When God was Captured, 1 Sam.4

When God Was Captured 1 Samuel 4  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:14
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Today we are watching on the news the utter chaos that is taking place in major cities across the country as protests are turning into outright riots over the death of “Big” George Floyd in Minneapolis. Christianity Today (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/george-floyd-ministry-houston-third-ward-church.html) reported that Pastor Patrick PT Ngwolo of Resurrection Houston, said of him, “George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in.” another one said of him, “His faith was a heart for the Third Ward (a section of Houston) that was radically changed by the gospel, and his mission was empowering other believers to be able to come in and push that gospel forth.” From this article it appears that ‘Big Floyd’ was a believer in Jesus. That he was a follower of the Lord. His death was clearly a horrible situation. It is not pleasant to watch. You find yourself pleading along with him to the officer to let him up. From all the news reports it appears that his death might be in vain as people tear down the cities in protest. Everyone wants to point at everyone else for the cause rather than taking a look at themselves.
I am going to push your thinking here for a minute. you may not like me after this, but that is okay.
Let me ask you. Does God know about his death? Did his manner of death or time of death take God by surprise?
A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God’s approval/decree. Big floyd is much more than a sparrow. He is made in the image of God, stamped with the Spirit of God in his heart if it is true he was a believer. Thus, nothing could happen to him the Lord didn’t decree before the foundation of the world. I am not going to talk about the place of evil in the world nor the officers involved.
What I am going to assert is that on the basis of the Scripture and the Sovereignty of God this entire ordeal has been orchestrated by God in order to put the Glory of God on display and compel people to examine their lives and repent of sin and believe in Jesus. At least that is what Jesus points out early in His ministry -Except you repent you shall all likewise perish.
I see that exact thing happening in our text we have before us.
Who would think that God would orchestrate the ruin of a family, the killing of two brothers, sons of a High Priest, the death of the High Priest, the destruction of his family over time? On top of that to kill 34,000 other men not to mention the untold deaths of Philistine men in order to accomplish that, and on top of that to leave a newborn baby boy an orphan. And it is done in accordance to the prior decree of God who is the Creator in fulfillment of His covenant with Israel and with mankind. IT all seems so unjust. But it isn’t.
let me say off the top, there are no innocent parties involved in this.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The wages of sin is death.
It is appointed unto man once to die.
But there is hope in the one who died to take away the wrath of God and deal with our sin.
Big Floyd is in heaven if he is a believer, rejoicing more than you can imagine. He didn’t die early. But right on time as God has decreed the death of all of us before we are ever born (Ps. 139). He gives life and He takes life (1 Sam. 2:6). We are all immortal until God is finished with us (Phil. 1:21-26).
So with that in mind we are ready to dig into our text for today.
And what I want you to see is that the Word of God that decreed or prophesied the death of these two sons and the ruin of Eli’s family has been fulfilled and thus proves that God is faithful to His Word. It can be trusted. The same word that says “the wages of sin is death” also states “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What this shows us is how to bridge that gap between the two.

I. The Orchestrated death of two sons, 1-11

A. It was the word of God, 1

“the word of Samuel came to all Israel.”
We have already read that whatever Samuel said came to pass, 3:19
and that He was viewed as a prophet by all the people, 3:20
and that the Lord had appeared to him at Shiloh, 3:21 So then the message that was conveyed to Samuel to give to Israel was the message we read and he delivered to Eli in chapter 3.
In the LXX chapter three ends with the statement that “Eli grew very old and his sons continued to act more and more wickedly in the presence of YHWH.”
Now we have this word came to all Israel.

B. The misplaced hope of the people, 1,2

The fact that Israel went out to war following the word of Samuel to Israel is interesting.
Thinking that God was again talking to them, they had a prophet again, they must have a renewed confidence that they would be successful against the Philistines. The philistines had been their enemy since the book of Judges.
They may have assumed the blessing of the Lord had returned and so when they went out to battle. Later in chapter 7 they will go to battle again, only then they will do it after dealing with their sin.
The Bible says, “Israel was smitten before the Philistines” the word for ‘smitten’ means to strike. They were soundly defeated in that 4,000 men were killed.
they were shocked they had been defeated instead.
Why the defeat?
They were saying, what just happened? That was not expected at all. I can hear them saying something like, “The revelation of God has come to us again. We have a prophet. He told us to go and fight. God must be favoring us. This is a great time to go to war with the Philistines who are oppressing us. Surely we will win. After all isn’t God on our side?”
No one goes to war if they don’t think they can win.
So this initial defeat sent them into a tail spin.

