And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “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
The fourth chapter of 1 Samuel is a sad chapter. It’s really sad because it reminds me of me. Let me explain. Israel went to battle the Philistines one day and they ended up filling up 4,000 body bags with their own soldiers. Not a good day for Israel. So they think to themselves that they must have lost the battle because the ark of the covenant was not with them. So they have UPS deliver the ark, which actually has a longer name: “The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Hosts Who is Enthroned on the Cherubim” (1 Samuel 4:4). With a name like that, Israel thinks for sure they will win the next battle. But they don’t. Israel once again gets pulverized by the Philistines, only this time, the Philistines steal “The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Hosts Who is Enthroned on the Cherubim.” Not a good day for Israel.
You do realize that you’re supposed to chuckle when you read that the Philistines stole the ark, don’t you? The author of 1 Samuel wants you to laugh when you read in verse 11 that the “the ark of God was captured.” As if the Philistines really captured “The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Hosts Who is Enthroned on the Cherubim.” Yahweh, the One who is enthroned on the cherubim, let the Philistines “capture” Him. But, why? Why would God let His name get dragged through the mud? Why would He give the Philistines an opportunity to go on Facebook and brag about how they not only defeated Israel, but actually “captured” their god, Yahweh? The reason the Lord did it was to teach Israel a lesson: Yahweh (and the ark) is not a lucky rabbit’s foot.
Israel assumed that they lost the battle because they did not have the ark. Israel was using God like a lucky rabbit’s foot (Ralph Davis). After they lost the first time, Israel should have stopped to pray. They should have wept and repented over any sin. Instead of weeping, Israel was just interested in winning. Israel was more interested in success than repentance. Instead of using God to win, Israel should have remembered a few things about the ark: It showed that Yahweh reigns over all creation. It showed that Yahweh had revealed Himself and His character (because the 10 commandments were kept inside the ark). Israel served a God who did not leave them i the dark as to what He expected. And the ark showed them that reconciliation and forgiveness was possible because of the mercy seat. Israel served the God of the universe who welcomes sinners into His presence, and yet they just wanted to take Him out to battle to win instead of first repenting of any sin and then enjoying His presence.
And we often do the same thing. We want to win, not weep. Do we use God just to win or have things go right or just to get what we want? Or, do we pray and read His word because we meet with Him, the God of the universe?
May we become a church that is quick to repent. May we become a church who enjoys the Giver more than His gifts. May we become a church that humbles ourselves before “The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Hosts Who is Enthroned on the Cherubim.”