So the other night, a television program grabbed me by the throat and demanded my attention. While browsing on YouTube, I ran across a program called Operation Repo. The show, which airs on the truTv network, focuses on a team of people who repossess vehicles in the Los Angeles area. The confrontations between the team and the deadbeat owners are nothing short of terrifying.
The video above tells the story of a couple who had their car repossessed on their wedding day. How agonizing!
After two hours of adrenaline-filled viewing, I decided to learn more about the show on Wikipedia. To my utter astonishment, I read this:
Although as a channel, truTV is described as presenting “real-life stories told from an exciting and dramatic first-person perspective,” Operation Repo consists of scripted re-enactments where the team is often confronted by actors portraying debtors and police officers in the repossessions.
Did you get that? The show isn’t even real! Yet the tagline of the truTV network boasts: “Not reality. Actuality.”
I wasted two hours watching reenactments! I felt like I wasted an entire evening.
Join me today as we explore how to prevent that from happening to you.
Remember that today’s readings cover Saturday and Sunday.
1 Samuel 2:22-7:17
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Samuel 2:22-7:17. After reading about Hannah’s admirable qualities as a mother (in yesterday’s reading), we also witness Eli’s shortcomings as a father. Despite the evil he saw in his sons, he did nothing to remove Hophni and Phinehas from their responsibilities as priests (see 3:13).
While the two brothers were falling deeper and deeper into darkness, we read this description about Samuel: “By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.” Incidentally, this same description is used of Jesus in Luke 2:52.
Soon, Eli would die along as well his two sons—albeit prematurely.
In 3:3, we read that “Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was located.” The Bible Background Commentary explains what this means:
The menorah in the tabernacle was to remain lit all night (Exodus 27:21; Leviticus 24:1–4), but it was never supposed to be extinguished, so the comment that it had not yet gone out would be pointless. On the other hand, we have seen that the practices at Shiloh did not necessarily follow what was stipulated in the Law. The phrase “lamp of God” is also used to refer to hope (2 Samuel 21:17; 1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19), and that would also make sense in this context.
Chapter 3 verse 7 says, “Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” That means God hadn’t yet spoken to Samuel…until now.
Samuel served as a dividing line between a famine in terms of God’s silence and God speaking. Notice 3:1 says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.” But by the end of the chapter we read, “The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.”
In chapter 4, God proves that the ark of the covenant can’t be treated as a good luck charm. In the end, the ark was taken by the Philistines, Hophni and Phinehas were killed in battle, and Eli died as a result of injuries sustained after falling off his chair. Notice that Eli was more distressed by the ark being taken than that the deaths of his sons.
Chapter 5 is as humorous as chapter 4 is dark. First, Dagon, the God of Israel proves that the god of the Philistines is no match for him. Then we read that whoever maintained the ark was stricken with tumors. The tumors mentioned in the chapter are literally translated “hemorrhoids.” Sometimes translators shield the rawness of Scripture from its readers. Kind of like truScripture versus truTV.
In chapter 6, the ark is returned to Israel, but the people learn quickly that God’s presence isn’t to be taken lightly. God struck seventy men dead for peeking into the ark. God’s presence is a wondering, life-giving, dreadful thing.
In chapter 7, Samuel calls the people to repentance. The Philistines rally to attack the gathered country, but God preserves them. Then Samuel erects a stone and calls it Ebenezer, which means “Thus has the Lord helped us.” Rather than take for granted that God would continue defending them, Samuel used the words “thus far,” which means “up to this point.” As long as they were faithful, they knew God would protect and provide for them.
John 5:24-6:21. Verse 24 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized as a teenager: “Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.” In his gospel, John provides plenty of instruction on how we can receive eternal life.
Jesus further explains how we receive eternal life in verses 39-40: “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.” Knowing the word of God isn’t enough, we must know God the word—Jesus Christ.
In my experience, many well-intentioned believers master the word of God without knowing God the word. They spout Scripture but lack any life, any vibrancy, in their walk with God. Life only comes from Jesus, who says he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Psalm 106 struck me as the opposite of Operation Repo. It offers us a picture into true transparency (as opposed to truTV).
The purpose of the psalm is to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. In verse 6, the psalmist begins recounting Israel’s many failures in the wilderness. But he prefaces it by saying, “Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have gone astray and have acted wickedly.”
Rather than assume Israel fell short in the past, he included Israel in its current condition.
All too often, I share about my struggles and sins as if they occurred in the past.
- “I used to wrestle with dishonesty, but praise God, now I don’t!”
- “My wife and I used to struggle with problems in our marriage, but now we don’t.”
- “I used to be paralyzed with fear, but now I don’t.”
As long as we keep our struggles and sins hidden, they continue to foster. Now, transparency isn’t the cure-all to our problems, but hiding them is a guarantee that they won’t change.
At the same time, I doubt we can truly appreciate God’s goodness and faithfulness until we truly see our shortcomings.
Hearkening back to yesterday’s reading in John 5, Jesus asked the invalid if he wanted to get well.
Perhaps voicing our weakness is our first step.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What prevents you from being the truYou? What is the cost? What are the benefits?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado