1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. 2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
(1 Samuel 4:1-11)
Over the past few days we’ve seen the Israelites reaction and response to being defeated in battle by the Philistines. They understood that God caused their loss but then decided to rely on superstition and emotion in their next battle.
Yesterday we saw that the Philistines heard the Israelite soldiers shouting when the ark of the Lord had come to their camp. When they learned what the shouting was about, they were afraid. As opposed to the Israelites’ behavior before God, the Philistines reaction was appropriate.
Notice that the Philistines recognized that a god had come into the camp of Israel. Israel, on the other hand, only recognized the ark as a good-luck charm. They did not recognize that God was with them.
God is holy. He is a superior being to us. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He does not possess the limitations that we, His creation, do. For that reason there should be a healthy fear (aka reverence) for God. The Israelites did not demonstrate this.
The Philistines, though, realized how much more powerful than they the God of Israel was. This caused them much distress (woe), as it should have.
But rather than submitting themselves to the more powerful God, the Philistines encouraged each other to be men and fight. They decided to fight harder than ever out of fear that they might become slaves to the Hebrews. Such is the way with people who do not recognize God as their god.
People who claim to not believe in God or who believe in some other god, often dig in their heels against the true God and fight against Him. We see this all over the world in various religions such as Islam and Hinduism where many of their members treat Christians violently. Groups like ISIS make it clear that they are fighting Christians and Jews – the very ones who follow the true God.
We also see it in our culture where atheist groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and various LGBT groups work very hard to eliminate God from society. Just like the people who built the Tower Of Babel, there are many today who think they can be victorious over God – even if they don’t believe He exists.
As a former atheist myself, I can confidently say that no one truly disbelieves in God. They only hope He doesn’t or have convinced themselves He doesn’t because they don’t want to admit what they are. Deep down they know there is a god. For some, that truth has been suppressed deeper than others, to be sure. But there is no one who without a doubt believes God doesn’t exist.
In fact, the very efforts of those who are opposed to Him prove this. If there is no God then it makes no sense to fight against Him as it is ludicrous to fight against something that does not exist. So either God exists and they are fighting against Him. Or God does not exist and they are wasting their quixotic lives.
But notice what is actually motivating people to fight against God. We read that the Philistines thought there were multiple gods. They also thought that these gods had struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. They had their facts wrong (there is only one god and the plagues did not take place in the wilderness).
Everyone who is opposed to God does so out of ignorance. They think they understand but they don’t. They think they know what the Bible says (e.g. “God hates gays”, or “Women are inferior”). But the are wrong. Their opposition to God is based on faulty information.
As we learned yesterday, the right response to God is to humble oneself. This is what the Philistines should have done. It is what the members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation should do. It is what gays and lesbians should do. It is what we all should do.
But human pride prevents people from doing this. Instead people dig in their heels and fight against Him all the while knowing the truth. This will ultimately result in disaster [Leviticus 26:19; Obadiah 1:3;Psalm 10:4; Proverbs 16:18 et. al].
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.