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God will not be manipulated.

1 Samuel 4:1-11 | Part 9


 


 

1st Samuel 4:1-11

And Samuel’s words came to all Israel.

 

The Ark Captured by the Philistines

 

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 four thousand men on the battlefield.

 

3 When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord defeat us today before the Philistines? Let’s bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh. Then it will go with us and save us from our enemies.” 4 So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Armies, who is enthroned 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.

 

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. “A god has entered their camp!” they said. “Woe to us! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will rescue us from 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 as 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—thirty thousand of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.


 

 Historical context:

Judges 2:20-21

20 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and he declared, “Because this nation has violated my covenant that I made with their ancestors and disobeyed me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. -- Judges 2:20-21 (CSB)

Why is this context important? God had promised Joshua in Joshua 13:6 that He would drive out the Philistines from the land of Canaan as they went in to possess the land. But here in Judges 2:20-21, we see God pronouncing judgment against Israel that He would no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left. This judgment was because of Israel’s disobedience (intermarrying with the Canaanites and worshiping their false gods).

Why is the important? Stay tuned! This context answers the question asked in 1 Samuel 4:3.


Today’s sermon in a nutshell:


God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”


Today we will answer three questions:

1.    What is the distorted view of God the Israelites had?

2.    What is the distorted view of God the Philistines had?

3.    How can the gospel of Jesus correct our view of God?

 

1 Samuel 4:1 And Samuel’s words came to all Israel.

·       This does not mean that Samuel approved of the Israelites going to battle against the Philistines

 

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 four thousand men on the battlefield. -- 1 Samuel 4:1-2 (CSB)

·       The question that inevitably comes is this: how could a loving, all-powerful God allow His people to be defeated? Shouldn’t God always bless His people’s endeavors?

 

God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”

·       Application: when we experience defeat in life, what should our response be?

·       What was the Israelite’s response to defeat?


3 When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord defeat us today before the Philistines? Let’s bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh. Then it will go with us and save us from our enemies.”  -- 1 Samuel 4:3 (CSB)

·       Asking God why is very common.

·       Did you notice how the elders of Israel immediately understood that the Lord had defeated them before the Philistines? They discerned that God had removed His presence from their army, and the lack of God’s presence led to their defeat.

·       We often ask: Why did You let this happen, God? Why didn’t You fight for me, God? Why didn’t you bless me, God?

·       Application: we must reorient our view of God. But before we do that, let’s answer question number 1:

 

1.    What is the distorted view of God the Israelites had?

 

·       Look at what the elders of Israel decide to do in verse 3 again (the NASB rendering gives special insight here)

When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.”

·       Notice how the elders of Israel answer the why question with: “Let us take to ourselves…”

·       Another way to say this is, “Well, since we didn’t have a good outcome the first go around, let’s take things into our own hands and manipulate the circumstances so that God will have to bless us with victory.”

·       The elders’ solution was to use the ark of the covenant as a means to their own ends

·       The ark of the covenant was a structure representing the throne of God kept in the most holy place within the tabernacle. This structure symbolically represented the presence and power of God.

·       And so, the elders wanted to take this structure and use it as good luck charm in the battle against the Philistines

·       But…


God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”

·       So, to answer question number 1: What is the distorted view of God the Israelites had? The Israelites saw God more like a genie who would grant their wish if they did all the right things

·       Here, they’re not loving God for who He is, but they’re trying to control God

·       They didn’t delight in God Himself, but they wanted His power to be used to accomplish their own purposes

·       Application: we must reorient our view of God ourselves: God is God. He’s not a concierge in the sky, He’s not a genie, He’s not a slot machine we plug prayers into to make Him do what we want. God is the sovereign Lord of the universe and we must submit our will to Him. Prayer and our spiritual service of worship are not bargaining chips to get what we want out of God, but they are a means for us to draw near to God to delight in Him for who He is in Himself (long pause here).

·       We go to the Lord to be with the Lord, not to get His stuff

·       Here in 1 Samuel 4:3, the elders of Israel apparently had forgotten the fact that God had already sovereignly declared in Judges 2:21, “I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died.”

·       This sovereign declaration was because of the people’s disobedience and idol worship.

·       So, in context, the answer to why had the Lord defeated the Israelites is a no brainer (He already said He would not drive out the Philistines that were left by Joshua).

·       A better “why” question to ask is, “Why have you been so gracious to us Lord? This defeat should have been much worse. We deserve death, but we still have time to repent. Please forgive us, Lord.”

·       But they didn’t do that, and we ourselves often times do not look at the defeats in our life that way either.

