Series: Thru the Bible
Message – Honoring God
***Video is HERE***
Thru the Bible: 1 Samuel 4-7
It is important to remember that up to this point, Israel is still in the time of the Judges and Samuel, though a Prophet is also a Judge in Israel as was Deborah in her day.
Also at this time in history the Philistines were a force to reckon with. History tells us that the Philistines were divided into the 5 city-states of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath, some of which will be mentioned in these passages we read tonight. Archeology also reveals that they were the first in that area to make real and effective use of iron which gave them an advantage over many.
They imported military equipment from Greece and had a constant inpouring of immigrants which strengthened their numbers. All of this conspired together to truly threaten Israel and make them their servants.
Now, last week the end of chapter 3 served as a good intro to chapter 4 so we will begin with those closing words…
1 Samuel 3:20-21, “(20) All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the LORD. (21) The LORD continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.”
1 Samuel 4
The Philistines Capture the Ark
“(1) And Samuel’s words came to all Israel.
It isn’t clear what Samuel told the people, but we can take it from chapter 7:2 that up until this time, Israel as a nation, was not seeking, serving nor worshiping the Lord, but were in fact for worshiping their other gods and “Baal and the ashtoreth poles”. So it is not likely that Samuel was the one who encouraged them to go to war against their enemies because they were probably serving the gods of the Philistines and as such would not be protected by God.
“Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped at Ebenezer while the Philistines camped at Aphek. (2) The Philistines lined up in battle formation against Israel, and as the battle intensified, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who struck down about 4,000 men on the battlefield. (3) When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD let us be defeated today by the Philistines?”
Much has to be assumed here since nothing is made clear. We have no idea WHO the elders were presenting this question to – Samuel, God Himself or was it simply an unspoken question in their minds?
Regardless, they came to an answer all on their own which suggests one of the latter options.
“Let’s bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh. Then it will go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” (4) So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the ark of the covenant of the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (5) When the ark of the covenant of the LORD entered the camp, all the Israelites raised such a loud shout that the ground shook.”
As the video I had you watch earlier suggested, the Israelites were treating God like a “trophy god”. They made presumptions upon God’s power by taking an object they knew to have brought victory in times past into battle with them – without evoking or calling upon the favor and direction of God to do it. All was external and presumptive action – NONE of it was true heart worship. They were working a formula, not living a covenant relationship.
This is the same thing we discovered of ourselves back when we were in the WoF movement. Many of the things that we learned regarding seeking God and believing by faith were rooted in genuine scriptural truths but had become formulas and mechanical devices devoid of heart. We used them to obtain certain ends rather than those same actions springing up naturally out of a living relationship of knowing and trusting God. So by comparison, by doing all the “right things”, we were bringing our Ark into our battles but we failed to connect with our God or even consult Him and so we experienced defeat in much the same way as these Israelites did here in 1st Samuel.
“(6) The Philistines heard the sound of the war cry and asked, “What’s this loud shout in the Hebrews’ camp?” When the Philistines discovered that the ark of the LORD had entered the camp, (7) they panicked. “The gods have entered their camp!” they said. “Woe to us, nothing like this has happened before. (8) Woe to us, who will rescue us from the hand of these magnificent gods? These are the gods that slaughtered the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. (9) Show some courage and be men, Philistines! Otherwise, you’ll serve the Hebrews just like they served you. Now be men and fight!” (10) So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and each man fled to his tent. The slaughter was severe–30,000 of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. (11) The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”
This is a perfect example of mechanical faith. the Israelites we’re mentally convinced that by working their magic formula of bringing the Ark of the Covenant with them it would ensure their victory over the Philistines. their confidence we’re so profound but upon seeing the ark they shouted with such exuberance that the ground Shook and scared their enemies. there are times when our mental confidence in Bible truths Is so concrete that we mistake it for genuine Faith which is birthed out of relationship not assumption. Those displays of pseudo faith can fool those around us but it does not fool God. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that they don’t believe God will always heal people because they knew so and so who had strong faith in God and died anyway. Truth is, in some of those cases I was intimately involved and I knew for a fact these people were not believing in God, but we’re living in the assumption, if even that, though their outward conversation communicated an active Faith and confidence, it had no reality in their hearts.
