The Ark Is Captured

Krista Williams

Day: 4 | Plan: 1-2 Samuel

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 4

1 Samuel 4:11 (NIV) “The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”

Several years ago the news reported a 49-year-old bus driver in Dayton, Ohio, was repeatedly shot, and a Bible in the front pocket of his shirt stopped two of the bullets from entering his chest. A policeman and reporter acknowledged it was a divine intervention and credited the Bible for saving the man’s life. The man, however, thanked God for saving His life.

Does God rely on “things” we possess to preserve our lives? Or does God do that?

In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites learned the difference when they battled the Philistines. The Philistines were a strong, constant enemy of the Israelites. The battle ended in disaster. Israel was defeated, and about 4,000 of Israel’s men died in the fight.

After this defeat, instead of seeking the Lord’s help, the elders of Israel decided to get the ark of the covenant and take it into battle with them. They thought the presence of the ark would assure their victory. What they failed to understand is, it’s not the ark of God that has the power to deliver them; it is the God of the ark!

There is nothing wrong with the ark itself. God commanded the Israelites to make the ark, and it was important. In fact, it was the most important piece of furniture in the tabernacle. It symbolized the throne of God, the place where God’s holy presence would dwell. But sometimes symbols can become more precious to us than the actual presence of God. And anything we value, honor or trust more than God is an idol in our lives—even good things!

The ark of God was not a good luck charm, or a mascot or some sort of a holy rabbit’s foot. Israel dishonored God when they presumptuously took the ark into battle without ever seeking God’s direction. Instead of superstitiously using the ark to try to gain victory, they should have humbled their hearts, confessed their sin and sought the Lord for help. But they didn’t.

Instead, Israel tried again to battle the Philistines and they were defeated, despite the presence of the ark. In fact, during that time with the ark on the battlefield, there were more than seven times the casualties—it was a massive slaughter, even worse than the first. Thirty thousand soldiers died, the Philistines captured the ark and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (1 Samuel 4:10-11)

What a disaster! But the reality is, God honors those who honor Him and those who don’t will meet disgrace. (1 Samuel 2:30; Matthew 10:32-33)

God allowed Israel to suffer disgrace and defeat at the hands of the Philistines as a result of their unfaithfulness. Then, in response to Israel’s irreverence and idolatry, God allowed the ark to be captured and His presence departed. (Psalm 78:56-62) And Eli’s wicked sons, who had no affection for the Lord, died by the sword on the same day—just as God had promised. (1 Samuel 2:12, 34)

This is not a pleasant story. It’s a story of disgrace, defeat and death. Death because of sin. No ark could deliver the people because they had disregarded God and sinned.

No holy symbol or Bible in our pocket can protect us and preserve our life. Only God can do that. Only God! (Job 14:5)

Our safety and security are not in “things.” Our safety and security are found in God. In His person. In His character. In His work. He alone is our shield and defense—our very present help in times of trouble! (Psalm 46:1; Psalm 28:7) 

Prayer: Lord God, You alone are the giver and protector of life. You determine my days and my times are in Your hands. Forgive me, Lord, for the moments and the ways I have sought help and relied on other people or things to deliver me instead of seeking You. You alone are my strong defender—my sure deliverer—my help and only hope when the battles of life rage all around me. May my heart be entirely devoted to You in my daily life so that when a crisis comes or a conflict arises, You are the one I reach for and rely on for help. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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