Call to Worship April 11 2021
Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 4:1b-22
The time for battle was fast approaching as Israel camped near Ebenezer. The Philistines were camped near Aphek and they were prepared for the encounter. As they attacked and moved forward, Israel was defeated. The leaders of Israel could not understand the defeat and asked why the LORD had done it. Instead of thinking about the Lord’s word, they invoked His presence, without consideration of their disobedience to His commands. So they called for the Ark of the Covenant to be transported to the frontlines.
When the Ark arrived, Hophni and Phinehas accompanied it to the battle grounds. They shouted as it entered the camp. They assured themselves during the emotional entry of the Ark of their certain victory. Once the Philistines heard the roar they too paused with some emotion, but it was only momentary fear. They did not desire to be enslaved, so they fought Israel once again. This time the loss for Israel was a slaughter. Thirty thousand were killed and the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant.
The actions of Israel highlight continuing problems for the people of God, then and now. Too many times people have recognized God as a good luck charm. The Israelites did it then and it still happens today even in the modern church.
Contemporary believers must beware of thinking that they are immune from this rabbit-foot faith. What is behind a church’s twenty four hour prayer vigil?…But what then is the drive behind their daily devotional exercises? Is it delight in meeting with God or with ‘things’ going better? Whenever the church stops confessing ‘Thou Art Worthy’ and starts chanting ‘Thou Art Useful’-well, then you know the ark of God has been captured. (Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart, [Christian Focus Pub., 2014], pg. 55)
Some professing Christians use the bible itself or various verses as incantations to ward off trial, tribulation, or hard times. The scripture is not our luck charm. It is the word of God given for our purposed understanding and obedience to the one true Holy God.
If the Israelites had taken notice of who accompanied the Ark and their behavior according to God’s commands, they may have realized the problem. God’s glory had departed due to disobedience to God’s word and not due to the capture of the Ark. Eli’s sons led the revolt against God’s precepts. When people openly and unrepentantly revolt against the word of God, especially professing believers, they are presuming upon His grace and mercy. (O. Sedgwick, The Anatomy of Secret Sins, Soli Deo Gloria Pub., 1995], pg. 113-129) God had given Hophni and Phinehas over to the desires of their flesh. Their rebellion knew no bounds. So God showed Israel the outcome of willful and boastful disobedience, even when they invoked the presence of God. God invoked the right to bring them to account for their wickedness against His commands.
We must not presume that God will always be merciful with those who rebel against His word. The proverbs teach, “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Prov. 29:1 NAU). Eli’s sons were put to death not because they sinned, but because they rejected repentance and faith in God’s word. They refused to recognize their sin for the abomination it was before God. They continually sought to live in sin for their own pleasure. They were simply a microcosm of the unrepentance of Israel as a nation. They presumed as long as they had the Ark of God then God was obligated to defend them and give them victory.
God had always told His people to obey His commandments (Joshua 22:5). The Lord Jesus does not abolish this teaching in the New Covenant (Matt. 5:17, 1 John 2:7, John 14:15). Therefore the word of God must guide our conscience to recognize and hate sin as an affront to the very being of God. We must not presume that we can treat God as our mascot and call on him to rouse us up and lead us to victory. We must recognize that He alone has granted victory through His Son’s life, death, and resurrection. We must think and believe that Christ has called us to love Him and keep His commandments. The glory of God always departs when people divorce Christ from His word and make him their mascot or lucky charm. Israel as a nation and Eli’s sons are a picture for us never to think we may presume upon God’s grace in our sin against His word. May we be a repenting people who seek to hate and fight against our sin according to the word of God by His Spirit. Soli Deo Gloria!