One such example occurred very early on in our church. Without naming names the mate of one in our congregation had a debilitating form of cancer. Whenever this person was around other believers they’re talk was textbook faith, but when the pastor’s went to visit this one in their home and encourage them in the word, they could barely pull that one away from their TV programs – which is where their mate affirmed they spent most of their time. So when this person died, they created a lot of stir because so many believed the external confession of this person without knowing the realities of their day to day lives and so drew theological conclusions which were inconsistent both with scripture and what had really happened in this person’s life. This is of course not to demonize watching tv, but when you are exceedingly close to death and you know the only prayer you have is a miracle, and you claim to be seeking God – spending the majority of your time before the tv being entertained by the world is hardly building your or encouraging your trust.
In the end, there is no substitution for genuine faith and no substitution for a living, vital relationship with God – formulas and religious externals are completely meaningless without heart involvement.
The Death of Eli
“(12) That same day, a Benjaminite man ran from the battle and came to Shiloh. His clothes were torn, and there was dirt on his head. (13) When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair beside the road watching, because he was anxious about the ark of God. When the man entered the city to give a report, the entire city cried out. (14) Eli heard the outcry and asked, “Why this commotion?” The man quickly came and reported to Eli. (15) At that time Eli was 98 years old, and his gaze was fixed because he couldn’t see. (16) The man said to Eli, “I’m the one who came from the battle. I fled from there today.” “What happened, my son?” Eli asked. (17) The messenger answered, “Israel has fled from the Philistines, and also there was a great slaughter among the people. Your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are both dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” (18) When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backwards off the chair by the city gate, and since he was old and heavy, his neck broke and he died. Eli had judged Israel 40 years.”
So we see here another judge in Israel who was not mentioned in the book of Judges.
“(19) Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and about to give birth. When she heard the news about the capture of God’s ark and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband, she collapsed and gave birth because her labor pains came on her. (20) As she was dying, the women taking care of her said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve given birth to a son!” But she did not respond, and did not pay attention. (21) She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” referring to the capture of the ark of God and to the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. (22) “The glory has departed from Israel,” she said, “because the ark of God has been captured.”
The Philistines and the Ark
“(1) After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod, (2) brought it into the temple of Dagon and placed it next to his statue. (3) When the people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and returned him to his place. (4) But when they got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. This time, both Dagon’s head and the palms of his hands were broken off and lying on the threshold. Only Dagon’s torso remained. (5) That is why, to this day, the priests of Dagon and everyone who enters the temple of Dagon in Ashdod do not step on Dagon’s threshold. (6) The LORD severely oppressed the people of Ashdod, terrorizing and afflicting the people of Ashdod and its territory with tumors. (7) When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of Israel’s God must not stay here with us, because His hand is severe against us and our god Dagon.” (8) So they called all the Philistine rulers together and asked, “What should we do with the ark of Israel’s God?” “The ark of Israel’s God should be moved to Gath,” they replied. So the men of Ashdod moved the ark. (9) After they had moved it, the LORD’s hand was against the city of Gath, causing a great panic. He afflicted the men of the city, from the youngest to the oldest, with an outbreak of tumors. (10) The Gathites then sent the ark of God to Ekron, but when it got there, the Ekronites cried out, “They’ve moved the ark of Israel’s God to us to kill us and our people!” (11) The Ekronites called all the Philistine rulers together. They said, “Send the ark of Israel’s God away. It must return to its place so it won’t kill us and our people!” For the fear of death pervaded the city; God’s hand was very heavy there. (12) The men who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.”
