1 Samuel Chapter Four, The Empty Box... 

In our study of 1 Samuel chapter four, we look at the fact that God cannot be manipulated by men to fit their will.

1 Samuel 4:1 & 2

"And Samuel's word came to all Israel. Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield." NIV translation

The Philistines were extending their territory in Canaan and so the Israelites decided to go to battle. We see that they decided to go to battle and it was not that God told them, through Samuel, to do so. It seemed good to them, so they made their own plans and went about implementing them. We notice that Samuel was known for being a prophet but they never went and asked what the Lord had to say about the matter.

Sometimes, we, as Christians, can do the same type of thing where we get a good thing in our mind and "go for it". We often do this without stopping to pray and often the result is similar to the Israelite campaign against the Philistines.

1 Samuel 4:3 & 4

"When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, 'Why did the Lord bring defeat before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from our enemies.' So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the Cherubim. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God." NIV translation

After they returned from their defeat, the leaders of Israel recognized that God was not with them in the battle. Once again, instead of seeking God's will, they devised a plan to get the ark of the covenant and to take it into battle with them. When trials strike us, do we stop and seek God or do we come up with a plan and act like the Israelites did?

We also see that Eli's disgraced sons were still with the ark of the covenant. That should have been a warning sign to them but they continued with their plan.

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