11 The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed.
1 Samuel 4:11 (NLT)
In this article we shall look into the event which the Ark of God was captured by the enemies for the first time. This event happened when Samuel was preparing to take over from Eli as the prophet. Israel did not have a king yet. They were still fighting their enemies regularly.
This time, the Israelites were fighting the Philistines. The Israelites were defeated with 4,000 men died. Then someone got an idea.
3 After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”
1 Samuel 4:3 (NLT)
There were 2 messages here. The first message was in the form of a question: “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” They blamed God for their defeat. In their mind, the Lord was the one who allowed them to be defeated by the Philistines. Does this sound familiar to you? Religious people have the same mentality.
When they are sick, they will ask, “Why did the Lord allow me to get sick?”
When they are poor, they will ask, “Why did the Lord allow me to be poor?”
When they got injured in an accident, they will ask, “Why did the Lord allow me to get injured in an accident?”
When they failed in their examinations, they will ask, “Why did the Lord allow me to fail in the examination?”
Such questions only imply one characteristic of the person, which is the refusal to take personal responsibility and choose to blame God for everything. What do you think will happen to these people? The answer is nothing. We can never improve ourselves if we refuse to take personal responsibility in our failures.
Let us look at those Israelites. They were defeated by their enemies and the first question they asked was “Why did the Lord allowed this?” It never crossed their mind that their defeat could have been caused by their own incompetence. There could be many possible reasons why they were defeated, such as:
1. They did not have enough training.
2. They did not have good weapons.
3. They did not have the right strategies.
4. They did not have strong leadership.
5. They had bad logistics where their warriors did not have enough to eat.
6. They were no proper channel of communication during the battle.
Yet they chose to blame God. Why? It was an easy way out. Taking responsibility involves hard work. It was easier to place blame on factors they cannot control like God. Such mentality will only guarantee defeat.
This is what Satan had succeeded in causing many Christians to be religious. Are you religious? Try to answer the following question to find out whether you live in faith or religion.
Let us assume that you have been constantly sick. How do you respond? Do you ask religious question like, “Why did the Lord allow me to get sick?” If you do that you are blaming God. Theologians will tell you that sometimes God makes you sick to teach you his grace. They will tell you to look at Paul’s example. God gave Paul a disease called “thorn in the flesh” that is capable be transmitting messages (the only disease that can talk) in order to teach Paul that his grace is sufficient. Maybe God wants you to have the same grace by making you sick.
This is why I find theology to be sickening. Theology was invented by Satan, not God. God is an engineer. Satan is a theologian.
So, what is the right way to respond to your sickness? God expects us to think like an engineer. If you are constantly sick, find out why you are sick and what can you do to be healthy. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are you eating healthy food?
2. Do you exercise regularly?
3. Do you confess your healing?
4. Do you think positive or negative thoughts?
5. Does your heart remain joyful?
6. Do you get stressed easily?
7. Do you have unhealthy habits like smoking?
8. Do you believe Jesus had taken all your sickness and diseases at the Cross?
The above are some of the questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to be healthy. The theological way is to blame God for our sickness and accept them as the will of God but the engineering way is to find out the causes and fix them. Who would you like to be, a theologian or an engineer?
Let us get back to the story. After they had decided that the Lord was the culprit for their defeat, they resorted to a silly way to redeem themselves. They used the Ark. Why the Ark? Historically during the exodus, their ancestors won every battle when the Ark was around. So these guys were hoping that the same would happen if they take the Ark out. What they did not realize was, it was God who gave victory to their ancestors.
The Ark was nothing more than a collection of wood and gold. It produced results in the past because it inspired faith in the Lord. The Israelites in 1 Samuel 4 did not have faith in the Lord. They did not realize that without faith, the Ark (which was a representation on the presence of the Lord) was useless.
However, the Ark did inspire some confidence in the Israel camp.
5 When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake!
1 Samuel 4:5 (NLT)
They were rejoicing and gained their confidence. The Philistines noticed and began to fear.
6 “What’s going on?” the Philistines asked. “What’s all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?” When they were told it was because the Ark of the Lord had arrived,
7 they panicked. “The gods have come into their camp!” they cried. “This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before!
8 Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness.
9 Fight as never before, Philistines! If you don’t, we will become the Hebrews’ slaves just as they have been ours! Stand up like men and fight!”
1 Samuel 4:6-9 (NLT)
They got desperate and determined to fight to their last breath. Now, we have two groups of highly motivated and determined soldiers ready to fight each other. The presence of the Ark caused the Israelites to have confidence. The Israelites’ confidence caused the Philistines to be desperate and they were determined to fight until their last breath. Please note that God did not take sides in this battle. This is the battle between confidence and desperation. The winner is desperation.
10 So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day. The survivors turned and fled to their tents.
11 The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed.
1 Samuel 4:10-11 (NLT)
The Israelites had lost and 30,000 of them were killed. The Ark, which had earlier inspired confidence was seized by the Philistines. Let us stop here and review the lessons to be learned.
Representations cannot work without faith.
Please note that I never said representations are useless. The Ark did produce results. It worked because of faith. Representations tools of faith. It is faith that produces results. Here are some examples.
• Gloria Copeland is famous for cutting out pictures of nice houses from magazines and paste them in places where she could see them everyday when she was praying for a house. As a result she got a great house.
• When Jerry Savelle was praying for an aeroplane, he bought a small replica of the aeroplane he was praying for and put it on his desk. Each time he went to his desk, he would pick up the replica and rubbed at it. He got the plane he prayed for.
Now, do you think that the pictures cut by Gloria and the replica on Jerry’s desk have magical powers to make their dreams come through? The answer is no. It was their faith that caused their prayers to be answered. The pictures and the replica were nothing more than instruments that helped to inspire the faith of their owners.
If you were to break into Jerry’s house and steal the replica, do you think Jerry will cry as though he had lost a plane? He won’t because it was only a replica. He will just buy another one and improve his home security. Do you think you will get a real plane if you have that replica? No, the replica does not have any magical power to give you a plane just as the Ark did not have the power to bring victory to the Israelites.
Desperation is more powerful than confidence.
Confidence can produce good results but desperation can be more powerful if it is used correctly. The Israelites had confidence. Their shouts of joy caused the Philistines to be fearful. They were desperate. In their minds, they could never beat their enemies. They were facing the prospect of being defeated and enslaved by the Israelites.
However, they managed to turn this desperate condition to their favor by determining that they would rather die in the battle than to live and see their nation to be enslaved. They had succeeded in turning their fears into strength through the correct application of desperation.
How can we learn from this?
• If you are sick, being confidence of recovery means doing your best to recover but being desperate for recovery means doing everything you can and determined to fight to your last breath until that disease is gone.
• If you are poor, being confidence of becoming rich means doing your best to be rich but being desperate for riches means doing everything you can and determined to fight to your last breath until you are rich.
Which do you think will produce greater results?