“Instead of attempting to get right with God, these Israelites set about devising superstitious means of securing the victory over their foes. In this respect most of us have imitated them. We think of a thousand inventions; but we neglect the one thing needful…. They forget the main matter, which is to enthrone God in the life, and to seek to do His will by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Charles Spurgeon)

So, what happens when the Israelites take matters into their own hands?


4 So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Armies, who is enthroned 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.

 

·       Notice in verse 4 how Hophni and Phinehas are mentioned together

·       These wicked priests were all for using the ark as a good luck charm for the battle

·       And the presence of the ark does seem to produce great emotional confidence in the Israelite army (they shouted so loud the ground shook)

·       But…

God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”

Now let’s look at verses 6-9 to see how the Philistines respond to this great shout of the Israelites…

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. “A god has entered their camp!” they said. “Woe to us! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will rescue us from 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 as they served you. Now be men and fight!”

 

This brings us to our second question:

 

2.    What is the distorted view of God the Philistines had?

 

·       What do the Philistines do when they discover the ark of the Lord is in their camp?

·       They panic! They think that the symbol of God’s presence is divine itself.

·       The Philistines hold a pagan or polytheistic view of God (many little “g” gods out there)

·       Their response is fear based

·       The pagan view is to avoid anything that will cause the gods to be upset or angry with you

·       This leads to panic, anxiety, stress, and fear

·       The pagan view is about doing everything in your power to appease “the gods” or avoid being struck down by them

·       In verse 8, the Philistines are willing to say “Who will rescue us from these magnificent gods?” without investigating the God of the Hebrews

·       They’ve heard a distorted polytheistic view of God’s power against the Egyptians, but they have no inclination to seek the only true God

·       Notice how the main motivation to take courage and fight in this battle speech is fear

·       They are motivated by fear of being enslaved to the Hebrews

·       And believe me, fear is a powerful motivator

·       Honestly, the Philistines’ distorted view of God is quite similar to fear-based branches of Protestantism and Catholicism and Islam.

·       Religions devoid of the gospel of Christ’s grace leave their practitioners riddled with fear and anxiety and racked with guilt

·       There’s no intimate relationship with God outside of the gospel of grace thru Christ

·       Outside of the gospel, there’s only fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame

·       This inevitably leads people to attempt to control and manipulate God by good works or charitable deeds. The goal is to manipulate God to accept you based on your track record.

·       This is the heresy of works-based salvation theology and paganism is no different

·       But…

God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”

So, what happens to the Israelites after the Philistines rally and hear this rousing speech?

10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and each man fled to his tent. The slaughter was severe—thirty thousand of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

 

·       In the end, the Israelites’ attempt to manipulate God by using the ark led to thirty thousand deaths of Israelite foot soldiers.

·       And to add insult to injury, verse 11 tells us that the Philistines captured the ark of God

·       John MacArthur provides phenomenal commentary on this verse:

“In spite of their hopes to manipulate God into giving them the victory, Israel was defeated and the ark fell into the hands of the Philistines. The view of having the ark of God being equivalent to having control of God, possessed both by Israel and then the Philistines, is to be contrasted with the power and providence of God in the remaining narrative.”

God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”

·       And speaking of God’s word always coming true…we see Hophni and Phinehas die in verse 11 as well, and this is direct fulfillment of what God already said in 1 Sam. 2:34

34 This will be the sign that will come to you concerning your two sons Hophni and Phinehas: both of them will die on the same day.  -- 1 Samuel 2:34 (CSB)

Now, we’ve considered two distorted views of God (the Israelites seeing God as someone they can manipulate and the Philistines being driven by panic and avoidance of God). But how can the gospel of Jesus Christ correct our view of God?

3.    How can the gospel of Jesus correct our view of God?

32 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” 35 He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “'Abba', Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.”  -- Mark 14:32-36 (CSB)

·       Here we glimpse Jesus our Lord and Savior (the God-Man) demonstrating a perfect view of God the Father

·       In Jesus’s prayer we see no panic and avoidance of God (like the Philistines) but amazing intimacy with God (Jesus calls God “Abba Father”)

·       In Jesus’s prayer we see no attempt to control or manipulate God (like the Israelites), but Jesus humbly prays “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

·       And Jesus went to the cross and tasted the most bitter defeat anyone has ever known.

·       A defeat that you deserve.  A defeat that I deserve. All because of our sinful disobedience against God.

·       But Jesus tasted that defeat for us so that we could share in the victory of His resurrection with Him. All for His glory.

For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.  -- Romans 6:5 (CSB)      

·       All of this is possible because Jesus prayed victoriously, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

·       Because…

 

God is God, and He will not be manipulated. His word always comes true. Therefore, we pray, “Your will be done.”

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