1 Samuel 4:12-22 – It’s Like America Looking in the Mirror (Repeating Ancient Israel’s History)

Posted: December 5, 2017 in 09-1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 4:12-22
The Death of Eli

Well, it looks like Israel has hit its rock bottom here in 1 Samuel 4:12-22. Two generations or so removed from entering the Promised Land, they are about as bleak and godless a people that would rival any of the pagan nations that surrounded them. They started out so well. They were God’s chosen people. He had some them great favor. He had rescued them and protected them. He had shown himself to them as their guiding pillar of fire, had audibly spoken to Moses daily, had provided them food and performed other great miracles before their very eyes. How quickly things can turn after you have been provided great riches.

Think about all the grandchildren and children of the ultra-rich. They are spoiled brats and just live for the party. Living for the moment from party to party and seeking all kinds of hedonistic pleasures. In trouble with the law frequently because they know they have the money and influence to get out of any jam they get in. You know the type. We see it on the celebrity worship shows and on the nightly news shows. These brats smear the good name of their hard working, wealth-building fathers or grandfathers. There are televisions shows, movies, books, mini-series, etc. about this age old concept of wealth being wasted on unappreciative punk kids or grandkids. That’s kind of the way Israel was during the time of the judges. They had been given every privilege of being God’s people. God make their way for them. He protected them. He gave everything to them. They had it made. But over time, they began to stray from being an appreciative, obedient people and began drift away from the very source of their blessings.

When I read through Judges and this first part of 1 Samuel, I cannot help but think about the United States in this, the modern day. This country was founded on biblical principles and we were a very religious, God-fearing people for many generations. We integrated God into our daily lives as a nation. We made Him a part of the fabric and texture of our culture. Men and women in political office didn’t think twice about referencing God in every other sentence. Decisions were made with reference to the Bible. The Bible was a very active part of public life. The Ten Commandments were often displayed in court rooms because these laws are universal in truth. God was just front and center a part of American life. As a result, God blessed our nation richly. We defeated the world’s greatest empire to win our independence – and when you read the history of the American Revolution, there is nothing but repeated evidence of God’s protection and God’s favor being shown to our fledgling nation. So, we owe our very existence as a nation to God’s favor. And, we lived it our for many generations. We were a nation openly and willingly desiring to be obedient to God and to follow His commands.

However, something began to happen in the post-World War II era when we truly became the world’s greatest economic and military power. Before World War II, we were a great nation among several competing world powers. However, with the destruction wrought by World War II, we firmly established ourselves as the greatest single world power on the planet. We were the top dog. The strange thing that happened though after World War II with all the wealth and prosperity that came with emerging as the world’s greatest nation is that we began to forget about God. We became the spoiled rich kids of a wealthy father or grandfather. We became self-indulgent. We became preoccupied with our wealth. We became preoccupied with things. We became more interested in stuff than we were in God. We became a very me-centered people. We began to see our individual needs as more important that the greater good of society. We began to drift toward personal rights and away from the collective good. We began to see the self as more important than what is good for the nation as a whole. We began to see what I want as more important than sacrificing for the good of our families, towns, cities, states and the nation. We became a people who believe that we are entitled to the wealth that we have been granted. We became our own gods and determine for ourselves what our own truth is. We became our own gods and our own little universes where what I want is what matters and screw everyone else. We forgot God. We pushed God aside. We are so interested in our own right and desires that we no longer see God’s Word as important to our lives. We do away with anything like the Bible that says we cannot pursue that which makes us internally satisfied. If it contradicts with my personal rights and desires, we do away with it. if says what I am doing is a sin, we do away with it as old-fashioned because I have my rights. I have a right to be happy and if my sin makes me happy is it really a sin? That’s the nation we live in now. It is a dark time and it’s getting darker.

Here we see ourselves in the nation of Israel at the end of the period of Judges. That’s the thing that struck me this morning – how much like the nation of Israel we as the United States in the 21st are. In the name of seeking self and making ourselves as our own individual gods, we have become the nation of Israel at the end of the period of the judges. Let’s read this passage with that in mind, 1 Samuel 4:12-22:

12 A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefield and arrived at Shiloh later that same day. He had torn his clothes and put dust on his head to show his grief. 13 Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town.

14 “What is all the noise about?” Eli asked.

The messenger rushed over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and blind. 16 He said to Eli, “I have just come from the battlefield—I was there this very day.”

“What happened, my son?” Eli demanded.

17 “Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,” the messenger replied. “The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.”

18 When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight. He had been Israel’s judge for forty years.

19 Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near her time of delivery. When she heard that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth. 20 She died in childbirth, but before she passed away the midwives tried to encourage her. “Don’t be afraid,” they said. “You have a baby boy!” But she did not answer or pay attention to them.

21 She named the child Ichabod (which means “Where is the glory?”), for she said, “Israel’s glory is gone.” She named him this because the Ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband were dead. 22 Then she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”

In this passage, we remember that at this time, the city of Shiloh was Israel’s religious center (see also Joshua 18:1 and 1 Samuel 4:3). The Tabernacle was permanently set up there. Because Israel did not have a civil capital – the seat of the national government – Shiloh was the natural place for a messenger to deliver the sad news of this battle with the Philistines. Many scholars believe that it was during this battle mentioned here that Shiloh was destroyed. Also, we see here the end of the dark period of the judges when most of the nation of Israel had turned their backs on God. Although Samuel was also a judge, his judgeship marked the end of that period and the transition to rule by monarchy. It marks the beginning of the great revival that Israel would experience for more than a century. However, in this present scene as presented in this passage we see that this incident illustrates the spiritual darkness and decline of Israel.

We, too, are in a dark time in the United States spiritually speaking. We have become just as Israel is here. We will pay the price for our straying from God and kicking God out of our national and individual lives at some point. Maybe we have not yet hit our low point as Israel has here. But we are the frog in the pot of water with the temperature slowly being turned up. We are pushing God out of our lives and He will eventually fully withdraw His blessings from our nation. It’s guaranteed. We will in our enlightened reason say that it’s because of this or because of that, but it will be the evidence simply that God no longer is showing us favor because we are no longer a nation that worships God.

But from the darkest days in Israel here, there came a great awakening later under David and Solomon and Israel became a great nation once again under the rule of men who feared God. I think and have hope that God will bring about an awakening in our nation as well. He will bring forth a great man of God who will lead our nation back to God. We will have another great awakening in our nation one day. But it’s going to take some committed Samuels out there. As we are going to see, Samuel was instrumental in bringing about restoration to the nation of Israel and ushering in the greatest period of Israel’s history under Davidic rule. David was a man after God’s own heart and God blessed him and as a result blessed Israel. To restore our nation to God, it starts with us as His church in America. We must begin sharing the gospel story each and every one of us. We must no longer sit quietly by as our nation drifts further and further away from God and just say there’s nothing we can do about it. We must introduce the gospel to a nation that is now into third generations of families who do not go to church, do not know what the Bible is or says, and who do not know really who Jesus is. Let us not think it is somebody else’s job to change our nation. Let us be spiritually alert and ready to share God’s Word one person at a time. Let us change our nation from the inside out.

Amen and Amen.

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