Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?


Monday we mused on Psalm 62:8

"Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." NKJV

Here it is in the NCV.
"People, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection."

God never mishandles our heart. People do, for sure. But never God. In the Bible, you'll find many verses about pouring out a drink offering, pouring out water and then pouring out your heart.

In Acts (and Joel) it talks about the Spirit being poured out.

In Philippians, Paul refers to himself as a drink offering poured out, obviously familiar with the concept.

Today, I want to look at a tiny little snippet in the book of 1 Samuel. Chapter 7.  The ark had been captured by the Philistines. Then it caused all sorts of trouble for them, this is where I smile and say duh! So they sent it away and the men of Beth Shemesh took it but they looked inside and they died. Hello, Holy God can't be looked on and they knew it. So they were afraid and they sent it to Kirjath Jearim.

The people of Israel mourned (for like 20 years) and lamented and sought after God so Samuel (who was judging Israel) came to them and here's what he said:

"God helps those who help themselves."

I'm kidding. God didn't say that. In fact, that particular phrase makes me slightly nauseous. I suppose it depends on the context. Do you mean God partners with us and we have a physical part we have to do? Yes, I might buy that phrase for a dollar. We do have an ACTIVE part to play. 

If we could actually help ourselves, why would we need God? I think that is a confusing turn of phrase, especially to new believers who might think it means if they don't act right and do things "perfect" God won't intervene on their behalf. They might think it's all about "works" in our own strength and ability. And me no likey. Not everyone is a "seasoned" Christian who can break that phrase down and pick it apart for what it is. Be careful what you post on facebook! (officially sort of done with my soapbox  exhorting mature Christians to be careful with young Christians or less mature ones.)

Here's what God (through Samuel) actually said:

"If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only and…" (1 Samuel 7:3)


So we see that the people of God wanted God to help them, to provide for them but they were still putting other things (other gods) first. In place of Him. Many times, it's a struggle to rid yourself of things you really love--love more than God. But He gives us the strength to do it. Partnership.

"…and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." (rest of that verse)

So they did. And they served God only.

Samuel assembled them at Mizpah, which means "watchtower." It was 8 miles north of Jerusalem. There Samuel interceded for them.

At Mizpah, "they gathered together…drew water, and poured it out before the LORD. And they fasted that day, and said there, 'We have sinned against the LORD.'"

God doesn't help those who help themselves. He helps those who have a repentant heart. *in this context of being a believer, not the fingerprints of God as He has guided us unknowingly before salvation. God has always been working on our behalf whether we have known it or not.

Pouring out the water was symbol of repentance. It's also a symbol of pouring out the heart--giving it all to God. Surrendering. They also gave up food (fasting), as they'd rather have God and His guidance than to fill their bellies.

At that time the Philistines were on their way. The enemy was marching.
Samuel was in the middle of offering a burnt offering for the people, an atonement for their sin.
 
Look what God did!

At that moment, "the LORD thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel." 1 Samuel 7:10

When we pour it out, when we repent, God gives us the strength to knock down all things that come before Him and it moves mountains of opposition. It confuses the enemy and gives us the victory.

God doesn't need our help. He needs our repentant hearts. Thank God for the Holy Spirit that convicts and brings us to a place of repentance!

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying 'Thus far the LORD has helped us.'" 1 Samuel 7:12

Ebenezer means stone of help. I think it's important for us to put up a reminder, whether physical or symbolic, to remind us that God has helped us so far. And He will continue to be our refuge.

The key is to pour ourselves out like water. Daily repenting--not b/c as Christians we're supposed to, but because we are truly sorry and we truly mean to turn away from our sins and those things that come before God in our lives.

One year, I gave my husband a clay jar that had a 3-tiered fountain. A reminder that he might be clay, but his life overflows into others. A reminder that God has  helped him thus far.

What "stones" have you set up to remind  you that God has helped you so far? If you haven't, give it some thought. What might you use as a "stone"?

7 comments:

  1. I don't really think about it - I believe in God and Jesus, and I do my best. I figure that He'll help me to do what He needs me to do.

    If it coincides with what I want, great. But I can no more know His intentions than a flea can know where 'his' dog is going.

    Just gotta trut!

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/

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  2. "God doesn't need our help. He needs our repentant hearts."

    Amen to that!

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  3. Sometimes, it's a matter of trust. Leaving it in His hands. That's what I'm facing right now. It's the WAIT and SEE :)

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  4. This hit me in so many ways today, Jess--thanks:) As for my own personal stones of reminders, God gave me a physical symbol years ago when He spoke something significant over my life. Ever since then, with each step He takes me towards that spot, He nudges me that it's time to add another one of those "stones". Those physical reminders have been HUGE on days where I can get low or question what He spoke or what He's already done in my life:)

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  5. "God never mishandles our heart." YES! I loved this so much today, Jess. Those Ebenezers are so evident in my life ... the trick is remembering to look at them when life closes in. Hugs!

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  6. I love it. LOVE it! Girl, these are some powerful words, designed beautifully to whisper God's truth through the heart. What a gift you have...thank you for sharing it.

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  7. So glad I found your blog link on Susan Tuttle's blog.
    In my current WIP my hero wrestles with this very thing, so I couldn't wait to hear what you wrote.
    I like to wear jewelry, especially bracelets, that remind me of God's love. I work with the public, and sometimes they can push you to the limit. Sometimes seeing a cross on my bracelet reminds me that it's not all about me. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it turns my focus back to God.

    Have a great day!

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