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I Samuel 4 撒母耳记上 4

I Samuel 4

Friday, 7th July 2023

Sister Emily Huang

V1-2 ‘And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field.’ We might not live in a place of wars, but we always fight our spiritual warfare, and what is our attitude when we lose in a battle? The Israelites lost their battle, and what did the elders say?

V3 ‘And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”’ They thought that it was because the ark of the covenant was not with them and that was why they lost. They had the knowledge of God, but they were still seeking ways to win the battles, they didn’t seek God Himself. It was never the ark of the covenant that had the power but the God behind the ark of the covenant. He is the only almighty God but so often we see things bigger than God.

Do we seek ways and strategies? Or do we really seek God by connecting with Him? The elders of Israelite did not connect with God, and the family of the high priest, Eli, did not connect with God. We are also leaders of this generation, in our workplace, our family, our church… we are leading others, and we have influence on others, but do we connect with God? Do we always seek God and live out a life pleasing to God? He is the righteous God, He is the God who fights our battles, and He is the God of victory. It’s never about the ways or the strategies we use, but it’s about God.

V4 ‘So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.’ The elders thought they found the way of winning the battle; they brought out the ark of covenant, but they didn’t seek God. Eli’s sons were already being warned by God due to their wicked ways, God’s presence had already left them, but the Israelites still allowed them to bring the ark of the covenant. We can never be protected by ways, things, people, places, if we don’t connect with God and if we don’t walk in the way of God.

V5-6 ‘And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp.’ The ark of covenant represents the presence of God, but when we don’t align with God, then the presence of God will never be there.

V7-8 ‘So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.”’ The Philistines did not know God, they thought God was like one of their idols, but despite their wrong knowledge about Jehovah God, they still knew how powerful God is! Even the non-believers have heard of our God’s greatness, what about us? When we know our God is greater than all our gods, then why are we still afraid?

V9 ‘Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!’ The Philistines used their strength and willpower to fight the battle. They were like the non-believers, they did everything rely on their own strength, and they only believed in themselves. All their decisions were based on their head. We often spend a lot of time ‘doing’ things, but we don’t spend time to pray and to seek God. We are focus so much in our ‘to do list’, when we fail, we will complain; on the other hand, even if we have succeeded, we will still walk away from God, because we will then think everything happens because of our own strength.

V10-11 ‘So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.’ The Israelites received great defeat and they ended up with nothing. If we were the Israelites, what would we feel? It seemed that we have done everything we should, but we still failed. When we fail, do we start to doubt God? Or can we see that right from the beginning, we did not follow God’s heart?

V12-13 ‘Then a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line the same day, and came to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. Now when he came, there was Eli, sitting on a seat by the wayside watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told it, all the city cried out.’ Eli was worried and troubled, he knew in his head about the ark of covenant, but his fear and trembling was for the ark not for the One and Almighty Jehovah God. Moses already said in the commandments that the ark of covenant should be in the Tabernacle of God, not on the battlefield. When our life does not have the presence of God, even if we come to church, and even if we pray, if we don’t seek God, we will still worry and fear. We will not have true peace.

V14-15 ‘When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, “What does the sound of this tumult mean?” And the man came quickly and told Eli. Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were so dim that he could not see.’ When our order and our priority is not right, when we don’t put God first, people, next and then the earth, then whatever we see and whatever we hear will trouble us. Eli was old, he was worried and fearful, even thought he had the authority and leadership from God, but he was not able to see God even until he died.

V18 ‘Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.’ The Israelites failed and even their judge, their high priest, died in fear and sorrow. God has given each one of us a position, He has given us authority in this world, wherever we are, and whoever we are, do we really be faithful to God? God puts us here for a reason, instead of complaining, instead of thinking about our own benefits, are we able to stay faithful in our post?

God has already given so many good things in our lives, He also been teaching us, disciplining us, and warning us. Do not let the glories of the world affect us, because we must first seek the Glory of God. We can see that this chapter ended sadly, Eli and his sons died, the ark of covenant was captured, and there was no hope for the people of Israel. But the glory did not only leave then; it left long ago when the Israelites stopped seeking God. But we know God loves His people, He always has a way out for us, and He allows things happen for us to realise our heart was not right. Can we turn back today? Stop walking in our own ways and our own directions and start turning our face towards God.