C. The unanswered question, 3

Great question to ask. This was the right question given the first two verses.
They recognized that it was YHWH who struck them down and caused the defeat.
Whenever we have a failed expectation we too ought to ask the question of God. We should recognize that He is the One who is pulling the strings here.
Even something as mundane and normal as mowing my lawn. I am mowing it in hopes of getting rid of the tall grass when a cable brakes in the middle of the job. I cannot finish the mowing. I have learned to laugh at this as I drive the mower into the barn and order the needed part. So then I try my push mower, which I cannot get started. So I say to myself, ‘evidently God doesn’t want me to finish mowing today.’ And I consider with Him what else I might do that He would approve of. I believe in the Sovereignty of God so much so that I believe He let that cable snap. Now I could learn lessons from that in the area of preventive maintenance, but that would be too easy.
But when they asked their question they were not really interested in getting God’s answer. How do I know? Because of what they did and didn’t do.

1.They didn’t ask Samuel, not even Eli.

Why not ask the representatives of God -the priest Eli or even Samuel for an answer? However, they didn’t wait for an answer. Samuel may have known what the answer was from his personal message to Eli. The answer to the question is ‘because God decreed that you would be defeated in order for my word to be fulfilled with regards to the house of Eli.
Listen to these words that make clear this defeat was caused by the Lord,
Deuteronomy 28:25 ESV
“The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.
Judges 13:1 ESV
And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
Psalm 78:60 ESV
He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
Jeremiah 7:12–14 ESV
Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.
True they couldn’t have went to the psalms or Jeremiah, they were not written yet. But we can and we can see this very clear picture: the whole defeat and ruin even of Shiloh was caused by the Lord.
But they didn’t want to consider the answer to their question. They should have looked within themselves and the law, but they didn’t do that.
Instead, they thought taking the Ark would do the trick.

2.They went to plan B,

Now their thinking was, ‘maybe if we take the ark we will have victory.’ No one was thinking, ‘hmm, the law said that we would lose to our enemies if certain criteria was not met. That is, if we did not obey the Lord. Maybe we should take a look at the law (Dt. 27, 28:25. ) and consider if we are right with the Lord before we go out again. But they didn’t do that. Nowhere does the law say that if you want to ensure victory take the ark of the covenant with you.
Lest we misunderstand, their thinking that God would go with them with the Ark was not without precedent. There were various times in their history when the ark went before them into battle and there was great victory: Numbers 10:33-36; Josh. 3:3-7; 4:1-18; 6:6-21.
But Their thinking was pagan. They thought the ark had magical powers.
We have to understand the place the Ark plays in this event:
It is mentioned by name 12 times in the short span of 22 verses, and it is described as the throne seat of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (4:4). Israel’s God, of whom no image was to be made (Exod 20:4–5), is portrayed as ruling over his people from a throne located between the cherubim at each end of the Ark’s cover (Exod 25:17–22). Yahweh was Israel’s divine king, and the Ark was his throne. Inside the Ark were the stone tablets, on which were written the terms of the covenant by the finger of God himself (Exod 25:21; 31:18; 34:1). While the designation given to the Ark varies (“Ark of God,” 4:11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22; “Ark of the Lord,” 4:6; “Ark of Covenant of the Lord,” 4:3, 5; “Ark of the Covenant of God,” 4:4; “Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,” 4:4), the linkage of the Ark with Israel’s covenant relation to the Lord in three of these five designations is of particular significance. At its most basic level a covenant is a sworn agreement to certain commitments under specified sanctions. In Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord, honoring the covenant stipulations was essential for the realization of the covenant blessings. That the Ark of God is designated the “Ark of the Covenant” four times in this chapter calls attention to the extreme importance of Israel’s responsibility to live out her covenant obligations before the Lord. Israel must always remember that the promise of the Lord’s presence and the assurance of his protective assistance for his people were given in the context of covenant. When Israel failed to fulfill her covenant obligations, she could not count on either the Lord’s presence or his help (van den Berg 1996a:40).1
1 Vannoy, J. R. (2009). Cornerstone Biblical Commentarya: 1-2 Samuel (Vol. 4, p. 67). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
In essence, the reason for their defeat was really two-fold:
the death of the two sons was called for by God and this military battle was the means God was going to use.
they had broken the covenant with God which decreed they would be defeated in battle by their enemies.
The ark represented the presence of God. On it was the mercy seat and one of the lessons I see here is that God will not be used for our selfish purposes. He is not at our beck and call. That is to treat God in a profane way, with contempt. It does not see God as supreme and all powerful. Rather it sees man as supreme and all powerful who can command God.
Notice their thinking: “It may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.”
here is where the rub is,
the verbs following the ark are jussive masc. singular.
let him come
Let him save us which is in the hiphil meaning ‘let him cause us to be saved.’
The verbs could have the ark as the subject thus it would be “let it/the ark come into our midst” and “Let it/ark save us.” or it is possible to have YHWH as the subject of the verb. I take it the ark is the subject. because the context fits better they intend the ark. It was the object of the ark they were putting their faith and hope in. Not in God Himself. They had made an idol of the ark. In other words they worshipped the shadow not the real God.
I think people, even believers often have that mindset today.
They think, if I don’t pray today and read my bible, God won’t bless me today. If I don’t go to church, God will not protect my family or give me good health. Is not that the same kind of thinking as these men? You make an idol out of prayer, bible reading, or church attendance. Those are good things and things that should be done. And they are marks of a true believer. But God’s blessing on you doesn’t depend on them it depends on the character of God and His promise. You cannot merit His blessings.
What did the leaders do? they sent for the ark.

