When God is Captured 1 Sam. 4, pt.2

1 Samuel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:54
0 ratings


Last time we looked at the divinely orchestrated ruin of the house of Eli. God used a war with the Philistines to facilitate that ruin. He had covenanted to kill Eli’s two sons and dismantle his household and He did it over time as we see from a reading of Samuel. The defeat of Israel was divinely planned and approved. In this I tried to show that this defeat was a demonstration of the covenant faithfulness of God. Had He not judged the evil of Eli’s sons God could not be just. He had to do this in order to satisfy His covenant in Dt. 27, 28. He had to keep His Word. That is our hope. That God keeps His promises whether for blessing or judgment. Either way we need Him, we want Him to be faithful to do so. We want Him to be trustworthy and He is. To reiterate what Matthew Poole, the puritan pastor said, this was “so they might first be humbled and punished for their sins, and so prepared by degrees for their future deliverance.” That deliverance will come 20 years later in 1 Samuel 7.
As he said this prepares their hearts for the good news of deliverance. Just because the Ark is captured doesn’t translate into a powerless God. Rather it is a powerless box that is captured. It is empty, vain. It is the prototype of all hopes that are rooted in things that cannot produce the security, the life that we hope for.
In this section we read about two persons, Eli, and the wife of Phinehas who put all their hope in a box and it comes up empty for them. In fact, the capture steals both of their hopes and the knowledge of that loss kills them both.

I. Hope destroyed, 12-18

Eli’s death is caused by the news of the capture of the ark. All his hopes were gone. There was a process to this. It was not something that was a surprise to us as readers. From the time we were introduced to Eli and his sons we knew that something was going to happen to them before we were even told. Because we know that a representative of God cannot get away with sin. So this was a long time in coming and it was not without warning to Eli and his sons. And we know that our own mortality is not without warning, though it too may be a long time coming.

A. The Message reported

Notice that there is a man who carries the message from the battlefield. He has a firsthand eyewitness report.
We know he is a Benjamite- that plays into the history well because we know the future king is a benjamite. We also know that he ran from the battle. It was close to a 20 mile trek. Not that he was a coward, but rather a Godsent messenger. He is called a herald in v.17 - the man who brings the news- Messenger- This is a person who bears tidings good or evil. He is the preacher. Normally he is a bearer of good news from the battle, Most of the uses are clustered around the death of Saul and Absalom and in both cases the messenger thinks he is bringing good news, though David sees it differently. At the heart of the words use though is the theological uses in Isaiah and Psalms wehre it the Lord who is victorious in battle over His enemies and so the messenger announces the Lord is coming to deliver the captives,
Isaiah 61:1 ESV
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Isaiah 52:7 ESV
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
And of course this is found in NT in the person of Jesus Christ.
Luke 4:18 ESV
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
However, in this case the messenger is not bringing good news to Eli. Though in the end even this bad news is going to work out for good as it compels us to consider what is behind or who is behind the removal of the plastic hopes we have hung our lives on. So that we will turn to the only One who can satisfy our deepest needs.
So this man is in mourning. He is covered in dirt on his head and his clothing is torn. Both are signs of mourning.
Joshua 7:6 ESV
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads.
He mourns because of this disappointing turn of events. the army of Israel went out confidently hopeful and found themselves fleeing for their lives and 30000 didn’t make it. He was one of those who was able to escape the carnage and deliver the news. Shiloh needs to get ready for the horror is about to overtake them as the Philistines come and ransack the town.

B. Shiloh in tumult, 13

The messenger declares the news to the city inhabitants and their response is understandably one of terror. They cry out with a loud voice. This is not the loud cry of the army when the Ark was brought into the camp. Rather this is a cry of despair and sorrow and alarm and distress. It is loud enough for Eli to hear it and know that something is amiss.
It is the cry of dashed hopes, of someone who has just received tragic news. When all you have put your hopes in is taken from you it is that kind of despairing cry that is in mind here.

C. A watchful priest, 13-15

Eli was positioned in a prominent place at the city gate. This would have been the place where business is transacted, Like the courthouse. He was sitting on the chair watching towards the way of Mizpeh where the battle was taking place.
He couldn’t see anything we are told in v.15 that he was 98 years old, that his eyes were blind. All he could do was hear the cries of the city.
We are also told that he is in that location because ‘his heart trembled for the ark.” He was heart concerned for the well being of the ark over which he was to be in charge. It was in his care and about to be lost. His heart was on a shadow of God rather than the true God. He wasn’t concerned about his sons or so it appears, but rather the ark. His hopes were in the ark.
He is watchful for the wrong things. He set his mind on things on the earth not things above as Paul states later in his writings. His treasure was here on earth not in heaven. Take his treasure away here and all is lost as far as he is concerned.
What are you watching for? Where do your hopes lie? Be careful that you don’t put your hopes in empty things on earth.

