“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).”
“Don’t matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin’ the same.” – Bodie, in an episode of the HBO series “The Wire”.
In the hard streets of my hometown of Baltimore, as they are portrayed in the TV show “The Wire”, drugs are a hot commodity. In fact, they are a “hot potato”.
You might remember this children’s game. A group of kids stand in a circle and pass around a bean bag (the hot potato) while music is playng. When the music stops, the person left holding the “hot potato” is out of the game.
In once scene of an episode called “Time After Time”, a squad of police are planning a sting on a corner drug deal operation. The sergeant of the group tells the officers to ignore a “runner” when they show up because, inevitably, he will not have the stash of drugs.
When the police arrive, a runner comes down the street as expected. He runs to a hiding place and picks up a bag and keeps running.
The sergeant changes his mind and the police pursue the boy. However, he loses them and the drugs indeed remained in the hands of the dealers in any case.
In another scene, a legendary drug runner named Cutty is released from jail after 14 years. A drug boss in the prison with him gives Cutty a phone number to call when he gets out so he can receive a homecoming “gift”.
The present is a large amount of narcotics. Cutty sits in his house amidst the stash thinking about how to deal with it.
Cutty observes a dealer one day making sales and approaches him. He doesn’t want to sell the stuff himself as he just got out of jail and doesn’t want to risk going back.
Cutty makes a deal and turns his drug stash over to the dealer. Of course, when Cutty returns for his money, the dealer stiffs him.
Cutty has no recourse because the dealer pulls a weapon on him. There isn’t any paper trail either.
In “The Wire”, the dealers, especially the big bosses, are very careful to avoid being caught with any connection to the drug trade. To them, the drugs are a hot potato to be kept out of their hands.
The police try awfully hard to position themselves to catch the leaders with drugs. However, this is well nigh impossible because the dealers are clever and know the game. They don’t want to be tossed from the game and end up in prision.
The Bible had its own “hot potato”. It was called the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark was built in Moses’s time to house the Ten Commandments, which were written by the hand of God. It was a holy piece of furniture, not to be treated cavalierly.
How one fared when they came into contact with the Ark all depended on their attitude toward it. If they treated it with holy respect and treated is as the gift of God it was, then they fared well. However, if anyone disrespected the Ark and its status as coming from the Holy God, then they suffered for it.
The Ark once fell into the hands of Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. They put it on display next to their god Dagon.
The Philistines casual atttitude in handling the Ark, treating as a symbol of another god in a pantheon, was not pleasing to God. After their god had been half demolished and their people afflicted with tumors, the Philistines wanted nothing to do with the Ark.
When the leaders called for the priests and diviners to tell them what to do, they were given a history lesson. The religious leaders told them:
“Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? (I Samuel 6:6).
The religious leaders of the Philistines told their boss’s to send the thing away and to do it with a proper honorarium. They did just that, sticking it on a cart with some golden symbols and sending it in the direction of Israel.
When the first town in Israel received the Ark, the people rejoiced. They held sacrifices and a celebration.
However, some of the people were no better than the Philistines. They treated the Ark as a carnival-like curiosity and pried off its lid to see inside. These people died.
When this town saw this, they didn’t want this hot potato. They sent it away to another town.
The people of this new town obviously knew how to respect God and His Ark. They appointed a priest, who guarded it. This town kept the Ark for 20 years (I Samuel 7:1,2).
The Ark obviously could be detrimental to your health. It was no wonder people treated it like a hot potato.
One man touched the ark on its cart when the oxen stumbled, and the Scriptures called it an “irreverent act” . God killed him right then and there (II Samuel 6:6,7).
King David was not happy about God’s actions here. Indeed, he was angry and also afraid of God afterwards. He dished it over to someone else like a hot potato (II Samuel 6:8-10).
This fellow named Obed-Edom The Gittite housed it for three months and his whole family was blessed (II Samuel 6:10-11). Perhaps this Ark was not such a hot potato do be gotten rid of after all.
We believers today may not have an Ark pass our way anytime soon, but God does offer us its equivalent: His holiness. My experience with this modern “ark” is that I treat it like a hot potato, also.
I say I want it, but I am not willing to take it seriously. When I interact with this thing called “holiness” and don’t follow God’s recipe, I end up getting burned like the people of old in Palestine who didn’t handle the Ark correctly.
Like them, I am just to cavalier about God and obedience to Him. God doesn’t take kindly to this kind of double-mindedness (See James 1:5-7).
Like the Ten Commandments in the Ark, my new birth in Christ is a gift. I actually have His Word and His Spirit planted in my heart (James 1:17,18).
Is it any wonder that God smacks me when I ignore the holiness He has given me as if it was an old relic in a box to be pulled out when I felt like it? When I get mad or sulk over His rebuke, it just sends me farther away from what God wants of me (James 1:19-21).
Those Ten Commandments that were from the hand of God are now imprinted on my soul. If I am serious about them, I know where to find them.
The question is,”Am I?” Or do I intend to keep playing with fire and getting burned?