This passage reads like a script from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”! Indulge me as I highlight two principles from the text, as they seem to interconnect.
Scripture #1: “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3
Observation #1: God is faithful and His power is beyond comparison. However, he does not suffer wicked men lightly. To declare Hophni and Phineas unfaithful is an understatement. They had no regard or respect for the things of God. To them the ark of the covenant of the LORD was like a “genie in a bottle” which in their time of need, refused to grant their victory wish. God would not be manipulated. In the second round of the battle with the Philistines, the ark of God is captured, the two sons of Eli are killed, and the “first family” of the temple is brought to destruction as prophesied in 1Samuel 2:34.
Application #1: With authority comes responsibility. Spiritual leadership is a high calling. How long will God have mercy on those who abuse the office to which He has called them? How serious do I take my calling when I am in a position of leadership? Do I use my position to serve others selflessly or do I abuse my power, mocking God, as I serve my own ego and self-interests?
Scripture #2: “… give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land.” 1 Samuel 6:5b
Observation #2: What a picture! The Philistines defeat the Israelites and capture their “God”. The God of Israel is placed in the temple of Dagon. Dagon is “defeated” (he keeps falling over – maybe he was attempting to bow down before the One true God?). The Philistines are afflicted with tumors, many die – God is defeating the Philistines without the intervention of man. The Philistine priests and diviners recognize the power of the God of Israel and serve up some wise counsel: “Send the ark back with a guilt offering to the LORD.” “Send it on its way, but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us.”
I wonder which side, if any, felt like the victor that day. Both sides were defeated and put to shame. The God of Israel, the “God of all creation”, revealed His omnipotence.
Application #2: God has chosen to work with us and through us. In the end, however, if we are unfaithful, unwilling, or unworthy, He is perfectly capable of getting the job done without us. “…He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25)
I come from a long line of unbelievers. I’ve often felt this burden to make Christ known to my brothers, sisters and parents – as if their salvation would not happen unless I made it happen! With this ill-conceived burden, dogmatism overtook love and theological language outpaced action. This was the result of wrongly believing God needed my help.
I can rest in the fact that God is very capable without me, just as He was in guiding His representative ark home, yoked to calving dairy cows!
Prayer: Lord may I take the positions of influence you give me, whether it be church ministry, or my home ministry, and may I serve You honorably and others selflessly. When I begin to believe in my prideful heart that ministry outcomes and evangelistic results hinge on my efforts, may I be reminded of Your sovereignty. You are infinitely capable of producing something out of nothing. Lord, may my greatest pleasure in serving You, always be, seeing You and Your awesome works! Amen.