senses. Samson and Paul learned this hard lesson and, in both cases, God blinded them. And yet, it was in their blindness that they actually began to see.
None of us want Him to have to go to these extremes to get our attention. So let us pray that He will help us to be sensitive to His voice, as never before. Also, lets really consider what these passages of Scripture have to say to us as His people:
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
“For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist, says the Lord. But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2:)
Let it be so in our lives.