1 Samuel 4 ends with one of the most tragic events in the history of Israel before the exile. The ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines and the final sentence of the chapter (v22) says, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured."
The ark represented the tangible presence of God. He had promised (Ex 25v22), "I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony." In 1 Samuel 4, all this had gone. Today, if we are honest about the condition of the church in general, then the glory has departed... there are glimpses yes, but the manifest, weighty glory of God is not seen in most churches. In the New Covenant, we see even more what that glory means... it means thousands swept into the kingdom, it means the demonised delivered with a word, it means the multitudes healed and the dead raised, and it means a church on fire, united, and passionate about the Lord of glory. These are things that generally we are not seeing.
Many church leaders recognise this, and various activities are launched around the world to seek God for revival. The impression is given that if we pray, fast, and get holy enough then somehow the glory will return.
Today I was reading in 1 Samuel 6... In it there is the account of the return of the ark to Israel. Basically God had dealt so severely with the Philistines that they returned the ark of their own free will. They set the ark on a cart let by cows and they even said, "And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall now that it is not His hand that struck us- it happened to us by chance." (1 Sam 6v9).
The record continues: "Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went [I like that - even the cows were praising God], and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left." (1 Sam 6v12).
When the ark arrives in Israel, do we find them seeking God, preparing armies to go and get the ark? No - "Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley..." (1 Sam 6v13). Yes, they were delighted to see the ark, but they weren't seeking.
Had Israel sought God? No. Had they fasted enough to get the blessing of the ark returning? No - they were gathering the harvest! Were they holy enough? No - 1 Samuel 7 tells us that Samuel told them to put their idols away - they were still worshipping other gods.
And yet still God allowed the glory to return!!
And this is the point:
God needed no help to bring the glory back to Israel. The glory returned completely unmerited.
While I myself seek God, I want His glory, I want to see His power sweep this globe... I believe we have to get out of our thinking any hint that our merit or performance or praying or anything will bring the glory back.
Now, let's be totally clear, I'm not saying that we shouldn't pray or be holy; I am saying that we must stop right now putting our trust in these things and start believing that God brings His glory because He is God and He is good, not because of any merit we have. I would go further and suggest that the more we actually believe God and stop offering him our pathetic efforts, the greater the weight of His glory will be upon us. He says in Isaiah that He will not share His glory with another. He will not, He cannot, share His glory with this or that church leader who has organised this or that rally. He cannot allow us to say "it was because of our prayer meetings, our faithfulness that the glory has come."
There is no barrier to the glory coming!!! Do you keep stumbling and falling? That is no barrier to the glory coming. Do you keep failing? That is no barrier to the glory coming. Do you feel 'I don't pray enough'? That is no barrier to the glory coming. Do you you feel that your heart is too cold? That is no barrier to the glory coming.
A few weeks I had this revelation:
"Under the old covenant we had to chase after God; under the new covenant grace God chases after us."
And all that is required to connect with this glory is faith... in the finished work of Jesus and the perfect gift of righteousness.
In 1 Samuel 6v19 the people looked into the ark and many were struck down. The legalists look at that verse and say "see, they weren't holy enough to look in the ark and so God struck them." They go on to say "ah well God doesn't send the glory because we are not holy enough and we couldn't handle it." Rubbish!
The people weren't struck down because they weren't holy enough, they were struck down because they were looking unprotectected upon the law of God. They were judged as sinners by the law and received the just punishment of the law. They could have been holier than every church member in the world and they would have still been struck down because the law demands perfection.
But when Jesus was nailed to the cross, every written requirement against us was nailed to the cross and taken out of the way (Col 2v14). There is no record against us, there is no finger of accusation - perfection has been given freely as gift in the righteousness of Christ.
As soon as we stop looking at the list of accusations against us and stop trying to grab the glory through our performance, then I believe we will see the glory coming at His initiative... maybe through unusual means (the moo-ing cows in 1 Sam 6 weren't expected).
When we stop trying to contribute our glory, then He is free to send the tidal wave of His glory.