If you have seen this movie, or any like it, then you will have some food for your imagination when reading our next chapter. I Samuel 4. It’s not very long, but see if it doesn’t come alive, with all the sounds of war, and desperation that are found in the battle scenes of this movie and many like it. See if you can picture the man, running up to Eli, to bring news all that had been lost in this war. See if you, like me, can hardly wait till tomorrow to continue with the story.
Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who struck down about 4,000 men on the battlefield.
3 When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by the Philistines?
Why? Why did the Lord let us be defeated? This just struck me. How could the people of God go into a battle, and come out, barely come out, defeated. 4000 men down. This is the Bible. This is real and raw. It is not a fairy tale. Nobody wants to hear these stories.
Please tell us more of rainbow sealed promises, and Jesus healing the sick, and Israelites crossing the Red Sea, but please leave out the part where God’s people get slaughtered. These accounts that are told in the Bible divide. This is where people struggle. Why? How could a loving God…..?
So let’s settle that question once and for all.
We don’t define love.
He *is* love.
We don’t get to say what love looks like. It’s above our pay grade.
I remember when I was in middle school and there was a girl who basically got to do whatever she wanted. I was NOT that girl. Man. I wished I was. I couldn’t do anything! Nothing. My parents were so strict.
One day I had the opportunity to have a conversation with this girl who was living my dream. Total Freedom. It went like this.
“Man, you are so lucky. Your parents don’t even care what you do!”
“Your right,” she answered staring at the ground. “They really don’t care.” and she turned and walked away. That simple response gave my prepubescent self centered world view a little reality check. Being loved doesn’t mean the answer for your every desire is “yes.”
Exhibit 2: My littlest ones regularly think I am mean because I don’t let them watch t.v. night and day while eating candy dipped in soda. That, to them, is what love looks like. But they have no idea. They don’t see the big picture, they don’t see their future that I am trying to create for them. Our daily desires are so short sighted. God see the beginning and the end. He knows what is best for our souls.
We as Christians do not need to run from who God is in the Old Testament. We do not need to explain Him. Mostly because we can’t. One thing is certain: He is good. And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. We cannot even begin to understand who He is unless we come from this basic premise. God is love. Period.
If we continue reading this chapter, things goes from bad to worse.
4 So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 When the ark of the covenant of the Lord entered the camp, all the Israelites raised such a loud shout that the ground shook.
They get the bright idea that if they bring the Ark of the Covenant into battle on the shoulders of Hophni and Phineas then they can’t lose! Hophi and Phineas: the same sons of Eli that had already been given a death sentence last chapter. Oy vey!
The ark gets captured, the brothers are killed, and the battle is lost. Eli hears the news, and at 98 years old he falls over backwards off a wall and dies. Listen. I warned you. This is not an upbeat chapter. But it is the Bible. It has purpose. And it has something to tell us about who God is and what our responsibility is. This is not an isolated incident in the Bible. Time after time, the people get so corrupt that there is no way out but through drastic measures. And look. This was the priest. And his sons. We, who claim the name of Christ need to get serious. We need different statistics then the world. Our lives, marriages, children should look different. We need to follow the Word that is not “rare” for us. It is available every day. And it is inspired and life changing. Let the Word change your life, and you will see victory through the power of the Holy Spirit.