Ark of the Covenant

1 Samuel 4:1-11

1And Samuel’s word came to all Israel. Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

4So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

5When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?” When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, 7the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. 8We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!” 10So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Superstition

You may have observed people hanging crucifix on their rearview mirror. Why would they do that? Is it some sort of creative decoration or superstition? Do they believe that a crucifix has power to keep them safe or God is with them?

Are you bothered when people assume that crucifix keeps them safe?

The Lord Jesus identifies genuine believers in John 14:12, 12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

Christ exemplified a lifestyle for believers. Believers who have matured spiritually are involved in the ministry of Christ. Of course, there are believers who haven’t matured spiritually yet or have been stagnant in their spiritual life.

Have you heard of church-goers who participated in ministry, elected as church officers, enrolled in the seminary, preached or served as pastors, but not necessarily be saved? Such sorry realities have similarities to the sons of Eli.

The sons of Eli were priests of the Lord but their misplaced practices as priests of the Lord revealed that they did not really believed God. When they went to battle against the Philistines, the brought with them the Ark of the Covenant, and hoped that God would help them but they were defeated.

1. Defeat

1And Samuel’s word came to all Israel. Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” 4So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

Samuel was Israel’s last judge and a prophet of the Lord. Bible scholars suggest that Samuel was born few years before the death of Samson. Samson died with the Philistine rulers but the war between Israel and the Philistines didn’t end to fulfill what God has told to Samuel about the household of Eli the priest.

When the Philistines defeated Israel, it showed that Ark of the Covenant has no power to save the Israelites. The Israelites thought that if they carry the Ark of the Covenant with them, the Lord will save them from their enemies.

It says in Hebrews 9:4, 4The Ark of the Covenant contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.

Some Israelites who truly believed God may have suggested, “Let us bring the Ark of the Covenant.” The sons of Eli accompanied the Ark of the Covenant but, Eli the priest said nothing about it. He may have given them his approval.

Patron Saint

Somewhere in the Philippines, towns celebrate annual festivals to honor their Patron Saints. They would carry images of their Patron Saints and parade around their towns. They believe that by carrying images, their Patron Saints will bless them, keep them safe from disease, or give them abundant harvest.

Would God bless or reward services to Him that He did not command? Church attendees join the ministry hoping that God may bless them. Others want to show that they are faithful servants. God has detailed what pleases Him. Serving God doesn’t necessarily please Him if it originated from human effort.

When Hophni and Phinehas brought the Ark of the Covenant to battle, was it because they want to serve God? God did not order them. The Israelites suggested it. They may have hoped that the Lord would deliver them from the hands of the Philistines but instead God punished them for their misplaced effort.

2. Deliver

5When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?” When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, 7the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. 8We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!” 10So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

When Hophni and Phinehas brought the Ark of the Covenant to battle, did they believe that the Ark of the Covenant has power to deliver them from their enemies? If so, they have positioned themselves in front of Israel’s army. Israel was defeated.  Everyone retreated. Both Hophni and Phinehas were casualties.

What the man of God told Eli the Priest about his sons happened just as the Lord has declared in 1 Samuel 2:34, 34What happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.

The Lord has instructed Israel what pleases Him. He dealt with them according to their obedience or disobedience. Personally, does God deal with us in similar manner? When the Lord declared what He wanted us to do, does He need our input or suggestion of how we want to please Him?

Anything that originated from human instinct always falls short and cannot measure up to God’s glory.  How? God is perfect. Human standard is imperfect.

Additionally, only the author of life knows what lifestyle is acceptable to Him. Christ our Creator has designed the kind of life we should live, a lifestyle pleasant to Him. And, the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to teach us how to serve Him.

The Lord Jesus said in John 16:13-15, 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Not a few believers have understood that using spiritual gifts is the kind of service acceptable and pleasant to God. But why is it that there are still church-goers who don’t collaborate or coordinate with their respective ministry teams instead they just insist on doing things on their own volition?

When the Lord has commissioned all disciples to make disciples and called all believers to witness for Him, He expects us to make disciples. Disciples would rely upon God’s guidance to fulfill their mandate—to make disciples.

Christ declares in John 15:5-8, 5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

To remain in the word of Christ is to abide by His instruction. We can only be fruitful when we abiding by the Lord’s direction instead of getting ourselves busy with empty result. What is the Lord’s personal instruction to you? Ask and it will done for you and bear much fruit. The fruit of disciples is disciple.

Therefore, if the ministry or activity we participate in does not produce disciples as a result or fruit of ministry, that should serve as warning sign that we are not in the ministry that make us productive. It is advisable to abide in Christ. Don’t waste effort. Get involved in a ministry that may produce disciples for you.

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