B. They Lose the Ark, 4-11

We are notified that Hophni and Phinehas accompany the Ark.
The ark enters the camp and there is a great shout of the army. So much so that the earth shook. It resounded or there was a great echo. That was heard in the camp of the Philistines. v.5
When I think about this shout and as I was reading a commentary on this verse it occured to me that this was somewhat like the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The excitement on the arrival of the King was deafening as it was here in the camp. The comparison I make is that ark represented God, the King of Israel. They thought that would save them from their enemies. The Jews of Jesus day thought the same thing. Both were wrong because both had them as mere talismans who would deliver. They were not thinking right about either of them because they had not acknowledged their sin and repented and believed by faith in Him. The ark has the mercy seat the throne of God, Jesus is that mercy seat. He is on the throne Isaiah 6/John 12:41. It seems to me a similar event theologically and exposes the pagan thinking of the people.
The thinking of the Philistines is the same as Israel regarding God.
They said ‘woe to us” they thought doom for them was imminent. That defeat was unavoidable.
They thought the same way the Israelites had: that the ark was the power or rep of God and thus with it they were doomed. That thinking is in keeping with the practice of taking the gods/idols of defeated gods. Just as they took the ark and placed it in their temple in ch.5
What a statement. Even they recognized that the God of Israel cannot be defeated. They knew that the only way that could happen is if He allowed it.The answer to their question in v.8 is No one can deliver them. Unless God does it. That is the implication. They needed a miracle from God to defeat Israel and they got one.
v.8 they knew the history of Israel and God. They knew God had delivered Israel from the Egyptians.
be strong- imperative
be men - imperative
Both of those commands emphasize the necessity that faced them. They couldn’t just leave the battlefield and go home. That would mean they were defeated.
their only hope against Israel was to fight harder. They must have thought they were going to their deaths. They must have thought they were going to surely be defeated, though earlier they had defeated Israel. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain if they went into battle. They chose death over slavery to the Hebrews. But God used them to judge Israel.
So they fought and Israel was defeated.
All Israel fled to their homes, 30000 more were killed in battle.
The ark was captured and Hophni and Phinehas were killed.


This was a defeat for Israel and victory for the Philistines that was orchestrated by God. It had to be that way. How else could the Philistines have defeated Israel if God had not have permitted it?
Remember that God had decreed the destruction of Eli and his sons. The implication is that defeat in battle is how God determined Hophni and Phinehas were to die. This means that the defeat in the battle was the direct will of God in order to facilitate the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophesy. This is the answer to the question in 4:3 “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines?” His purpose for going to battle was to kill the Sons of Eli.
As Matthew Poole puts it, this was “so they might be first humbled and punished for their sins, and so prepared by degrees for their future deliverance.”
We see in this first section, the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecy the sons would die on the same day. God is faithful to keep His word even if it involves death.
We too know the certainty of God’s faithfulness to keep His word.
It is in our face everyday. You just have to look at the news or your own life. We all know some loved one or friend who has died.
Beloved, now is not the time to panic, but to repent and trust in Jesus Christ. God is not captured. He is not removed of His power. In fact it is just the opposite. His power to keep His word is put on display and what a display it is. Because in the midst of these events He is right here orchestrating it in our lives so that we will recognize Him and believe and give Him the glory.
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