ESOCS Devotional 11 April 2023
MEMORY VERSE: “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.” 1 Samuel 4:10 & 11
TEXT: 1 SAMUEL 4:1-18
And the word of [the Lord through] Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines and encamped beside Ebenezer; the Philistines encamped at Aphek.
2 The Philistines drew up against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was smitten by the Philistines, who slew about 4,000 men on the battlefield.
3 When the troops had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Why has the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that He may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.
4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, Who dwells above the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded.
6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What does this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean? When they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp,
7 The Philistines were afraid, for they said, God has come into the camp. And they said, Woe to us! For such a thing has not happened before.
8 Woe to us! Who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods that smote the Egyptians with every kind of plague in the wilderness.
9 Be strong, and acquit yourselves like men, O you Philistines, that you may not become servants to the Hebrews, as they have been to you; behave yourselves like men, and fight!
10 And the Philistines fought; Israel was smitten and they fled every man to his own home. There was a very great slaughter; for 30,000 foot soldiers of Israel fell.
11 And the ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. [Foretold in I Sam. 2:34.]
12 Now a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh that day, with his clothes torn and earth on his head.
13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. When the man told the news in the city, all the city [people] cried out.
14 When Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What is this uproar? And the man came hastily and told Eli.
15 Now Eli was 98 years old; his eyes were dim so that he could not see.
16 The man said to Eli, I have come from the battle; I fled from the battle today. Eli said, How did it go, my son?
17 The messenger replied, Israel fled before the Philistines, and there has been a great slaughter among the people. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is captured.
18 And when he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
God commanded Moses to build the Ark. It was to be kept in the tabernacle where Israel worshiped God. It contained manna; the food the Israelites ate in the wilderness and the tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written. Thus, it was a symbol of God’s covenant and care for His people. Importantly, it was also the symbol of God’s presence among His people; a presence that caused great and mighty things to be done in their midst and because of them. In Egypt when the presence of God came down, Pharaoh and all Egypt were brought to their knees before God and His children Israel. With the Ark going before the Israelites into River Jordan, the big river parted in two and the children of Israel passed on dry ground. With the Ark going before the Israelites, the wall of Jericho fell when they shouted praises to God.
The Israelites had every reason to believe that with the Ark in their midst, God was in their midst and He will as usual, do mighty things and defeat their enemies. But alas, instead of deliverance, they were slaughtered beyond imagination. But the Ark was still sanctified and great deeds still followed it for when it was placed in the hall of Dagon, Dagon fell face down before the Ark and when the people of Ashdod raised it up, in the second day it fell down again and was broken head and arms. Furthermore, the hand of the Lord was against the people of Ashdod because of the presence of the Ark of the Lord among them, and the Lord destroyed them and smote them with diseases (1 Sam. 5:1-12). Thus, there is no doubt on what the Ark stood for and the power and great deeds that God manifested as a result. Yet Israel went to war carrying the Ark of the Lord and instead of victory, they were slaughtered and disgraced. God had turned His back on them. He was not in their midst in spite of the presence of the Ark of the Lord. They learnt the hard way that it is not about the physical Ark, but their relationship with God of which the Ark was only a symbol. When the real thing is jeopardized, the symbol serves no purpose.
Israel had sinned against God. Their leaders as represented by Eli and his sons had sinned against God. Eli’s sons desecrated God’s sacrifice and defiled the temple of God by sleeping with harlots. God had made a decree against them and all Israel were to share in the consequences of their sin for when a leader sins, he brings guilt on his followers. In sending for the Ark, they lost sight of its true meaning, which the sin of Israel contravened; for the Ark symbolized the holiness of God; the need to hold God in awe and approach Him with the deepest respect, reverence, and honour. Thus, when sin is not dealt with, even that which symbolizes God’s presence, His covenant, and commitment to His people rather than work in their favor will work against them. People of God lose not just their salt but covering when sin is not dealt with. Relying on God’s covenant or on His mighty acts as a basis for having hope is futile when sin is not dealt with.
- Are there things in your Christian life that are to you or to your church what the Ark was to the Israelites? Enumerate them.
- Our heavenly Father, give us the grace to be true to you.
FURTHER READING: 2 Samuel 23:1-17; Jeremiah 37:11-end; Matt. 27:1-10; Hebrews 3:12-19
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ESOCS Devotional 11 April 2023