Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1Samuel: 4,5,6: Losing Battles

the Ark of the Covenant of the Biblical TabernacleImage via Wikipedia

In this section, Israel was embroiled in two, significant losing battles with the Philistines.  Because they were still reclaiming the land God had given them, Israel was ostensibly doing God’s will.  Yet, their losses could only testify that God was not fighting with them.  In fact, it would seem that God strengthened the hand of the Philistines against them.  So, why were their military losses so heavy?

In my life, sometimes when I do what seems to be God’s obvious will, I still fail miserably.  Nothing about the outcome of my efforts would bespeak of God’s blessing.
And, I also ask, why? Why aren’t You helping me? Why aren’t You with me on this? And, then I have to examine my heart to see if my actions sprang out of my relationship with the Lord rather than out of my personal pride issues.  Was I really doing God’s will or was I doing what I wanted under the guise of godliness.

Israel asked the same questions and decided that military defeat occurred because the Ark of the Covenant was not present with them in battle. Obviously, Israel perceived the Ark to be a talisman ensuring God’s continued Presence with them.  Under the leadership of the priest, Eli, Israel drifted farther from the nation’s original understanding of God, as One with whom they had a covenant relationship.  Though Eli knew God, he ceased to love Him.  When Eli’s sons, the next generation of Aaronic priests, publicly showed contempt for God, Eli did not aggressively censure them.  Rather,  Eli and his family were guilty of dishonoring God and teaching others to do the same.  Israel began to think of the Ark of the Covenant as a kind of idol.  They forgot that they had a relationship with the Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

When Israel fought the Philistines, the battle was not engaged by a people who loved the Lord and ardently sought His will.  Rather, they fought the Philistines simply because they were oppressed by them.  In this section, I think that it is interesting to note that God used the Philistines, national humiliation, and personal tragedy to bring a people back to seeking a relationship with Him.  Perhaps, this was also part of Samuel’s training in priesthood and leadership.  He witnessed first hand that Israel knew a Living God who demanded honor and who dispensed justice.

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