Read 1 Samuel 4

Highlights:

Israel defeated by the Philistines; Ark of God taken; Eli's death; Samuel judges Israel.

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 . . . serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines (I Sam. 7:3).

Twenty years had passed since the Philistines had defeated Israel and carried away the Ark of God. Prior to that, the Israelites had declared war against the Philistines without having direction from God. Consequently, they were defeated.

After their defeat, they remembered that the presence of the Ark of the Covenant had always meant victory. Therefore, they brought it from Shiloh to the battlefield. They assumed that by having the Ark in their possession, God would protect them from their enemies, but the defeat was even greater, and 30,000 Israelites died in battle. They had taken the Ark to the battlefield, but they had not repented of their sins or sought the Lord's will. If God had permitted Israel to win the war while they disregarded His will, it would eventually have been a greater national calamity than being defeated by the Philistines.

While Eli was priest, God used Israel's defeats to transfer His authority to Samuel. After a period of twenty years, all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord (7:2). Samuel appealed to the people to put away their idols and serve Him only (7:3).

When Israel was again threatened by war with the Philistines, Samuel offered a sacrifice and prayed. God intervened, and the Philistines were so badly defeated that they did not attack Israel again during Samuel's lifetime.

One's confession of faith may be as bold as the great shout (4:5) that accompanied Phinehas and Hophni when they brought the Ark into Israel's camp before they were slain. But the triumphant faith of Samuel is experienced by those who worship the Lord . . . only.

Just as the Ark in itself could not save Israel, neither could sacrifice or mere formality in worship take the place of inward obedience. This is why many Christians are suffering defeat; they are more concerned with outward things being right than they are in permitting God to control their lives.

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve (Matt. 4:10).

Thought for Today:

Serving the Lord acceptably requires single-hearted love for Him.

Christ Revealed:

Through the rock called Ebenezer, which means the stone of help (I Sam. 7:12). Jesus is our Rock of salvation; our help comes from Him (Ps. 18:2; 121:2). I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Phil. 4:13).

Word Studies:

4:1 pitched, encamped; 4:9 quit yourselves like men, be courageous and exercise all the strength you have; 4:12 his clothes rent . . . earth upon his head, signs of great sorrow; 4:19 travailed, gave birth; 5:6 emerods, tumors, hemorrhoids; 6:2 diviners, fortune-tellers; 6:6 had wrought wonderfully, did mighty things; 6:7 milch kine, heifers, milk cows; 6:8 coffer, chest; 6:14 clave, split; 7:3 strange, foreign, false; 7:10 discomfited them, confused them in a panic.

Prayer Needs:

Pray for International Broadcasts sponsored by Helen Porter • Government Officials: Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (GA) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME) • Country: Algeria (31.5 million) in North Africa • Major languages: Arabic and French • Opposition to the Gospel is intense • 96.7% Muslim; 3.02% non-Religious; .29% Christian; .01% Baha'i • Prayer Suggestion: Remember that it is by the blood of Christ that we have access to God in prayer (Heb. 10:19).

Optional Reading: Acts 3

Memory Verse for the Week: Ephesians 3:20