Saturday, July 4, 2015

1 Samuel 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is 1 Samuel 4. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)

  • The Philistines were Israel's major enemy during the days of Samuel.  Lacking religious and military leadership, the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines.  
  • The Israelites concluded that the reason for their loss was the absence of the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses.  They sent a group of men to Shiloh to retrieve the ark and bring it back to them.  
  • The Israelites rightly recognized the importance of the ark but they thought that the ark itself - the wood and metal box - was their source of power.  Their view of the ark appears to be somewhat superstitious, if not idolatrous, at this point.  
  • The Israelites are once again defeated by the Philistines.  The Philistines capture the ark and Eli's two sons die.  This event fulfills the prophecy in chapter 2, verse 34 that Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day.
  • Hearing the news about the ark and his sons, Eli died.  
  • Eli's daughter-in-law gave birth to a son named Ichabod.  His name meant "no glory."  With the loss to the Philistines and the loss of the ark, the Israelites felt like God had left them. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • Israel become more concerned with the symbols of their faith (the ark) than with the God they represented. They began to use the ark as a good luck charm expecting it to protect them from their enemies.  But a symbol of God does not guarantee His presence and power.  When the ark was captured by their enemies, they thought that God had deserted them.  
  • Past victory does not guarantee future victory.  The Philistines were afraid because they remembered stories about God's intervention for Israel when they left Egypt.  But Israel had turned away from God and was simply clinging to a symbol (the ark) of former victories.  The Israelites wrongly assumed that because God had given them victory in the past, He would do it again, even though they had strayed far from Him.  But spiritual victories, then and today, come through a continual relationship with God.  
  • This whole chapter illustrates the spiritual darkness and decline of Israel.  Eli's daughter-in-law couldn't even enjoy giving birth to a son because of the terror of thinking that God had left His people.  When sin dominates our lives, even God-given joys and pleasures seem empty.  

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • It may be easier to worship things we can see - buildings, objects, traditions, people - but tangible things have no power in themselves.   Keep your eyes and trust on Jesus, not things.  Keep your faith in the Creator, not the created.  
  • People (and churches) often try to live on the memories of God's blessings.  But don't live off the past.  Keep your relationship with God new and fresh.  
  • Is there a sin in your life that is damaging your relationship with God?  A sin that is keeping you from enjoying the good things God has given you?  Confess it to God and seek His help in defeating that sin.