An account of God's people in a steep learning curve is found in I Samuel 4-7. If the Lord sparks it in you, get a Bible and read those chapters along with these brief remarks.
As I did so this morning (thanks to Jackie's prompt) I was struck by the contemporary voice in these chapters.
#1 - the Israelites go to battle, pull in the ark of God to seal what they hope will be a victory - Presumption: the presence of the ark will force God to act on our behalf. Wrong. The ark is lost to the Philistines. And key leaders begin to die for their part in it all.
#2 - The Philistines take it home - thinking it will be a "blessing" and guarantee of success. Presumption: the presence of this object will gain us favor. Wrong. They are struck with tumors, panic and more. Their chief god oject keeps doing obeisance to the ark...and the cry of a whole city begins to go up to heaven.
#3 - Get rid of the ark becomes their intense focus...and so it is returned to Israel with offerings (golden mice and tumors!! - extemely costly and in focus gifts)
#4 - Their presumption (and ours too) ..do the right things and all will quickly be restored. Wrong. For twenty years "the house of Israel lamented after the Lord."
Before this episode resolves, there is an intense crying out to the Lord that must occur, a thundering from heaven from a God who is not captured or manipulated by our golden objects. What he is responsive to is the integrity of our hearts, our humility, our prostration before him...our total submission to him. He looks always on the heart.
Oh, and the two milking cows, yoked together and sent on a fifteen mile journey the dstiny of which the people will accept as God's work? Is this not one of the most extremely non-presumptive, hands-off moments in history? (Jackie: "milking cows?!")
Lots to think about in these chapters. May God give us heart-shaped altars...and remove presumption further from us today.