March 28, 2007
I Samuel 4-8
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- And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.
- And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.
- And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.
- So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
- And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
- And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.
- And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
- Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
- Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.
- And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.
- And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
- And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
- And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
- And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
- Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.
- And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
- And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
- And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
- And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
- And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
- And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband.
- And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.
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- And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.
- When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
- And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.
- And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.
- Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.
- But the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.
- And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.
- They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither.
- And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.
- Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people.
- So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.
- And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
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- And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
- And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.
- And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.
- Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
- Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.
- Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?
- Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them:
- And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.
- And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us.
- And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:
- And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.
- And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh.
- And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.
- And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD.
- And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.
- And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.
- And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;
- And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Beth-shemite.
- And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.
- And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?
- And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.
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- And the men of Kirjath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.
- And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
- And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
- Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.
- And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.
- And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.
- And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
- And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.
- And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him.
- And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.
- And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car.
- Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.
- So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
- And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
- And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.
- And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.
- And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.
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- And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
- Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba.
- And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
- Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
- And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
- But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
- And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
- According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
- Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
- And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
- And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
- And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
- And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
- And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
- And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
- And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
- He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
- And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
- Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
- That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
- And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
- And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
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Thought for the day:
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I Samuel 4, the children of Israel are guilty of putting symbolism over substance. They are preparing to go to war with the Philistines, and on the first day of battle they lost about 4000 soldiers. In order to have the power of God upon their cause, and in an attempt to guarantee their ultimate victory, the Jews decide to take the Ark of the Covenant out of the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and take it with them into battle. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli's reprobate sons, brought it, and led the Israelites into battle with it. The Philistines were greatly concerned, because they believed that the presence of the Ark meant that God Himself had come into the camp of the Israelites. They feared for their lives because they knew of all that Jehovah had accomplished in Egypt. They stood their ground, however, and rallied the troops to fight like men so that they would not be enslaved. The end result of this battle was that the Philistines were victorious, the Ark of the Covenant was captured, and 30,000 Jews, including Hophni and Phinehas, were killed.
How could this happen? After all, wasn't the ark symbolic of the physical presence of the Lord? Wasn't the mercy seat there, upon which the blood was sprinkled for an atonement? Yes, these things were all true. However, the Ark was not the power of Israel; God was. As the Jews carried around the Ark it looked like they were functioning under the leadership and power of God. But because of their sin, and particularly the transgressions of the priests, the presence and power of God had disappeared, and the Jews were unable to stand against their enemies. They had the symbolism, but they didn't have the real thing.
Many churches today are laden with symbolism. They have crosses in the front, and sing out of hymnbooks. They have King James Version Bibles in their pew racks. They have Sunday School classes and youth departments, Christian Schools and Faith Promise Missions. They even have the name Baptist portrayed proudly on the sign out front, with the words "Independent" and "Fundamental" prominently displayed. They have the great symbols of Christianity, but they are failing to accomplish anything, because their hearts are far from God. In
Revelation 3:1, God opens His comments to the church at Sardis this way:
"These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
They had the right name: a name that spoke of the power and glory of Almighty God, yet they possessed none of that power.
II Timothy 3:5 speaks of those living in the last days as "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." They have the appearance of spirituality, but they do not have God's power. I wonder, could this be said of my church, or my family, or me?
It is interesting to note that once the substance went, the symbolism went too. Israel wasn't walking with God, so the Ark was taken away. Has anyone noticed how many of the traditional markings of New Testament churches have begun to disappear from some of our assemblies? Many Baptist churches have dropped the name Baptist, changed Bibles, and abandoned their historic standards of holiness. They are dropping Sunday night services, and turning Prayer Meeting night into Family Fun night. And why not? Once the power of God is no longer desired or appreciated, who needs the trappings that went with it?
I Samuel 4 concludes with the wife of Phinehas giving birth immediately upon hearing of the loss of the Ark and her husband. She named her infant son Ichabod, because she said, "The glory is departed from Israel" (
4:21-22). The Ark was gone, and the power of God was gone; the symbolism and the Substance, and there was "no glory" in Israel. When believers reject the power of God, their external evidences of Christianity will some day disappear as well, and it will be truly said of them that "The Glory is Departed". May we always walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that this may never be said of us.
Pastor Dr. Mark J Montgomery