Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!
Revelation 19:6 HCSB
The roar of the engines rumbled through the earth, shaking the ground beneath my feet. Ear plugs plus sound cancelling ear muffs did little to minimize the force ten thousand horsepower created. My heart was in my throat from the power reverberating in the air each time the dragsters accelerated towards the finish line. This is one of those things you really cannot imagine. It must be experienced to understand the sense of strength that is manifested in the sound alone.
In 1 Samuel 4, a story is told of a similar earth shaking event. It would not be the roar of engines that would cause the ground to rumble, but rather the audible worship that could be felt for miles. The Israelites were engaging in war with the Philistines. At the end of their first offensive, Israel found themselves the losers. Four thousand men had died. Questions of why they were defeated circulated the camp. Their only answer, God was not present with them in the battle. How could He be? The Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence with His people, was miles away in Shiloh. To win the next round they would carry the Ark with them into battle.
When the Ark of the Covenant arrived in camp, it was met with a thunderous shout of praise from the Hebrew soldiers. So loud were their voices, it was said the ground shook. Now I go to a worship service that can be pretty loud and energized. Instruments and voices raised to nearly deafening levels, praising God can be heard from the outside of the building, but I don’t ever recall the ground shaking. The Israelites must have engaged in some pretty extreme worship.
The display of power heard was not lost on the enemy warriors. They had heard the reports of the kind of God Israel worshipped. They could hear the kind of enthusiasm He produced in His people. With this combination, how could Israel lose this time?
Then, the very thing neither side could imagine happened. Israel lost again. It was unthinkable. The Philistines must have been scratching their heads on this one. Just hours before thinking themselves doomed to annihilation, they now found themselves the victors. What the Philistines did not know was that sin had taken its toll in the upper ranks of the priesthood in Israel, and God would let defeat and death be their punishment. The power of the Lord was not with His people that day and His name would not bring victory to those whose words and actions did not match up.
The one thing that I keep learning as I trek through the Bible is that God really cares about how we act. He wants us to not just hear His word or believe in His name. He wants our obedience in our actions. Here in this passage, I see that our worship should be reflected in our activity. On one hand, Israel as a whole trusted God to provide a great victory, but in practice, individuals were living very sinful lives trusting their own schemes. They were living a double life, both of which were quite visible to the world around them.
So how should this story of the Israelites affect our lives? When we sing with our hearts lifted in worship, “You are my everything,” do we mean it? Do we mean it enough to act like we mean it? Or do we worry and fret, making our God look powerless to the world around us? Do we choose our way because we believe we will lack what we want or need if we wait for God to provide?
One thing I learned at my very LOUD, EARTH-SHAKING experience with the drag races was, every single car that came to the starting line produced an ear deafening roar as it raced down the track. Each was a loud as the last one, but not every car won. The clear winner of this power match would not be decided on the strength of their sound. It would be the integrity of the driver and the performance of the car—every time.
It really does matter how we act. It is how people around us see the power of God on display in our lives as we walk in obedience. Don’t neutralize that power by singing, “How great is our God,” and then make Him small in our lives. Let’s let the way we act as well as our words, be our witness to the world of God’s strength and might. Let’s shake things up. Let our words of an awesome, powerful God thunder in our actions.