God Is Not Bound
Almighty God, all Your works praise You in all places of Your dominion and I gladly join that chorus.
Read 1 Samuel 4:1-22
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Although we may try, we cannot control and manipulate God. God is God and we are his created beings. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17).
The Ark’s capture and the aftermath (4:1–7:1) read like an interlude; Samuel is absent until 7:3. The block links, however, with what precedes it in its fulfillment of prophecy (1 Sam. 2:31,34; 3:11-14) and prepares for what follows by portraying the folly of human attempts to command God’s power, thereby affirming his supreme rule.
After the initial rout, Israelite elders seek to force God to be with them (2,3). The Ark held the covenant documents, and its cherubim symbolized God’s reign (4). During the journey into Canaan the Ark had always gone ahead, including in battle, and on one occasion the Israelites were defeated because they did not take the Ark with them (Num. 10:33-36; 14:44,45; Josh. 6:2-14). The elders had tradition to support their action! However, as so often happens, they held onto the part of their faith that suited them. They acknowledged God as king who gives victory, but neglected their responsibility to live obediently in the covenantal relationship (Jer. 7:1-15; Luke 6:46). They tied God to something he gave as a powerful symbol. How subtly sacred objects and actions, even correct theology, can be used as a means of seeking blessing.
The Philistines, too, saw the Ark as being a divine presence and knew God’s past victories (6-8). Yet “the ark was captured” (11) and Eli’s sons were killed. Eli dies on news of the Ark’s capture (17,18), and his daughter-in-law names her child, “No Glory.” Her words are repeated, “The Glory has departed from Israel” (21,22). Israelites and Philistines agree: Yahweh, the God of Israel, has been defeated. Ironically, the deaths show that God is still in Israel and in control, fulfilling prophecy: chs. 5 and 6 will show his power to both Philistines and Israelites. In their despair, God is still at work.
Can you think of ways in which you may have tied your expectations of blessing to performing right religious practices?
Lord, You’ve made me in Your image and sometimes I try to return the favor by making You in my image. Forgive me as I acknowledge You as my Lord and God.
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