Thought to Guide Your ReadingThe Philistines learn of God's superiority over their own gods in a painful way.
Summary in 100 Words or LessIsrael warred with the Philistines. Hoping to change their fortune, they brought along the Ark of the Covenant. They lost again. The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and killed Eli's sons. Eli fell over and broke his neck at the news.
The Philistines brought the ark into their god's house. The god was destroyed. The people in every city developed tumors. They returned the ark voluntarily.
Samuel told the people to rededicate themselves wholly to God. When this happened they defeated Philistia.
Samuel's sons were wicked. Israel wanted a king. So God allowed them to appoint a king.
How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right
God is not a talisman.The Israelites thought by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the battle God would follow. Unfortunately for them, this was the wrong decision. God is not a talisman who can only affect things where His objects go. What Israel forgot in this moment was that God protected them when they obeyed Him. Because they were not wholly for God He would not protect them. When we are wholly for God nothing can defeat us. When we are not holy nothing can save us.
Later, when Samuel tells the people to throw out their other gods, God defeated the Philistines for them. It is the same Philistines, the same Israelites (20 years later) but a different result. The difference? Holiness.
How does this translate to today? Luck. Some may think certain objects (such as crosses, images of Bibles, sending chain emails—the scourge of the Internet) can give you good luck or blessings. That is not at all true! Being holy gives you good luck and blessings. Carrying a talisman or forwarding an email about God will not make you lucky or blessed.
The Philistines feared God.In an ironic twist, bringing the Ark of the Covenant encouraged the Philistines,
Their gods have come to their camp! Nothing like this has ever happened before. We're done for! Who can save us from the clutches of these supergods? These are the same gods who hit the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues out in the wilderness. On your feet, Philistines! Courage! We're about to become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they have been slaves to us. Show what you're made of! Fight for your lives! (4:7-9, The Message)The Philistines feared God and fought with all of their might to prevent God from defeating them. Even people who do not have a personal relationship with God fear Him and are given victory.
When Israel no longer wanted to rule themselves they rejected God as their king. This came with negative consequences.In a comforting statement, God reassures Samuel that he was not the cause of the people wanting a king. They rejected God. This is an interesting statement because many interpret Judges' statement that "At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing" (21:25, The Message) to be negative on Israel's morality. Yet God is giving the exact opposite remark. When there is no central, ruling authority the people are more likely to obey God. When a central authority comes they spend more time consolidating power than obeying God. The negative consequences will be read in the upcoming books.
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