May 25, 2023
“When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, 'Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by the Philistines? Let’s bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh.'”
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“When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by the Philistines? Let’s bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh. Then it will go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3 (HCSB)
Last week, I noticed my cologne had run out. When I went to a department store fragrance counter, I noticed a small cup of coffee beans. The person at the counter told me I should smell the beans in-between fragrances because the smell of the coffee helps “cleanse the nose’s pallet,” allowing one to differentiate between scents.
The opening statement of 1 Samuel 4, “And Samuel’s words came to all Israel,” sounds more like the closing thought of chapter 3. We don’t hear any more from Samuel until chapter 7. His absence is intended to “cleanse the reader’s pallet.” The Lord is drawing a distinction between the sweet aroma of Samuel’s personal worship and the stench of Israel’s national worship under the direction of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas.
Today’s passage begins with a question: Why did the Lord let us be defeated? Perhaps, you have faced that question in your own life. Israel would have done well to let that question linger awhile. Then, maybe the Lord’s threats in Leviticus 26 would have come to mind.
“But if you do not obey Me and observe My commands – if you reject My statutes and despise My ordinances, and do not observe all My commands – and break My covenant, then I will do all this to you – wasting disease and fever that will cause your eyes to fail (Eli) and your life to ebb away (Phinehas’ wife). You will sow your seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. (Hophni and Phinehas were Eli’s “seed” or offspring) I will turn against you, so that you will be defeated by your enemies” Leviticus 26:14-17 (HCSB)
Sadly, in haste, Israel resorted to “Rabbit’s foot” theology. They should have remembered God’s Word, repented, and drawn close to the God of the Covenant. Instead, Israel made an impetuous decision (based on their ignorance of God’s Word) to bring the Ark of the Covenant of God to them. The assumption was that God would be forced to protect His reputation, despite His children’s obvious rebellion. As they say in Jerusalem, “Yahweh don’t play that!”
The Lord will suffer shame rather than allow us to carry on a false relationship with him, and He will allow us to be disappointed with Him if that will awaken our understanding of what kind of God He is. Have you observed that things go better with prayer? Let’s make sure our delight is in aligning ourselves with God’s will rather than trying to coerce Him to align with ours! When the church stops confessing, “Thou art worthy” in exchange for “Thou art useful,” we know the ark of God has been captured again!
Then again, the Lord may be cleansing the pallet for Revival once more. Let’s seek God as a Samuel so that “Ichabod” (the glory of the Lord has departed) would not be written over the doorposts of our hearts, churches, and nation.
©Steve Wiggins 2021