Wednesday, April 01, 2020

2020.04.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 4:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Israel go out to do (1 Samuel 4:1)? Where did each army encamp? What happened in the battle (1 Samuel 4:2)? What did the people ask (1 Samuel 4:3a)? What did they think would change the outcome, and what did they think would save them (verse 3b)? Who dwelt between the cherubim (1 Samuel 4:4)? Who else were right there, when they were retrieving it? How did Israel respond when the ark arrived (1 Samuel 4:5)? What did the Philistines ask in 1 Samuel 4:6? What did they understand? What did they call the ark in 1 Samuel 4:7? Where did they assume that God was not, before? What did the Philistines think of this new development at first (1 Samuel 4:7-8)? But how did they determine to respond (1 Samuel 4:9)? How did the outcome of this battle compare to the outcome of the earlier one (1 Samuel 4:10, cf. 1 Samuel 4:2)? What was captured (1 Samuel 4:11a)? Who died (verse 11b)? 
They are dreadful things that we do, when we take God lightly or treat Him as an easily manipulated genie in a bottle.

Israel, asks the right question in 1 Samuel 4:3, “Why has Yahweh struck us down”? The answer (or at least a significant part of it) is buried way down in 1 Samuel 4:11, “and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.” This was a sign that we have been expecting since 1 Samuel 2:34, and especially after 1 Samuel 3:121 Samuel 3:191 Samuel 4:1a. So, if we have been paying attention, the answer is, “Out of respect for His own honor in His own worship!”

That’s startling to us, if we live in a day of worship chaos, where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and there is no king in Israel.” If that’s true of our worship situation in the churches, then we can see the parallel with Samuel’s situation, coming out of the period of the Judges.

But that’s the answer to the “why” question: “Out of respect for His own honor in His own worship!”

Israel was treating Yahweh as a deity that could be easily manipulated. His worship was being desecrated, but their answer to why they lost was that they had forgotten the magical furniture (1 Samuel 4:3–4) that has God’s power infused in it in such a way that God would have to give them what they wanted. It turns out, from 1 Samuel 4:7, that this was also the Philistine view of how deities work.

The Lord punishes Israel’s superstitious, manipulative approach to Him with a defeat more than seven times as bad (cf. 1 Samuel 4:41 Samuel 4:10) as before. He takes from them that symbol of His presence that they had treated as more important than Him Himself (1 Samuel 4:11a). And He crowns it with the sign of His judgment (verse 11b).

The question for us, then, is where we might be doing such things. Are we bowing to God’s complete authority over His worship, or do we seek to modify worship to be more pleasing to ourselves or others? In those things that God has given us as means by which He works, are we trusting in Him and interacting with Him, or are we trusting the means and using them in a way that is not mindful of Him?

If God acts in such a way as to vindicate His glory and honor over against the church’s cavalier approach to the means of grace, then let us bow and worship and repent and confess that He is righteous and just and holy to bring upon us whatever He determines to do.
How can you improve your personal interaction with God in His worship or means of grace?
Suggested Songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths, to Thee I Cry”

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