The Ark Returned to Israel
“(1) When the ark of the LORD had been in the land of the Philistines for seven months, (2) the Philistines summoned the priests and the diviners and pleaded, “What should we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we can send it back to its place.” (3) They replied, “If you send the ark of Israel’s God away, you must not send it without an offering. You must return it with a guilt offering, and you will be healed. Then the reason His hand hasn’t been removed from you will be revealed.” (4) They asked, “What guilt offering should we send back to Him?” And they answered, “Five gold tumors and five gold mice corresponding to the number of Philistine rulers, since there was one plague for both you and your rulers. (5) Make images of your tumors and of your mice that are destroying the land. Give glory to Israel’s God, and perhaps He will stop oppressing you, your gods, and your land. (6) Why harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened theirs? When He afflicted them, didn’t they send Israel away, and Israel left? (7) “Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. (8) Take the ark of the LORD, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects in a box beside it, which you’re sending Him as a guilt offering. Send it off and let it go its way. (9) Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh, it is the LORD who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn’t, we will know that it was not His hand that punished us–it was just something that happened to us by chance.”
Though certainly not textbook scriptural, this was NOT bad advice for pagan spiritual leaders. They learned from the mistakes of Egypt and decided that humility would be a better response than pride! Also, though it was assuming upon God’s character which they knew little about, they trusted that if this was the right course of action the God if Israel would guide the cows and cart to where it belonged.
“(10) The men did this: They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and confined their calves in the pen. (11) Then they put the ark of the LORD on the cart, along with the box containing the gold mice and the images of the tumors. (12) The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh. They stayed on that one highway, lowing as they went; they never strayed to the right or to the left. The Philistine rulers were walking behind them to the territory of Beth-shemesh. (13) The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they were overjoyed to see it. (14) The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there near a large rock. The people of the city chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. (15) The Levites removed the ark of the LORD, along with the box containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. That day the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the LORD. (16) When the five Philistine rulers observed this, they returned to Ekron that same day. (17) As a guilt offering to the LORD, the Philistines had sent back one gold tumor for each city: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. (18) The number of gold mice also corresponded to the number of Philistine cities of the five rulers, the fortified cities and the outlying villages. The large rock on which the ark of the LORD was placed is in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh to this day.”
“(19) God struck down the men of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the ark of the LORD. He struck down 70 men out of 50,000 men. The people wept because the LORD struck them with a great slaughter. (20) The men of Beth-shemesh asked, “Who is able to stand in the presence of this holy LORD God? Who should the ark go to from here?” (21) They sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come down and get it.”
“(1) So the men of Kiriath-jearim came for the ark of the LORD and took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill. They consecrated his son Eleazar to take care of it. (2) Time went by until 20 years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel began to seek the LORD.”
Again, we know nothing certain about these men. They may or may not have been of the priestly line. The consecration ceremony may or many not have followed that which is outlined in the law – but at very least these people were making an effort to show respect and honor to God and the Ark of the Covenant. God is gracious and will often work with our failings if our heart is right. THis stands in stark contrast to what I said earlier. You can have all the right ceremonies and no heart and it will be rejected, but you can have the wrong ceremonies and the right heart and God will be merciful.
Samuel Judges Israel
“(3) Samuel told them, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you, dedicate yourselves to the LORD, and worship only Him. Then He will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines.” (4) So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped the LORD. (5) Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD on your behalf.” (6) When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the LORD’s presence. They fasted that day, and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel began to lead the Israelites at Mizpah as their judge.”
So Samuel judges Israel and tells them to get their hearts right and then led them.
“(7) When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, their rulers marched up toward Israel. When the Israelites heard about it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. (8) The Israelites said to Samuel, “Don’t stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, so that He will save us from the hand of the Philistines.” (9) Then Samuel took a young lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on behalf of Israel, and the LORD answered him. (10) Samuel was offering the burnt offering as the Philistines drew near to fight against Israel. The LORD thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they fled before Israel. (11) Then the men of Israel charged out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines striking them down all the way to a place below Beth-car. (12) Afterwards, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The LORD has helped us to this point.” (13) So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israel’s territory again. The LORD’s hand was against the Philistines all of Samuel’s life. (14) The cities from Ekron to Gath, which they had taken from Israel, were restored; Israel even rescued their surrounding territories from Philistine control. There was also peace between Israel and the Amorites. (15) Samuel judged Israel throughout his life. (16) Every year he would go on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah and would judge Israel at all these locations. (17) Then he would return to Ramah because his home was there, he judged Israel there, and he had built an altar to the LORD there.”
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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