“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars.” ~ Matthew 24:6
Yes, as I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I think back on the number of wars which have come to pass in my lifetime.
Some were called conflicts (Vietnam) and some, police actions (Korea) but I’m certain they were “major wars” to those who fought in them.
Today, we’ll talk about another great war. This one goes down in Biblical history as The Philistines War.
In this Bible study lesson, you’ll discover the answers to interesting questions like; How did the Philistines capture the ark?
And, as you will notice, Samuel’s first prophecy comes true.
The Great War with the Philistines – 1 Samuel
Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek.
The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines?
Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.”
So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded.
When the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
Then they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp.
The Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods?
These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness.
Take courage and be men, O Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.”
So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.
And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died. ~ 1 samuel 4:1-11 NASB
Who Were the Philistines?
These were a people descended from Ham, Noah’s son. They lived between the countries of Gaza and Egypt.
The Philistines were well-known for their desire to wage war, which made them a major enemy of Israel.
The Importance of The Ark of the Covenant
I know you most likely know about the ark.
But, just to refresh your memory, the ark held the Ten Commandments, given to Moses and written by God.
It also contained other precious heirlooms such as manna and other items to remember what God did for Israel.
So, to have it taken by a foreign nation was devastating to the people.
Eli’s Sons – Again!
The prophesy God gave to Samuel happens in verse 11.
Eli’s two sons, Hopni and Phinehas went into the Most Holy Place to take the ark for the upcoming battle.
Yes, the ark went before Israel in battle many times in the past. And yes, they were victorious.
But, the difference here is simple.
Although Israel acknowledged the ark was holy, they believed the ark itself possessed some “magical” power.
Not to be disrespectful, but the ark was just a box made of wood and metal. As we now know, the power of the ark came from God.
The Ark and the Cross
Do you see the similarity? Just as the ark had no power of its own, the cross is also a symbol.
Yes, it’s powerful because of what Christ did. He died and rose from the tomb. But, is the cross just another “good luck charm” to us?
No, the cross helps us remember what God did for us. Christians face sickness, death and financial hardships just as every one else.
The difference is; we have Christ to turn to. The cross represents that promise of everlasting life – not a promise of protection and good fortune in this world.
So, The Philistines Prevail
Why did God not bring Israel to victory over the Philistines?
One answer is explained above. The ark had no power without God’s blessing. The people of Israel used it almost as an idol — hoping this “good luck charm” would lead them in battle.
Unfortunately, that’s not how God works.
He doesn’t want us to live in the past. Just as God gave manna each day to the people in the desert, He wants a fresh and renewed relationship from us every morning.
What They (We) Didn’t Know
Many times throughout the Bible, Israel fell away from God. They believed since the Philistines took the ark away, God had forsaken them.
But, in reality it was Israel who walked away from God.
He was still the same God who led them out of Egypt. He is the same God we gave our hearts to when we first believed in Christ.
God doesn’t change. He remains the same no matter where we are in our lives. When we turn away, He waits.
But, we can’t wait forever. My question today is; When is the best time to turn back to God? Through tough times? Through good times? Correct!
Love in Christ,
If you would like to discover how to receive the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to see John 3:16 here.