D. The Message reported a second time, 16-17

The messenger runs through the report one more time for Eli’s ears. Verse 17 lays it out in four terse statements:
-Israel has fled from the Philistines
-A great slaughter to the army, the word slaughter is a word that means a blow, that is usually divinely meted out, a disaster of epic proportion.
Leviticus 26:17 ESV
I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.
-your two sons Hophni and Phinehas are dead
His message builds in intensity from flight to slaughter to death to the ark taken.
In the death of hope it occurs in steps and if you have an awareness of these things if you have a feel for them you can see them.
You can usually look back on a negative event and see how it progressed to the point of failure.
As slight step away from your normal daily reading of Scripture or slight failure in character, white lie. then it progresses to something bigger or worse until you have complete failure and it is too late. That is what was going on here. This defeat was not a popup surprise to those who know.

E. Eli dies, 18

Eli gets the news, and when mention is made of the Ark being taken he immediately falls backward off his chair against the gate and breaks his neck and he dies.
The reason is given:
He was an old man - wisdom didn’t accompany his white hair. which would have led down a different path. But old man naturally die. It again alerts us or warns us this is the end of all men, believer or not. We do well to prepare for it through repentance and faith in Jesus.
He was cabod/heavy - he had indulges himself at the expense of the people as his sons had done. He grew fat. And his weight was a contributing factor in his death. Surely though the author wants us to make this connection between his portliness and the sinful actions of he and his sons. Sin always leads to death.
Finally, we are told he judged Israel forty years. Now this is told I believe because he should have been a spiritual leader for Israel and led them out from under bondage to the Philistines. Instead, the people remained under their enemies. And this battle was an untoward attempt at deliverance from that bondage. But you can never be free by doing things your own way. We are only freed from bondage to sin through the means given in the good news of God: namely repentance and faith in Jesus Christ who the sacrifices pointed toward. Christ is the end of the law to everyone who believes, Paul said. And so He is for us. But to Eli it was no use at this point. He failed in his duty to lead the people out of spiritual bondage because he himself was in spiritual bondage. It takes someone who was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin to be the perfect lamb of sacrifice.
Now we come to the second illustration of what it looks like to put your hope in empty things

II. Hope Lost , 19-22

Hope is lost when you think God is taken from you.
I just watched a video of Ravi Zacharias funeral as his daughter Naomi was speaking. It was heartbreaking on the one hand you could tell how much she loved her father, but in the midst of her tears there was hope of seeing him again. That is what she longed for one day. His grandson, said at the end of his speech that he hoped to see him soon. That is hope. But that is a hope in the concrete truth of Jesus Christ.
This unnamed daughter in law of Eli, wife of Phinehas, that is how she is identified in our text has lost all hope.
At a time when she should be full of excitement over the future, she is giving birth to a baby boy. I think every Jewish woman wants to give birth to a boy, the possible Messiah. And here she when she should be surrounded by joy she instead is in despair.
In fact, the news of the capture of the ark sends her into birth pains. It is interesting that in all the other accounts of the defeat of Israel and capture of the ark, the latter is mentioned last. But here it is mentioned first. It carried first place in her mind. The deaths of Eli and her husband take second place in importance to her. She saw at the very least that the loss of the Ark was indicative of loss of all hope. She saw it as the exit of the glory of God.
She was about to die after giving birth to her son, which her midwives had tried to encourage her with that news. She refused to be comforted, v.20, They told her “do not be afraid, for thou hast born a son.” But she did not give an answer nor did she regard it. Ie. put it to her heart. She had no answer, nor heart for the birth of her son. She was in a sense lifeless because her hope was lost.
She named her son ‘Ichabod’ which means ‘no glory’ and she named him this because the ‘cabod/glory, is gone from Israel.” and it is repeated a second time in v.22.
The glory of God didn’t really leave Israel though. Yes, the ark did for seven miserable months for the Philistines, at least. But God was coming back, through Samuel.
However, this speaks of another time when the glory of God does leave Israel. Ezekiel writes an eyewitness account in Ezekiel 10 of God’s exit from the temple.
This daughter in law has lost all hope and it kills her. Without hope life has no meaning. So with the birth of her son, which didn’t even hold enough hope for her to continue living, the loss of the ark, the box she put all her hope in, was too much and she herself died.


The glory of God may have departed, but the next time the glory of God was seen He entered the temple, Ezekiel records it in chapter 43.
Jesus filled the temple with His glory in the gospels when He entered the temple to teach and then in the end at the triumphal entry when he clears out the temple. He will come again at the second coming and all will see His glory and every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord.
The loss of the ark, the disappointment at the defeat of Israel, the collapse of all they held dear was enough to destroy them.
What about you? Where is your treasure? If you lose it all will you still praise the Lord? or will you too toss in the towel?
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more